The ocean is crying tears of joy today, folks, as the NSW State Parliament just passed a new law effectively banning all lightweight plastics hopefully by the end of the year. Here’s what you need to know.

Last week, a new law was passed that puts a ban on plastic straws, cutlery, lightweight plastic bags, and microbes in cosmetics (as well as styrofoam tableware and cotton buds with plastic stems). The State Government plans to roll out this stage within the next 12 months.

Then, three years after that, the State Parliament will review other single-use plastics, like plastic plates, cups, and fruit stickers, as well as the heavyweight plastic bags you can find at Coles, Woolies, or ALDI.

The goal here is that by 2050, this will phase out all single-use plastics in the region and stop 2.7 billion bits of plastic from becoming trash in the ocean. A government that is actively trying to stop polluting our natural world? We simply love to see it.

According to a 2020 discussion paper by NSW Environment and Energy Minister Matt Kean titled Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW, in 2017-2018, we went through 1.1 million tonnes of plastic. In 2018-2019, 60% of all littered items were made from plastic. And, at the rate that we are currently going, it’s likely that there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish by 2050. So, yeah, this new law couldn’t come sooner enough.

“This is about NSW leading the way when it comes to reducing plastic litter in our environment… ensuring we hand our environment to the next generation better than we found it,” Kean said, per the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We must reduce the plastics ending up in our environment because we are on track to see more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.”

plastic water bottle australia beach
In 2017-2018, NSW went through 1.1 million tonnes of plastic. (Image source: Getty [MB Photography])

“It’s been a long time coming, but today is a terrific outcome for the environment. We’re pleased to see NSW proposing bold action to stop some of the most problematic plastics from entering our oceans,” added Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager in a press statement.

“Plastic bags, straws, and utensils are often discarded after a single-use, ending up in landfill or polluting our environment for hundreds of years.

“Banning these items is a simple and effective way to protect our beautiful beaches and marine wildlife.”

Interestingly, while this new law focuses on single-use plastics, they’re not actually the most littered plastic item. According to Kean’s discussion paper from last year, cigarette butts made up 33.7% of all littered plastic items in NSW in 2018-2019, followed by single-use takeaway items at 8.1% and snack and confectionary bags at 3.8%.

NSW isn’t the first state to ban single-use plastics in the country. Earlier this year, South Australia put a ban in effect and Victoria plans to fully banish them by 2023. Hobart, too, became the first Aussie city to ban plastic cups, straws, and cutlery in 2019.

In the meantime, why not check out the coolest shit people have invented recently to make our world more sustainable?