Single-use plastic bottles banned by Zoos Victoria

The Victorian Government has announced all single-use plastic bottles will be banned from Zoos Victoria sites in an effort to move towards zero public waste going to landfill.

From 1 May single-use plastic bottled water and soft drinks, along with straws and plastic bags, will no longer be used or sold at Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo or Healesville Sanctuary.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said plastic pollution is an urgent environmental problem that is having a significant impact on marine wildlife.

“Each year Zoos Victoria’s Marine Response Unit deals with an increasing number of callouts to marine wildlife in distress,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“Zoos Victoria is leading by example to reduce Victorians’ impact on the environment, advance the sustainable use of resources and help protect marine wildlife.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said Zoos Victoria is the state’s leading zoo-based conservation organisation.

“This move is part of a broader effort to influence visitors and other organisations to make positive changes towards a greener, more wildlife-friendly future,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Additionally, from June this year the three Zoo properties will have a new public three-bin waste system – organics, co-mingled and soft-plastics such as single-use food wrappers.

Ms D’Ambrosio said soft plastics will be recycled through a circular economy arrangement where Zoos Victoria will buy back products made from the plastics it recycles.

The move follows the state government’s ban on single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags, which comes to effect in November.

“We’re investing in initiatives that maximise recycling and reduce the amount of material that goes to landfill – it’s fantastic to see Zoos Victoria taking strong leadership to help achieve that goal,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

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ACT proposes single-use plastic ban

The ACT Government has released a discussion paper asking for contributions from the community on phasing out single-use plastics.

City Services Minister Chris Steel said the state could no longer ignore responsibility for plastics that litter the environment.

“Single-use plastic is commonly used for food packaging and includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away,” Mr Steel said.

“Single-use plastic litters our waterways, city parks and bush landscapes and goes into landfill where it may take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down.”

Mr Steel said the paper asks the community which problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics government should focus on including plastic straws and cutlery, disposable plates, cups and coffee lids, polystyrene plastic food containers and beverage cups and other non-recyclable plastics.

Proposed items that will be excluded from government action at this time include sanitary items, nappies and incontinence products, reusable plastic bags roughly 35 microns in thickness, health related sterile items, plastic beverage containers and microbeads — which are already being phased out by the territory.

“We are taking real action to become Australia’s most sustainable city,” Mr Steel said.

The European Parliament last year voted to ban single-use plastics in the EU by 2021.

Similarly, South Australia and the City of Hobart are also looking at phasing out single-use plastics.

“It is time that the ACT takes responsible action to reduce single-use plastics and build a circular economy where we reduce our reliance on these products and move to better alternatives,” Mr Steel said.

According to Mr Steel, while the ACT has already acted to reduce single-use plastic bags, through the introduction of the plastic shopping bag ban in 2011, it has the opportunity to do more to reduce the territory’s plastic footprint.

“It is still common place to see takeaway shops continuing to use plastic-foam takeaway containers like it is still the 1980s. Supermarkets also continue to sell plastic plates, cups and cutlery – when it seems like there are clear alternatives already being sold on their own shelves,” Mr Steel said.

“We want to hear from the community about how we can reduce the use of certain single-use plastics where there are clear alternatives that are good for the environment and practical for business, industry and consumers.”

Mr Steel said any decisions to phase-out single use plastics will likely have impacts on business, institutions and ACT residents, including people with a disability, and invites these groups to contribute to the discussion.

“We know from the plastic straw ban in other parts of the world that we need to consider the social equity impact on people with a disability, and I welcome their contribution on how we can responsibly manage our environment while taking these issues into account,” Mr Steel said.

“I encourage all interested or affected Canberrans to join the conversation and tell us their ideas about what they would like us to consider in phasing-out unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.”

The ACT discussion paper follows a similar announcement in Western Australia last week, with Minister for the Environment Stephen Dawson asking the public to contribute to the Let’s Not Draw the Short Straw – Reduce Single-Use Plastics paper.

Last year the Western Australian government banned lightweight plastic bags and instructed government agencies to stop buying avoidable single-use plastic items.

Mr Dawson also announced a funding partnership between the state government and the Plastic Free Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the reduction of plastic use in every day life.

The Plastic Free Foundation has been awarded $326,725 in state government funding, with an extra $484,126 coming from Lotterywest, to engage individuals and communities in in the state to reduce plastic waste.

“Waste problems are a shared legacy. The state government wants to hear your practical ideas on how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics so we can protect our environment for future generations,” Mr Dawson said.

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EU Parliament votes to ban single-use plastic

Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of a law banning single-use plastics commonly found on European beaches including drinking straws, cutlery and abandoned fishing gear.

The vote, which follows a Parliamentary endorsement in 2018, saw 560 members voting in favour of the law, 35 voting against and 28 abstaining.

Targeted products include plastic cotton buds, plates, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which form up to 70 per cent of all marine litter items.

The law requires all European States to ban single-use and oxo-degradable plastic and polystyrene cups by 2021. Members will also have to achieve a 90 per cent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029.

Under the law plastic bottles will need to be manufactured with at least 25 per cent recycled content by 2025, with a 30 per cent target set for 2030.

The legislation will strengthen the application of the polluter pays principle by introducing extended responsibility for producers. For example a manufacturer of fishing gear, not the fisherman, would bear the cost of collecting nets lost at sea. Legislation also stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of products should be mandatory.

Lead Member of Parliament Frédérique Ries said the legislation would reduce the EU’s environmental damage bill by €22 billion.

“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at an international level given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet,” she said.

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Qantas Group to cut 75 per cent of waste to landfill by 2021

The Qantas Group has announced a plan to become the world’s first airline to reuse, recycle and compost at least three-quarters of its general waste by the end of 2021.

As part of this, more than 100 million single-use plastic items per annum will be removed from flights and lounges by the end of 2020.

Qantas and Jetstar generate more than 30,000 tonnes of waste annually. A new Frequent Flyer initiative has also been announced to increase voluntary carbon offsetting.

Announcing the plan as part of the national carrier’s half-year results, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that business had a responsibility to lead on environmental issues.

“It is quite literally a waste and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders and the community to reduce it,” he said.

“We’ve already removed plastic wrapping on our pyjamas and headsets, as well as plastic straws. Even plastic Frequent Flyer cards are going digital. It adds up to millions of items a year because of our scale and there’s a lot more we can do.”

Some examples of changes to be implemented across Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar from later this year include:

  • Introducing coffee cups that can be recycled or composted.
  • Effectively eliminating single-use plastics by switching to alternative packaging.
  • Removing unnecessary paper, such as boarding passes and operational manuals, by going digital.
  • Increasing donation or composting of food.
  • Recycling of old uniforms.

In targeting the removal of 100 million single use plastic items per annum, the group will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives by end-2020.

The group has an existing target to reduce waste to landfill by 30 per cent by 2020, which it’s on track to reach through recycling and other programs. The 75 per cent goal now takes its place. Separate targets exist for fuel, water and electricity consumption, and Qantas has the largest carbon offset scheme of any airline in the world.

Airlines are legally required to dispose of some materials permanently, such as quarantined food from international flights and hazardous materials. With support from industry and regulators, the group believes it can ultimately reduce the volume of this regulated waste as well.

Similarly, there are some single-use plastics used by airlines (such as wrapping for hygiene purposes and some heat resistant containers for meal preparation) that don’t currently have a practical alternative. Qantas and Jetstar are working with manufacturers and other airlines to innovate in this space to further reduce waste to landfill.

“Few industries can eradicate waste completely, but with this program we’re saying that avoidable waste should no longer be an acceptable by-product of how we do business,” Mr Joyce said.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it is good for business and will put us ahead of legislative requirements in the various countries we operate in, where there is an end-date on various single use plastics.”