Single-use items

Close-up of a woman carrying plants and a disposable coffee cup

What are single-use items?

Single-use items or disposable items are products and packaging that we throw out after only one use. These items are used for only minutes but their impact on our environment can last thousands of years.

Even when these items are recyclable, we use up energy and our environment’s natural resources to produce these easily-avoidable items.

Avoid first

What’s better than reusing or recycling an item? Avoiding it in the first place.
Ask yourself, do you really need it? And if the answer is no, then avoid it.

Sustainable alternatives

The good news is there are many sustainable alternatives to single-use items. Switching to sustainable items can make a big difference for the environment.

The following pages provide guidance on the why and how to avoid some of the most common single-use items.


Balloons often end up in our waterways and have become one of the most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife.

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Close-up of a woman dropping a disposable coffee cup in a bin

Disposable coffee cups

Australians consume more than 50,000 cups of coffee every half hour and, for now at least, the disposable cups can't be recycled.

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Disposable dinnerware

After being used for only a few minutes, disposable dinnerware ends up in landfill or worse, as litter on our streets or in our parks.

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Disposable masks

Eco-friendly alternatives to disposable face masks.

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Junk mail

Junk mail accounts for 6% of Australia’s total paper usage. That adds up to 240,000 tonnes of paper every single year.

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Close-up of a man holding plastic supermarket bags filled with groceries

Plastic bags

Australians use around 10 million plastic bags every day, but even though soft plastics can now be recycled, only 3% of those bags are currently being recycled.

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Plastic cotton buds

Plastic cotton buds are one of the most problematic litter items found on beaches across the world.

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Plastic straws

Plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beaches all over the world. If you really need a straw, there are great sustainable alternatives available.

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Plastic water bottles

Australians buy almost 15 billion plastic bottles every year and most of these end up in landfill or in our waterways.

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Polystyrene food containers and cups

Disposable food containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene can’t be readily recycled and, after only a few minutes’ use, will end up piling up in landfills.

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