Single-use plastic bags and microbeads will be banned across Australia from 2021 if Labor wins the upcoming federal election.

The $290 million plan is designed to protect vulnerable wildlife and reduce the amount of waste dumped into the environment.

“Something like 90 per cent of all sea birds have plastic in them. A third of all the sea turtles around the world are dying from plastic poisoning and consumption,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said.

If Labor wins government the party will consult with states, territories and industry on how best to introduce the ban.

The European Union has already voted to ban all single-use plastic by 2021.

“If you buy a television set (in Australia), it will be packed with styrofoam,” Labor’s environment spokesman Tony Burke said.

“You buy an almost identical television set in Europe, it will be packed just as safely, but with recyclable material, probably coming from the same factory.”


South Australia, NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT have container recycling schemes, but they are not nationally consistent.

Labor will not force other states to set them up.

“We’re working on the basis that it’s opt-in,” Mr Burke said.

Instead, the plan will focus on setting up a nationally consistent scheme to separate recycled materials, making it far cheaper to recycle in Australia.

Other planned initiatives include a $60 million national recycling fund, the appointment of a national waste commissioner, and $15 million to help neighbouring countries clean up the Pacific Ocean.

Labor also wants to see 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packages recycled or composted by 2025, but said there had been no pathway to make that happen until now.


Government departments would also be required to purchase recycled products, while the Infrastructure Department will investigate whether recycled products can be used for road bases.

“Australians want action from government to help reduce waste and build a circular economy,” Mr Shorten said.

“So while many Australians do their duty – they recycle, compost, use keep cups for their morning coffee – we need the government to take a leading role to tackle some of the big, structural problems.”


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