Conservationists have praised efforts by Australian authorities to drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste and eliminate some disposable coffee cups. The New South Wales state government wants to ban many common plastic items, including straws, drinks stirrers and cutlery, as well as polystyrene cups in a bid to protect the environment and reduce waste.    Lightweight plastic shopping bags could be eliminated within six months of new laws being passed.  The reforms could be approved by lawmakers this year. Other products will be phased out at different times depending on the availability of, for example, paper and bamboo alternatives.    Officials have estimated the measures will stop about 2.7 billion items of plastic from ending up in the environment and oceans over the next 20 years.    New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean has warned that the world is on track to have more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.    He told Australian television that the changes would help protect the community.  “No-one wants to be wading through plastics when they go to the beach, let alone be consuming it in their food and water, and that is what we are doing at the moment. Every day in New South Wales people are consuming over 2,000 bits of plastic. That is the equivalent of a credit card of plastic they are ingesting every week and it is largely because of the pervasiveness of single-use plastics across our environment. So, we believe that we can do something about that. Do something about it where there are alternatives available and when it does not add to cost and that is what I am looking to see,” Kean said.  In Western Australia, the state government has also announced ambitious plans to tackle waste. By the end of this year, it will ban a range of items, including single-use plastic bowls, plates, straws, polystyrene food containers and thick plastic shopping bags.  Polystyrene packaging and takeaway plastic coffee cups and their lids will be outlawed in 2022.  It is estimated that Australians throw out about a billion coffee cups each year.  The World Wildlife Fund Australia said the state governments in New South Wales and Western Australia are in a “race to the top” in waste measures and that the reforms were “a terrific outcome for the environment.”   But conservationists have warned that Tasmania and the Northern Territory were the only Australian jurisdictions “without a plan to ban problem single-use plastics.” Also, in a few weeks, it will be illegal for companies to export certain waste plastics from Australia under tough new rules. 

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