In less than a week, South Australian businesses will face fines if found to be selling, supplying or distributing single-use plastic straws, cutlery or drink stirrers.

Key points:

  • The South Australian Government’s single-use plastic ban was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Some cafes have already implemented changes ahead of the March 1 roll-out
  • There will be exemptions for medical purposes, following criticism from disability advocates

The ban — coming into effect on March 1 — is the first of its kind to be legislated and implemented in Australia, but many SA businesses have already made significant changes to reduce their plastic footprint.

Adelaide cafe Argo On The Square had already moved away from using plastic takeaway products, with single-use cups, straws, cutlery, containers and bags all binned for good in 2020.

Cafe worker Chloe Briddon supports the state government’s ban and said the business made the changes months ago.

“We used to just have normal plastic cups and they had to go straight into landfill, so now we have the green plastic takeaway cups and they are compostable,” Ms Briddon said.

“It’s a lot cheaper to not have the biodegradable packaging, so I don’t think they would change it if they didn’t have to.”

The South Australian Government plans to fine businesses that don’t comply with the new legislation from March.

Other items could be banned in the future.(SA Government)

Environment Minister David Speirs said those businesses would be held accountable.

Among the new rules, a person selling, supplying or distributing prohibited plastic products in a business could face a $315 fine.

Anyone found to be selling, supplying or distributing prohibited plastic products under the guise of them being non-prohibited products could also be fined $1,000.

The maximum court penalty anyone breaking the new laws could face is $20,000.

“From Monday there will be a firm line in the sand, those items will be gone in South Australia and we will be moving into a much more sustainable future,” Mr Speirs said.

“South Australia is showing this historic environmental leadership; we have got this in our DNA.

In early 2022 the ban will be expanded to include all polystyrene cups, bowls and plates.

Eventually, all takeaway coffee cups, plastic bags and other takeaway food service items will be scrapped.

The ban was first floated in January 2019, drawing criticism from disability advocates about the lack of consideration for their needs.

The government has since said there would be exemptions for medical purposes, such as for people who have difficulty swallowing, but they may have to buy straws at pharmacies rather than major retail outlets.

Adelaide Festival show explores plastics issue

The ban coincides with an Adelaide Festival art installation that showcases a grocery store made from thousands of recycled plastic products.

Consumerism and plastic waste is packaged into a one-stop shop called The Plastic Bag Store.

The artwork is designed to resemble a normal shop, but hidden behind some of the comical labels is far more serious topic.

Robin Frohardt is the artist behind The Plastic Bag Store, which is a centrepiece of the 2021 Adelaide Festival.(Supplied)

Adelaide Festival Artistic Director Neil Armfield said he hoped it make Australians reflect on how much rubbish humans produced and the impact that had on the environment.

The artist behind the work, Robin Frohardt, created the installation in New York, where the installation first premiered in Times Square.

She hopes her work will continue to inspire South Australians and the world to ditch single-use plastic.

“Sometimes environment issues can feel overwhelming and depressing so we kind of just wanted to look away or pull away, so hopefully this is a way to bring people into the conservation for longer and have a deeper impact,” Ms Frohardt said.

The Plastic Bag Store will be open free to the public from February 23 until Sunday, March 14.