A NSW Government website

NSW Plastics Action Plan

Outcome 1: Reduced plastic waste generation

Action 1: Introduce new legislation to reduce harmful plastics


Phasing out single-use plastics

The NSW Government will legislate to phase out some of the most littered plastic items. This will stop almost 2.7 billion pieces of plastic litter from entering the environment over the next 20 years.

While compostable plastic alternatives may be available for some items, these plastics only break down in industrial composting facilities. As these items are highly littered and people are unlikely to take them to the right facilities, we will also phase these out.

We will ensure that people with disability or other special needs can still access plastic straws for personal use.

Timetable for phasing out of the most littered plastic items

Phase out period (from passage of legislation)

Single-use and problematic plastic items

6 months

  • Lightweight plastic shopping bags

12 months

  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic stirrers
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Expanded polystyrene food service items
  • Cotton buds with plastic sticks
  • Microbeads in rinse-off personal care and cosmetic products

Review in three years

  • Plastic bowls (including lids) and plates
  • Plastic cups, including lids
  • Oxo-degradable plastics
  • Fruit stickers (non-compostable)
  • Heavyweight plastic shopping bags
  • Barrier/ produce bags

Setting design standards to limit the impact of harmful plastics

The NSW Government will lead the nation in establishing a new legislative framework to set design standards that can tackle harmful and problematic plastics. The first design standard will phase out microbeads in cosmetic and personal care items over a period of 12 months from the passage of legislation.

Microbeads are used in a variety of products ranging from beauty products, paints, industrial detergents, cleaning products, as well as products used in the oil and gas industry. Microbeads enter our waterways through our drains, causing harm to wildlife and the environment.

Future design standards could be made under the new legislation to address other issues. Any future design standards would be subject to analysis of the environmental and economic impacts, consideration of any technical or performance requirements and extensive consultation with stakeholders. We will also continue to work with the federal and other state governments and territories to make sure there is a uniform approach where possible.

Making producers and brand owners of plastic packaging more responsible

In our discussion paper, we raised the possibility of mandating a minimum recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025.

The Australian packaging industry, through the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), has committed to a range of voluntary national targets. It aims to phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use packaging by 2025. To do this, the industry will:

  • use an average of 20% recycled content in plastic packaging
  • ensure all packaging is recyclable, compostable or reusable
  • recover 70% of all plastic packaging.

Overall industry progress has been slow. We will work closely with the federal government and APCO to ensure targets are met, if not exceeded.

In the meantime, we will require the packaging industry to improve reporting to the NSW Government on its progress against the voluntary targets. We will review progress in three years and if industry has not taken sufficient action, we will consider mandating targets or design standards to address the issues.

We will also level the playing field for packaging producers by requiring all eligible, non-APCO member businesses to also meet the national targets.

Action 2: Accelerate the transition to better plastic products


Many manufacturers, retailers and builders have started to shift away from plastic or to use plastic that is more easily recycled. Consumers are demanding that everyday items be plastic-free.

This transition is good for our environment and economy because it reduces plastic litter and the amount of plastic we send to landfill. It also keeps materials in the economy for longer. However, changing production processes and using new materials can be costly at first and may require investment.

We will establish a $10 million Circular Materials Fund to help producers change sooner. The fund will help businesses such as manufacturers, builders and retailers with projects that:

  • reduce the use of virgin plastic
  • reduce the use of hard-to-recycle plastics
  • increase the use of recycled plastic in products.

These partnerships will ensure businesses make better decisions about the lifecycle of products from the start.

hi-vis outcome 1
Single-use plastics pose a threat to our natural environment.