From next Wednesday, June 1, lightweight plastic bags will be banned in New South Wales. Businesses will no longer be able to supply plastic bags of 35 microns or less (those light, flimsy plastic bags typically used just once) to customers. Bin liners, bags used to collect human or animal waste, produce and deli bags, and bags used to contain medical items will be exempt from the ban. Lightweight bags made from biodegradable or compostable plastics, or bioplastics, will also be banned, as they require industrial composting facilities to biodegrade.

Big fines apply to those found to be in breach of the ban – up to $11,000 for individuals and $55,000 for companies. Manufacturers, wholesalers or distributors found to be in breach of the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 could be fined double those amounts.

The lightweight plastic bag ban is the first step in the NSW Government’s Plastic Action Plan. From November 1, single-use plastic straws, stirrers, swizzle sticks, cutlery, bowls and plates will also be banned. Some exemptions will apply, though – those with a disability or medical need can continue using plastic straws, and plastics attached to or included in packaging (for example, the straws that come with poppers) are also exempt.

Single-use polystyrene items commonly used in the food service industry will also be banned from November 1. That ban includes clamshells (like you’d get from a takeaway burger joint), cups, plates and bowls. Plastic cotton buds and the microbeads found in products such as cleansers, exfoliants and toothpaste will also be banned.

The ban will prevent nearly 2.7 billion items of plastic going to landfill (or entering the environment) over the next 20 years.

“Single-use plastic is used by many of us for just a few convenient minutes, but it remains in our environment for many years, eventually breaking into microplastics,” said NSW minister for environment James Griffin in a statement.

“Single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 per cent of all litter in NSW. By stopping the supply of problematic plastic in the first place, we’re helping prevent it from entering our environment as litter, or going into landfill.”

New South Wales is the last state to ban lightweight plastic bags. Coles and Woolworths stopped supplying them in 2018 (Coles after a bit of flip-flopping), opting to charge customers for heavier-duty reusable bags.

Find out more about the plastic ban here.