HSE Articles

Preventing pollution from single-use plastics


Single-use plastic items, such as grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery, have become commonplace throughout daily life. Although these items are only used once and for a short time, their negative impacts can be long-lasting.


Commonly used plastics do not easily decompose and can be difficult to recycle, causing them to accumulate in landfills and the natural environment. This results in contamination of soil and water, and harm to wildlife and humans. Animals can be injured or die after becoming entangled in plastic debris or ingesting large quantities of plastic.


Small particles of plastics can also be ingested by humans through eating fish and other foods, drinking water, and even through breathing the air. In fact, a recent study has found that an average person could be ingesting approximately 5 grams of plastic every week.





Global response


Many countries have acknowledged the urgent need to address this issue. It has been reported that more than 60 countries have introduced bans and levies to help reduce single-use plastic waste. This includes Australia, where most states and territories have implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags, or are planning to do so.


Additionally, the South Australian Government has recently announced that it will introduce legislation to ban other single-use plastics items, including straws, cutlery and stirrers. This will make South Australia the first state or territory in Australia to implement a ban on these items.




Reducing plastics in the workplace


  • Identify where plastics are used in your business operations, and search for alternatives to replace these items.


  • Provide recycling bins and ensure that plastics and other materials are recycled correctly.


  • Use reusable shopping bags when buying supplies


  • Minimise the use of plastic packaging and purchase items from suppliers that do the same.


  • Educate employees on the impacts of single-use plastics and the actions they can take to minimise their plastic use.


  • Encourage employees to use reusable drink bottles, cups and cutlery.


  • Conduct a workshop with your employees to discuss ideas for reducing plastic in your organisation