Plastic straws for disability or health needs
From 1 March 2021, single-use plastic drinking straws continue to be available for members of the community who rely on these for disability or health needs.
The legislation has a specific provision which provides an exemption for plastic straws, allowing single-use plastic drinking straws to be sold, supplied and distributed through the following:
- Any business can choose to supply individual single-use plastic drinking straws on request, due to disability or health needs (straws cannot be on display or freely accessible)
- ‘Prescribed businesses’ (refer below) can choose to sell and supply single-use plastic drinking straws (that is, in packs)
- Wholesalers and distributors can supply and distribute single-use plastic straws for the above purposes.
Examples of plastic straws available for disability or health needs:
- A café, restaurant, pub or takeaway venue may stock plastic drinking straws out of sight of customers and provide single plastic straws if requested for disability or health needs without requiring person asking to provide proof. There is no requirement for businesses to stock plastic drinking straws.
- A pharmacy may display and sell packs of plastic drinking straws for people with disability or health needs and may sell them without requiring person asking to provide proof. There is no requirement for prescribed businesses to sell plastic straws.
- A person requiring a plastic straw for disability or health needs may purchase plastic straws from prescribed businesses, wholesalers and distributors or online without providing proof of need.
You should not purchase single-use plastic straws if you are not:
- considered a designated person under the Act (that is, you have a disability or health need)
- acting on the behalf of a designated person.
The following businesses have been identified as ‘prescribed businesses':
- Local Government offices
- Medical, dental, and care facilities
Pre-packaged / attached products
An exemption is in place for pre-packaged and attached products, recognising that a longer transitional period is required for the types of products included in manufacturing and packaging processes.
The exemption includes:
- single-use plastic drinking straws or single-use plastic cutlery that form an integral part of a relevant food or beverage product (whether attached to or contained in the product) to enable or assist with consumption of the food or beverage
- expanded polystyrene cups or expanded polystyrene bowls that form part of the packaging of a relevant food or beverage product.
Examples of pre-packaged or attached products:
- Single-use plastic drinking straws attached to beverage cartons
- Single-use plastic cutlery packaged within single-serve yoghurt containers
- Expanded polystyrene cups and bowls containing ready-to-eat noodles
As part of the Next Steps announced by the South Australian Government, the exemption for attached single-use plastic products (such as plastic straws, plastic cutlery) will be removed from 1 September 2025.
If you are unsure if a product that you sell, supply or distribute, or manufacture/produce, meets the definition of a pre-packaged or attached product, please contact email@example.com for further information.
Single-use plastic spoons—medical, dental and care facilities
An exemption is in place for single-use plastic spoons used for clinical purposes, based on feedback from the healthcare sector.
Clinicians have advised the alternatives to single-use plastic spoons (including reusable spoons) are not suitable for certain clinical purposes.
The exemption is only for the purposes of the clinical care, management or treatment of a person's injury, disease, illness or other medical condition, including the clinical diagnosis, prognosis, assessment, prevention, management, treatment or palliation of the injury, disease, illness or other medical condition.
Any single-use plastic spoons used for other purposes within a medical, dental or care facility (such as to serve food as part of a meal) is considered a prohibited plastic product and must not be used.
The definitions of ‘medical or dental facility’ and ‘care facility’ are listed in Regulation 3 and are also used for the single-use plastic drinking straws exemption.
The exemption allows the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastic spoons by wholesalers and distributors to medical, dental and care facilities.
Plastic-stemmed cotton buds – medical, scientific, forensic or law enforcement purposes
There is an exemption for plastic single-use cotton buds (including plastic single-use cotton swabs) where it is used for medical, scientific, forensic or law enforcement purposes only. Wholesalers and distributors may sell plastic single-use cotton buds to businesses for these purposes.
Plastic-stemmed cotton buds may not be sold for cleaning ears, beauty or cosmetic purposes, or general domestic uses such as cleaning.
Plastic single-use cotton buds may be made available for sale, to a member of the public as part of a permitted kit (such as a first aid kit or kit used for medical, scientific or forensic testing, such as a COVID-19 test) by a retail store (such as a pharmacy, supermarket or convenience store).
Examples of uses for medical, scientific, forensic or law enforcement purposes include:
- as part of a COVID-19 test or first aid kit
- taking samples for a pathology test, or at a crime scene for forensic analysis
- as part of a kit used for medical purposes, such as for surgery
- supply by a general practitioner to a patient for medical purposes
- supply to a dental clinic, aged care facility or veterinary clinic for staff to use for medical purposes
- cleaning scientific equipment by a research laboratory.
Single-use plastic bowls – medical, scientific, forensic or law enforcement purposes
There is an exemption for plastic single-use bowls where the item is used for medical, scientific, forensic or law enforcement purposes only.
Single-use plastic bowls may not be used for food or beverage service to people (for example, for serving food as part of a meal in a medical facility including aged-care facilities). The bowl may not be made of expanded polystyrene (EPS).
Plastic single-use bowls may not be used for beauty or cosmetic purposes or similar and must not be for sale or made available to a member of the public.
Examples of uses for medical, scientific or forensic or law enforcement purposes include:
- a sterile bowl used in a medical facility as part of an operation (for example, to hold organs during transplant procedures)
- veterinary clinic for use as a food or water bowl for an animal in isolation, where needed to help control the spread of infection or disease
- dental clinic during a surgical procedure
- scientific or forensic laboratory where a sterile bowl is needed to collect samples to avoid contamination
- a food inspector taking food samples for analysis.
Single-use plastic lined paper or cardboard bowls (including fibre bowls such bagasse) have a temporary exemption until 1 November 2024.
Single-use bowls designed or intended to have a lid will be phased out from 1 September 2024.
Plastic lined or coated paper or cardboard plates and bowls
There is a time limited exemption until 31 October 2024 for plates and bowls that are made of paper or cardboard but have a plastic lining or coating. This includes products like takeaway cardboard and bagasse bowls without lids, and printed or coloured paper ‘party’ plates and bowls.
An example of paper or cardboard plates with plastic lining or coating is paper plates and bowls that have printed colours, images or words across the plate or bowls, such as film characters, colours, patterns or words (Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and so on).
The exemption is based on feedback from suppliers and manufacturers of these products that there is currently a lack of food-safe printed alternatives, and shortages of non-printed alternatives.
The exemption will provide time for manufacturers to scale up their supply chains and develop, test and refine alternative products. It will also give businesses time to source alternatives or implement different business models before plastic-lined paper plates and bowls are phased out.