‘The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef was just an idea, as no else was doing anything like this in this space…now it has helped drive legislative change in Queensland’

Nicole Nash, Founder of The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef

As part of Queensland’s plan to tackle plastic pollution (PDF, 4 MB) and following support from the community, retailers and industry organisations, the supply of the following single-use plastic items will be banned in Queensland:

  • straws: regular straws, flexible straws, straws with a scoop, cocktail straws and bubble tea straws
  • cutlery: knives, forks, spoons, teaspoons, sample tasting spoons, soup spoons, chopsticks, splayds and sporks
  • bowls and plates
  • stirrers: hot or cold drink stirrers, swizzle sticks and hot or cold food stirrers
  • expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers and cups, for example ‘clamshell’ style containers.

The ban will start on 1 September 2021.

Founder of the Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef (LSGBR) Nicole Nash, was invited to present at the Queensland Parliamentary PUBLIC HEARING—INQUIRY INTO THE WASTE REDUCTION AND RECYCLING (PLASTIC ITEMS) AMENDMENT BILL 2020 in Cairns, QLD on Tuesday 4 August 2020.

Nicole gave an introduction to the LSGBR movement and provided critical feedback on the draft Bill using her experience of working in the field of eliminating plastics during the Public Hearing.

'In the last 12 months things have slowed down a little for me in terms of engaging with venues,
as many in Cairns are already single-use plastic straw free. In turn I have been working on post
follow-up surveys with the 375 businesses that have registered with a PhD student from the University of Tasmania where we are looking at the effects of on-ground efforts of a source reduction plan like the Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef and how these tackle the reduction in plastic as opposed to the hard legislation enforcing requirement in the initial stages. This research will be published in coming years. I believe that communities in Queensland have demonstrated that they can eliminate single-use plastics. They have done it, they are continuing to do it and this legislation would back the work that has been progressed with venues and businesses and give those sitting on the fence that extra push to make the change and make a positive change for our environment. I believe clear and key messaging is essential for details in order to address the concerns of businesses and making sure the messaging in the bill is clear. We all have a social responsibility at the end of the day, and I believe this bill is the right step forward in making this happen. Thank you' 

N Nash, the full transcript can be read online via HANSARD – link here.

After Nicole’s discussion with the committee, Nicole was asked to prepare a formal submission with the data that she has collected over the last 3.5 years to support the Bill. A formal submission was lodged (read the full submission here) and includes statistics on plastic straw free venues, previous amounts of straws venues used, follow up surveys and images of recycled straws into furniture. A snapshot of some of hte data provided is below.

All venues who were registered as being plastic straw free a the time of submission in August 2020.
  • The key points on the LSGBR submission included:
  • The Bill is the step in the right direction for QLD to address its plastic waste issue.
  • The Bill should consider the work of the LSGBR and maintain a restriction on paper straws being the only legal single-use alternative compostable option that venues can use around waterways.
  • Implementation of any Bill needs the on-ground infrastructure such as compostable facilities for the new introduced-compostable single-use products to be processed in, this should be considered and a strategy developed to roll this out across local councils.
  • Even without the infrastructure currently in place to do composting, this Bill could still be implemented. After all QLD does not have the facilities to process the current single-use plastics materials either and alternatives that have been proposed are much better than plastic.
  • The Bill should have higher penalty units for companies and businesses who fail to abide by this legislation. Currently 50 penalty units in QLD for a large business would be cheaper to pay than the cost of purchasing single-use plastic products for the year.
  • The Bill should include Juice Boxes as a banned product -there are already alternatives on the market, these include glass bottles, plastic bottled (recyclable), carton style beverages.
  • The Australian Government and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should be following up suppliers of products who are ‘greenwashing’ their products and holding them accountable.
  • The QLD and Federal Government should consider developing a clear logo for what products meet this new legislation and implement this across the state.
  • Education to children, adults, businesses and tourists are required to implement this Bill.
  • Other plastic products like coffee cups, glow sticks, balloons and water bottles should also be explored for future legislative bans
Snapshot of some of the data from the publish submission by LSGBR

The Bill was tabled on 28 August 2020 and detailed input from all presenters at public hearings were considered in the Bill – read more in the Submission on the Parliament website. Following on from the Bill being sent round for further public comment, after the 2020 QLD State election, the Bill was finally passed in Parliament on 27 March 2021 banning single-use plastic straws!

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