Sustainable living

A beginner’s guide to avoiding single use items

4 easy ways to make the switch to reusables.

Single use plastic ocean

You only use them for a few minutes, but single-use plastics can take hundreds of years to break apart in landfill. Last year, the state government announced plans to phase out single-use plastics. Lightweight plastic bags will be banned from 1 June 2022 and other single-use plastics, including straws, stirrers, cutlery and takeaway polystyrene food containers, will be banned from 1 November 2022. Some exemptions apply.

If you’ve already ditched single-use plastic bags, it’s time to say goodbye to other disposable plastics. Here are some tips to get you started at home and work.

1. BYO reusable coffee cup

Takeaway coffee cups can’t be easily recycled. They often have a liquid-proof plastic liner. And the lids are too light for the recycling process.

Find a nearby café that accepts reusable cups. Take your favourite office mug or check out the many reusable styles on the market.

If a cafe doesn’t accept reusable cups, ask them to make the coffee in a sit-in mug and simply transfer it to your own. Or if takeaway cups are your only option, ask for no lid, and no straw if it’s an iced coffee, to reduce waste.

Refusing a takeaway cup can make a huge difference. In the inner city alone, 100 million takeaway coffee cups end up in landfill every year.

2. Carry a reusable water bottle

Sydney’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink. There are free water bubblers and fountains across the city, if you know where to look.

Say goodbye to plastic bottled water and choose a reusable one that’s BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalate free. Or use your reusable coffee cup to fill up on water throughout the day.

3. Refuse plastic cutlery

If you’re ordering takeaway food and bringing it back home or to work, ask your server to give the plastic cutlery a miss. You can use what’s in the kitchen when you get back.

Plastic cutlery can't be recycled in Australia. Because the items are flat, sorting machines often mistake them for paper.

4. Say no to the plastic straw

Just sip directly from the cup. Or if you can’t go without, carry a reusable straw made from metal, bamboo or glass when you go out. Encourage your local cafe or bar to go plastic-straw free too, if they’re not already.

Plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beaches. Many cafes and bars are now going plastic-straw free thanks to the increasing awareness around their harmful impacts.

In Australia, only 13% of plastic gets recycled. The majority ends up in landfill or contaminates recycling streams. Almost 30% of the plastics we consume are single-use, so cutting these out of your life will make a big impact, even as an individual.

Looking for more?

Take your plastic-free journey to the next level with our advanced tips.

Published 28 April 2021, updated 11 March 2022