9 Oct 2019


Australia has a plastic problem. We use plastic at an alarming rate and much of it is designed to be thrown away after a single-use. Because of this, plastic ends up in our natural environment, threatening marine mammals birds and fish. More than 90% of all marine animals are thought to have plastic particles in their stomachs.

The good news is there are meaningful actions governments can take to move away from unnecessary and problematic plastic. But which states and territories are acting on this issue and which aren’t? To answer this question, WWF-Australia has launched a plastics scorecard, measuring the states and territories on some of the worst single-use plastics. While many governments have taken action on this issue, the scorecard reveals that others are falling severely behind. The scorecard awards states and territories with a green score when a policy is in place or scheduled to be in place and an orange score when states have taken some action or are considering phasing away from specifically identified single-use plastic items.

How the states and territories rank

Let’s start with those that do well. South Australia tops the plastics scorecard with a container deposit scheme that’s been recycling plastics for 40 years. It also was the first state to ban plastic bags and recently announced a ban on plastic straws and utensils in July this year. WA and ACT fall in closely behind with container deposit schemes, bans on plastic bags and consideration of a range of other bans on single-use plastics underway.

Australia’s two most populous states – New South Wales and Victoria – sit at the bottom of WWF-Australia’s plastics scorecard. Victoria, in last place, is still the only state not to have a container deposit scheme. While NSW has a container deposit scheme, it’s the only state to not have a ban on single-use plastic bags.

It’s clear from the scorecard that our biggest states need to take action to phase out single-use plastics.

The state of plastics in Australia - 2021 scorecard
© WWF-Australia

Why does this matter?

Australia produced an alarming three million tonnes of plastic last year. To put that in perspective, that’s the same weight as over 32,000 blue wales. Plastic packaging represents the largest slice of our plastic consumption and the majority of that is single-use plastic, designed to be discarded after a single use. Sadly this plastic inevitably ends up on our beaches, threatening marine species and the health of ocean ecosystems.

To address the plastic littering our oceans and beaches, we must first reduce the amount of plastic we use. Policies like banning plastic bags can have a huge impact on the amount of plastic ending up in nature. ACT’s plastic bag ban for example is estimated to have reduced 310 million bags since its introduction while NSW’s container deposit scheme has collected more than two billion bottles and cans in the 20 months it has existed. It’s why we need policies like these to ensure that the worse single-use plastics are phased out.

How do we compare internationally?

We’re seeing countries right across the world take action on unnecessary and problematic plastics, from Vanuatu to Canada and Rwanda, and across Europe.

Rwanda banned the use of single-use plastic bags back in 2008. And in the EU and Canada, plastic bags, plastic plates, plastic straws and plastic utensils will soon be banned. Global action on plastics is important because what is dumped in one region can travel and impact others.

But Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world. While some states and territories have implemented bans on certain single-use plastics, nationwide bans or proposed bans on problematic plastics do not currently exist.

What you can do

WWF is encouraging other states and territories to follow South Australia’s lead and take action on single-use plastics.

Use our plastics scorecard to tell your local politicians you want stronger policy on plastic.

Take action to phase out the 10 worst single-use plastics and fix this urgent waste crisis now.