War on Waste season 2 fights bottles, straws, e-waste and more

The first episode of Craig Reucassel’s War on Waste season two will broadcast on the ABC at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 24 July.

More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.

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Season two’s first episode will look at new issues around plastic water bottles and straws, and e-waste.

It will also delve deeper into previously discussed issues of food waste and Australia’s recycling crisis.

A giant footprint made of plastic packaging was created on Sydney’s Manly beach to highlight the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in waterways.

With more than 10 million plastic straws being used every day in Australia, Mr Reucassel joins forces with the minds behind the #strawnomore movement to challenge pubs and fast food chains to ban the straw from their venues.

The show will also look at Australia’s fastest growing waste stream, e-waste. With tonnes of discarded computers, mobile phones and electrical goods ending up in landfill, Mr Reucassel highlights the dangers of the toxic elements within them leaching into the environment.

War on Waste season two also sees Mr Reucassel going undercover to expose the amount of food that is wasted when eating at restaurants.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury said the issues of disposable water bottles will be placed under the microscope.

“Last year’s series saw tremendous media coverage extend to disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, household food waste and the wasteful policy of retailers,” he said.

Mr Khoury said collectors and processor can help the war on waste by providing better education for waste generators, provide a range of recycling options, use modern equipment, transport all waste and recyclables to a lawful facility and invest in training for workers.

“We all can lobby the NSW Government to invest more of the $700 million collected from the waste levy into waste management programs and much needed infrastructure to divert more waste from landfill,” he said.

Image credit: ABC

National Retail Association launch campaign for plastic bag ban

The National Retail Association (NRA) has launched a campaign that calls on Queenslanders to get behind the state government’s 1 July ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said retailers had long-supported the idea of industry-wide action to combat toxic plastic bag pollution.

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“Our industry is behind the State Government for making this a non-negotiable for all stores right down to the smallest takeaway outlets, local markets and online stores, as it’s a crucial step toward changing overall consumer behaviour,” Ms Lamb said.

Global plastic bag pollution has reached with around 5 trillion plastic bags used every year, an estimated 160,000 every second according to statistics from Oceanwatch Australia.

“We know we’ve reached a tipping point and the retail industry is right in the thick of it as consumers demand more transparency into how the products they buy are produced, so they can support brands with ethical production methods and environmentally sustainable practices. Banning lightweight plastic shopping bags is another important step in creating a future-proof industry,” Ms Lamb said.

From 1 July, no retailer in Queensland will be allowed to give out single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags under 35 microns thick, risking fines of up to $6000 per offence.

Ms Lamb has asked shoppers to be patient with retailers during the transition period.

“Consumers will need to prepare by either bringing their own reusable bags and should expect to pay a small fee of around 15 to 20 cents for a basic reusable option, through to as much as five dollars for locally-made jute or hessian bag,” she said.

It’s up to all of us to do our bit. It’s a small change in our routine for a big impact on Queensland’s environment.”

EU to ban single-use plastics

The European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to ban 10 single-use plastic products which form 70 per cent of all marine litter items.

The proposal focuses on those items most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead. Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.

Different measures will be applied to different products. Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge. Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.

Member states will be obliged to collect 90 per cent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes.

Certain products will require a clear and standardised labelling which indicates how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the products. This will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons.

Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus will be on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption, design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.

The commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and council for adoption. The Commission urged the other institutions to treat this as a priority file, and to deliver tangible results for Europeans before the elections in May 2019. More information is available here. 

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Australian experts reacted to the news below.

Dr Paul Harvey, of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University, said the proposed ban, notably plastic straws and cotton buds, is welcome and very promising news.

“Single-use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation,” he said.

“We see single-use plastics distributed ubiquitously throughout the global environments, even to the darkest depths of our oceans. These single use plastics do not readily degrade so we will have these plastics in our environment for thousands of years to come.”

“Australia, given its precious natural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, would benefit greatly from following the lead set by the EU on single-use plastics.”

Dr Belinda Christie, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Transitions at Swinburne University, said that while the EU plans to ban single-use plastic, we need to be careful that we don’t just replace one problem with another.

“Greener ‘biodegradable’ plastics are often marketed as the solution to our plastic problems on land and in our oceans, but we need to look deeper. These biodegradable plastics still require energy to create even if made from natural materials such as corn starch, and therefore still contribute to climate change,” she said.

“A lot of plastics labelled as biodegradable will only break down at higher temperatures, around 50 degrees celsius and if exposed to UV directly. So if they end up in the ocean, or even in landfill, they still can’t break down. While under artificial conditions they do break down eventually, they end up as microplastics in the meantime.

“Studies show that there is no significant difference between how biodegradable bags and plastic bags break down when eaten by marine life – meaning our biodegradable plastics ending up in the ocean can do just as much damage as a regular plastic bag.”

 

Boomerang Alliance launches Communities Taking Control

A new initiative aiming to end Australia’s reliance on single-use plastics has been announced by the Boomerang Alliance at the Beyond Plastic Pollution Conference in Darling Harbour.

Communities Taking Control aims to empower communities to bring about systematic change and end the reliance on single-use plastics. It will provide passionate groups and individuals with a comprehensive guide, including all the information about tools and platforms, to implement a plastic free community initiative. The guide is based on the collaborative efforts of allies and pilot programmes in Noosa and Wollongong.

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“The impacts of significant pollution from plastic in the environment have begun to seriously alarm scientists, health professionals and communities,” said Jeff Angel, Director of the Boomerang Alliance of 47 groups.

“Our oceans, local waterways, marine and wildlife are being crippled by the sheer volumes of plastic, and with plastic now being found in our food and drinking water, it is clear the human food chain is already contaminated.

“All sectors of our society need to take action, and we’ve been pleased to see government, industry, NGO’s and community members coming together to discuss and collaborate on the solutions to the plastic pollution crisis at the conference. This is the way forward.”

Mr Angel noted that programs are already being developed with local businesses, festivals, schools and other stakeholders to reduce the output of single-use plastic at the source.

“The wide spread adoption of reusable consumer goods, and the transition of businesses towards re-usables and non-plastic alternatives will have a huge positive impact on our environment,” he said.

Communities Taking Control is specifically targeting

  • plastic bottles
  • plastic bags
  • polystyrene and plastic takeaway food containers
  • straws
  • cutlery
  • coffee cups

Victoria moves to ban the bag

The Victorian Government will move to ban single-use plastic bags, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced.

The Premier revealed the move on Channel 10’s The Project on Tuesday evening. It follows a campaign by the program in partnership with Clean Up Australia.

“We are going to get this done as quickly as we can and I think that only leaves one or two other states,” Mr Andrews told the Ten Network on Tuesday.

“I have been convinced by [‘The Project’s] advocacy over such a consistent amount of time to announce… that Victoria will ban single-use plastic bags,” he said.

“We know this is really important for the environment, particularly for our waterways, for landfill, for waste management.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Wednesday said the government will work closely with Victorian communities and businesses to design the ban.

“Experience in other jurisdictions shows that banning lightweight plastics ban can lead to undesirable results, including increased use of heavier duty plastics, which can have an even greater environmental impact,” she said.

“That is why the Labor Government will work with the community on how to best manage plastic pollution, and deliver a workable scheme that doesn’t unfairly impact on consumers, retailers, industry or the environment.”

The 2015/16 Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index reported that Victoria has the lowest litter count in the country for the fifth year in a row.

NSW is now the only state to have not voiced intentions to ban the bag. South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT have all put bag bans in place as of this year, with Queensland set to join them in 2018. The Western Australian Government recently announced single-use shopping bags will be banned from July 1 next year. The major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths also announced a similar move earlier in the year.