This policy outlines the Victorian government’s single use plastics ban which comes into effect on 1 February 2023 and which applies to all organisations and businesses, including schools.
- From 1 February 2023 a number of single-use plastic items will be banned from sale or supply in Victoria. These items are listed under Details below and include single-use plastic drinking straws, cutlery and plates, as well as polystyrene food service and drink containers.
- From 1 February 2023 schools must not provide any banned single-use plastic items as part of their school operations (for example, canteens, Outside School Hours Care, classroom resources, fundraising and other events) and will not be able to purchase any new banned single-use plastic items.
- There are some exceptions to the ban which include people who need single-use plastic drinking straws due to a disability or for a medical need.
- Offences relating to the ban do not apply to private or domestic activities at home, for example, individual families’ decisions about lunch packaging brought to school. The intention of the ban is to remove the specified items from the supply chain before they reach the consumer.
- For sample newsletter content for your school community, fact sheets, posters and other useful resources refer to the .
Single-use plastics make up a third of the litter in our environment and are difficult and costly to clean up. They pollute the environment, harming wildlife and contaminating our food and water. They are also a poor use of resources – they are often used for only a few minutes and generate significant waste that is not recyclable They can often easily be replaced with reusable products.
Items that will be banned from 1 February 2023
Under new regulations, from 1 February 2023, Victorian businesses and organisations (including schools) will not be able to sell, supply or provide a number of single-use plastic items. The ban applies to the following single-use plastic items made from conventional, degradable or compostable plastics:
- drinking straws
- cutlery including knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks, sporks, splades and food picks
- drink stirrers and sticks
- cotton bud sticks.
The ban also applies to:
- food service items and drink containers made from expanded polystyrene. This includes expanded polystyrene plates, cups, bowls, clam shells and any cover or lid that is also made from expanded polystyrene.
Schools must not provide any of the banned items for consuming food or drinks (for example, in school staffrooms, canteens, Outside School Hours Care programs, fundraising events, school community events and so on) or for use in classroom or other school activities (for example, art, science, food technology).
A single-use plastic item is one that is not reusable. Refer to the Definitions section below.
Where reusable options are not available, and schools still require disposable items, schools should contact their supplier about the most sustainable options, such as responsibly sourced paper, bamboo, or wood alternatives. Schools should still check that any new disposable alternatives do not contain plastic polymers and are safe to use.
Exceptions to the ban
There are 5 exceptions where banned single-use plastic items can continue to be used in Victoria. These are for specific circumstances where items are required for health and safety reasons or where suitable alternatives to a sub-set of banned items are not currently available. The exceptions are:
- single-use plastic drinking straws for people who need them due to a disability or for medical needs – for further information refer to the section below
- single-use plastic cotton bud sticks for testing carried out for scientific, medical, forensic or law enforcement purposes
- single-use plastic cutlery, where required, in correctional and mental health facilities to prevent physical harm or injury
- until 1 November 2024 – paper or cardboard plates lined with plastic
- until 1 January 2026 – any single-use plastic item that is integrated into food or drink packaging (for example, a single-use plastic spoon included in a yoghurt tub).
Note that the ban does not apply to:
- serving utensils (for example, tongs, cake servers)
- expanded polystyrene containers used for food packaging and transport where the food is not typically consumed from the receptacle (for example, trays for raw meat, food storage boxes or gelato tubs).
Single-use plastic straws for people with disability or for medical needs
People who need single-use plastic drinking straws due to a disability or for a medical need will still be able to purchase and use these items. Schools can continue to purchase single-use plastic straws from their suppliers so that these are available when needed. There is no requirement for individuals to provide verification of disability or medical need when requesting straws.
Schools should be aware that:
- single-use plastic straws must not be accessible to students – for example, they could be stored behind the canteen counter or in a staffroom cupboard
- when purchasing single-use plastic straws from a supplier, schools should specify that they are being used under an exemption and in line with the regulations
- reusable straws, alongside single-use straws made from other types of materials such as paper or wheat, can continue to be used, where a single-use plastic straw is not required. There are no restrictions on how straws made from other materials can be stored, displayed and provided.
Catering and events
Schools are encouraged to consider asking any catering suppliers whether they have reusable alternatives that can be returned following the event rather than providing the school with disposable single-use products. Schools may also decide to use their own reusable crockery, cutlery and other items for school events and activities.
Single-use plastic item
A single-use plastic item is one that is made wholly or in part of plastic, and is not reusable.
Reusable items are manufactured to be used for the same purpose on multiple occasions, and come with a warranty, or other written representation from the manufacturer, that they are designed to last for at least one year.
Reviewed 28 November 2022