Plastic problems: must-know packaging guidelines for venues and suppliers

In this special sustainability series, we speak with Amelia Edwards from Universal Counsel about the different approaches adopted by each state and territory, and what F&B businesses need to do to meet the national plastic targets.

Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets were established in 2018, and there are four main objectives: 

  • 100% of packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025
  • 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composed by 2025
  • 0% on average recycled content included in packaging by 2025

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To meet these targets, several single-use plastic items, in particular food product serving items, are being banned in different states and territories. 

However, even the most well-meaning business can struggle to understand exactly what they need to do, and by when. There are also state-by-state inconsistencies - so while many suppliers and venues are aware that there are requirements around single-use plastics, they aren’t sure how to deal with the increasingly stricter regulations that will end with total bans on single-use plastic in food packaging in some states.

That’s why we’ve prepared a list of the main things you need to know.  Below, we've outlined the main need-to-knows, and broken down the guidelines state by state, with advice on the impact on venues and suppliers. 


  • As of April 2023, the sale or supply of items made from single-use plastic such as drinking straws, cutlery, cups, plates, drink stirrers, and polystyrene drink/food containers are already prohibited in all Australian States and Territories. Exceptions are generally very narrow and safety-based, including contexts in which the use of glass or metal alternatives could pose a risk to human health and safety.
  • Currently, food-contact packaging used for food that is not made on premises, i.e. food for retail sale, is excluded from the plastics bans in all States and Territories (although the exclusion is framed differently in each region). HOWEVER, this will change in future and so it’s important for food manufactures to start adapting now.
  • There are exceptions for people with special needs or where safety is a concern.  For examples, single-use plastics can continue to be used for the below reasons in all states and territories:

    • Drinking straws for people who require them due to a disability or for medical reasons.
    • Cutlery where required in correctional or mental health facilities to prevent harm or injury.
  • To ensure compliance, businesses must consider not only State-level legislation and regulation but you might also need to inform yourself of local council policy as it applies to the regulation of registered food businesses.
  • The best way to think about this is to focus on  sustainably-sourced plant-based, compostable/consumable, and reusable/refillable materials.  Recyclable is the minimum, not the target!.
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Single use plastic guidelines: a state-by-state breakdown

Scroll down for your state/territory below so you can  find out more about your current obligations and what’s coming up.


What you should be doing now?

The ACT has been making a conscious effort to gradually fade out single-use plastics since 2011 with the first ban involving plastic shopping bags. Since then, single-use items such as plastic cutlery, stirrers, expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and beverage containers, plastic straws, and all oxo-degradable plastics (plastics which are only degradable, not biodegradable) have been banned.

Under the ACT legislation, penalties apply (up to $8,000) if you supply a banned plastic product or falsely represent a product is not a banned plastic product.

For suppliers in the ACT, that means that any takeaway containers or serving items need to be in the relevant permitted material (plant-based, glass, tin, or reusable). Suppliers need to ensure they’re only supplying usable packaging products to venues. Venues must ensure they’re only on-supplying the same.

What’s next?

The ACT is considering whether single-use items initially flagged for longer-term transitions (plastic plates and bowls and heavyweight and boutique plastic bags greater than 35 microns thick)) should be phased out earlier than planned due to the success in other jurisdictions.

This means that ACT suppliers and hospitality venues will need to start implementing strategies now to meet future extensions of the plastics ban.

To get ahead of the curve on sustainability - think reusable/refillable packaging, locally-sourced products and materials, and sustainably-sourced and recyclable materials.


What you should be doing now?

The sale and supply of many single-use plastic items is now prohibited in NSW, including straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls (without lids), and foodware and cups made from EPS.

Under this legislation, penalties apply (up to $11,000 for individual suppliers and up to $55,000 for corporations) if a person is found to be supplying banned plastic products or making false representations that a product is not a banned product.

What’s next?

Before implementing further restrictions, the NSW Government is working to ensure sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics are readily available in industry by 2024.

It might seem like there’s some breathing room but the clock is ticking very quickly - suppliers and hospitality venues should note that items likely to be reviewed in future phase outs are plastic bowls and cups (with lids), oxo-degradable plastics, fruit stickers, heavyweight plastic shopping bags, barrier plastics, and product bags.

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What you should be doing now?

Plastic bags have been banned in the Northern Territory since 2011, with those in violation of this facing a fine of up to $8,100.

The City of Darwin recently introduced a plastic ban prohibiting the sale, supply or use of disposable coffee cups, smoothie cups, lids, straws, cutlery, stirrers, plates, bowls, and takeaway containers from all events on Council land and at Darwin’s markets.

While penalties for non-compliance are unclear for suppliers and hospitality venues under Darwin’s legislation, if a stallowner were to sell or supply these goods on Council land they would be in violation of their permit or leasing conditions and could face the maximum penalty of $162,000 for a violation of Darwin City Council’s By-laws.

What’s next?

Reducing waste is a high priority for the City of Darwin, and the government is working with local distributors and businesses to ensure that making the switch to compostable disposable alternatives is  easy and achievable for food suppliers and hospitality venues, as well as the wider community.

Venues and suppliers alike should be proactively exploring options for reusable packaging (including fill-your own and return-to-supplier refills).


What you should be doing now?

Similar to other states in Australia, the Queensland ban prohibits venues from supplying single-use plastics such as straws, stirrers, plates, unenclosed bowls, cutlery and EPS takeaway food containers and cups to consumers. This means suppliers to food service need to ensure they are providing goods in compliant materials or with reasonable reusable or return/refillable capability.

Due to strong public support for this initiative, Queensland recently introduced further restrictions to include cotton buds with plastic stems, EPS loose packaging, plastic microbeads in rinseable personal care and cleaning products, as well as heavyweight shopping bags and the mass release of lighter than air (helium) balloons. While these products might not be common in food service, this is an indication of likely expansion of the plastics bans across all retail and service sectors in QLD.

Penalties apply (up to $11,100) if a business or not-for profit organisation is found to have supplied a banned single-use plastic item, made false or misleading representations in relation to a banned plastic item or its compostability, not provided clear information regarding a plastic’s compostability, or has not complied with a notice under the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items) Amendment Act 2021.

What’s next?

Should these further restrictions receive similar public support, it is likely that the bans will be expanded again in future to meet the national plastic targets. 

Because of this, suppliers and hospitality venues must proactively move to introduce and select sustainably-sourced alternative materials throughout the supply chain: think plant-based, biodegradable/consumable, or reusable. Remember, recyclable is the minimum, not the target!

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What you should be doing now?

South Australia has taken a strong approach to meeting the national targets by 2025.

Initially, single-use plastic products including stirrers, cutlery, straws, were banned from sale. The government then expanded the ban a year later to prohibit the supply and distribution of EPS cups, bowls, plates and clamshell containers. It also became an offence to sell, supply, distribute, or manufacture oxo-degradable plastic products (such as plastic bags) because of concerns around the substances released when those products start breaking down.

Recently, the ban was broadened again  to include single-used plastic bowls and plates and plastic ‘pizza savers’.

Under the SA legislation, suppliers or hospitality venues may face penalties (up to $20,000 or up to $5000 for individuals) for distributing prohibited items. Further penalties may also apply to persons or retailers for misleading or deceptive claims about plastic products.

Where to from here?

SA is known to take an aggressive stance on regulation and enforcement affecting consumer safety and the environment. By 1 September 2024, plastic produce bags (found in fruit and vegetable sections of supermarkets) will be phased out, as well as thick supermarket or boutique-style plastic bags, plastic bread tags, single-used beverage containers (including coffee cups) and other single-use plastic food containers such as those commonly used for takeaway meals.

By 1 September 2025, the government will begin targeting food product packaging. This means that food suppliers and hospitality venues are likely to be banned from using and/or supplying plastic fruit stickers, plastic soy sauce fish, and other pre-packaged and attached products such as cutlery or plastic straws.

To optimise for future compliance requirements and capitalise on strong consumer support for sustainability in SA, suppliers should start investing in plant-based and biodegradable (not just recycled/recyclable) food-contact packaging now and venues should already be looking to reusable and refillable take-away solutions (including bring/use your own).


What you should be doing now?

Tasmania has made a commitment to a state-wide phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025, with the City of Hobart leading the way in food service. There, food suppliers and hospitality venues are prohibited from supplying plastic items including cutlery, sauce sachets, takeaway hot food containers and lids, straws, plastic-lined noodle boxes, plastic-lined coffee cups, lids on takeaway and plastic sandwich wedges.

Unlike other states, the ban in Tasmania only applies to single-use plastic containers with a volume of less than 1L. Local councils have set further implementation rules around single-use plastics – check your local council website for details.

If suppliers or hospitality venues fail to comply, they may be issued with an Infringement Notice and fines of up to 20 penalty units for individuals and 100 penalty units for business and organisations may apply.

What’s next?

Tasmania is a small state with mighty natural resources and a strong incentive to actively enforce the national plastic ban targets.

While Tassie may be slower to move than some other states, we expect they’ll be all caught up by 2025 - that gives you less than two years to get your house in order, so start now with making additional packaging/serving materials optional and encouraging bring/use your own and refillable/reusable containers (price premiums and/or incentives for return can have a positive effect on venue and supplier costs).

In Tasmania, while plant-based materials remain a good (and necessary) investment, make sure you’re thinking about bigger-picture sustainability like water consumption, carbon footprint, and locally-sourced materials for future brownie-points with government and consumers.

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What you should be doing now?

From 1 February 2023, “single-use plastics” (including biodegradable and compostable plastics, so no plant-based plastic options) were banned from sale and supply in Victoria. This  includes drinking straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, and polystyrene drink and food containers but (for the moment!) excludes food-contact packaging.

The ban isn’t otherwise limited to food service, so includes healthcare, tourism, and other corporate sectors.

Penalties of up to $11,095.20 for individuals or up to $55,476 for companies may apply for breach of the ban. Significant penalties may also apply for any misleading or deceptive claims around sustainability.

Beware: The Victorian law is one of the most ambitious and far-reaching in scope, and can be taken as a bit of a crystal-ball glimpse into what’s coming across the country.   From 1 January 2026 the Victorian government plans to ban the use of plastics (including biodegradable and recycled plastics) in all food and drink packaging, including food-contact packaging for retail sale.

Where to from here?

While it is currently only suppliers of single-use serving items that need to be using plant-based non-plastic materials (recycled/recyclable isn’t enough), everyone across the food service, manufacturing, and retail sectors needs to be actively working now towards food-contact packaging solutions that don’t use plastics, and are biodegradable (compostable) or reliably reusable/refillable.

Paper/fibre, glass, or metal packaging materials remain good options.


What you should be doing now?

As part of Western Australia’s ‘Plan for Plastics’ the supply and distribution of single-use plastic items such as plates, unlidded bowls, cutlery, stirrers, straws, unlidded cups for cold beverages, thick plastic shopping bags, PES takeaway food containers, and unlidded takeaway food containers are banned across the state. 
Recently, the ban was expanded to prevent supplies and hospitality venues from distributing loose and moulded EPS packaging, degradable plastics, produce bags, EPS cups and food trays (such as those used to package raw meat and seafood), coffee cups and lids, lids for cups, bowls, trays, plates and takeaway food containers, and trays for takeaway foods. 
Penalties up to $5,000 apply for the sale and supply of banned single-use plastic items.

What’s next?

It is WA’s goal that all single-use plastic products will be phased out by July 2025 to comply with the national plan. Degradable plastic and recyclable plastics are already not good enough, so compostable plant-based, and reusable/recyclable/refillable glass, metal, and ceramic materials are what you should be seeking and supplying.


Then stay tuned to Ordermentum’s channels for more valuable info (powered by Universal Counsel) on how our new green era affects hospitality and food service.

Want more info? Contact Amelia Edwards, Chief Counsel, at Universal Counsel for a plan tailored for your F&B business. //