Pacific Environment Ministers meet in Samoa

Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Assistant Minister Trevor Evans has meet with representatives from 21 Pacific Island Nations, New Zealand, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, to discuss key environmental issues facing the region.

Mr Evans attended the Talanoa Dialogue in Samoa, which is designed to facilitate participatory conversations about complex issues, as part of the 29th Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

SPREP Ministers called for urgent action to support the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter 2018-2025, and urged members to accelerate policies and actions that embrace sustainable materials management and drive sustainable practices to reduce plastic pollution.

“A healthy and clean Pacific Ocean is essential to the quality of life and economic security of all Pacific Island Nations, and Australia is working with our Pacific family to make this happen, including investing $16 million to fund the Pacific Ocean Litter Project to tackle plastics polluting the region’s marine environment,” Mr Evans said.

“There are some tough and critical issues and no easy answers. But reaching shared solutions means having the conversation and mapping out agreed practical actions.”

According to Mr Evans, an Australia minister has not attended the biennial meeting in over a decade.

“Australia’s presence here builds on the outcomes of the recent Pacific Islands Forum, and reinforces Prime Minister Morrison’s message that Australia appreciates the issues faced by the Pacific are real and immediate,” Mr Evans said.

“Australia is fully engaged and strongly committed to working through these shared challenges in our region.”

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Potential emergency plastic tax by 2021: report

The plastic waste crisis is expected to deepen, potentially leading to a federal response in the form of an emergency tax by 2021, according to global wealth manager Credit Suisse.

It argues that reactionary policy measures are highly likely in the short term and could include a tax on virgin resins or additional tariffs placed on imported plastic goods in its report, The age of plastic at a tipping point.

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With too much plastic waste domestically and with no large export markets available, Credit Suisse estimates there will be a sharp increase in plastic being sent to landfill and illegal dumping.

“Our headline view is that things will get worse before they get better: the policy initiatives in the National Waste Strategy won’t take hold until FY20/21,” the report said.

Credit Suisse expects bans on single use-plastics to be extended to the six most common plastic packaging and tax incentives to be provided to help hit the 2025 target of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging.

The long lead time from policy approval to implementation is problematic, particularly for new waste infrastructure, which the company said will likely lead to a more supportive project approval environment for waste infrastructure.

Waste managers are expected to benefit from this scenario, with short term potential from council re-negotiations and long-term potential to fast-track waste infrastructure approvals, according to the report.

“Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of human life. It is the most prolific material on the planet, growing faster than any commodity in the last 33 years,” the report said.

“Plastic packaging has become one of the most intractable environmental challenges of our age. None of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable; they accumulate in landfills or the natural environment rather than decompose.

“To curtail the situation in the short run, it is a matter of when, not if, we see reactionary policy measures,” the report said.