The Federal Government is taking the fight against plastic waste to a new level, from plastic free beaches, to ending the confusion over household collection systems, declaring war on cigarette butts and putting an end to polystyrene consumer packaging.
Launching the Nation’s first National Plastics Plan in Brisbane last week, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said it was time to change the way Australia produces and consumes plastics, and that it was time for states, industry and consumers to work together in driving sustainable change.
“We know the problems, we know that there are good ideas out there, but this is the first national strategy, one that attacks the issue from all sides and which sets clear targets over the next decade,” she said.
Ley added that Australians consume one million tonnes of single use plastic each year.
“From plastic bottles to polystyrene packaging and plastic consumer goods, we are creating mountains of pain for the environment and wasting potential assets that can be used to make new products,” she said.
“We are attacking the plastic problem on five key fronts, through: legislation, investment, industry targets, research and development, and community education.
“We want to work with companies, bring consumers with us and call out those companies which make false environmental claims about their products.”
Among the actions identified are:
• A plastic free beaches initiative
• New labelling guidelines to help consumers
• An end to expanded polystyrene consumer packaging fill and polystyrene food and beverage containers
• Greater consistency for kerbside bin collections, including food and organic waste options
• Establishment of a task force to address the plastics in littered cigarette butts
• Phase in microplastic filters in washing machines
• Ensuring 100 per cent of all packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
• A second plastics summit focussing on sustainable design.
According to Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) CEO Gayle Sloan, the plan is not just a step in the right direction, but the furthest the Federal Government has ever gone in driving a closed loop supply chain.
“The penny has certainly dropped in many areas and we look forward to continued engagement with the government on how all stakeholders – manufacturers, the waste and resource recovery industry, governments, consumers and more – can come to the table to create a true circular economy across all material streams and not just a successful closed loop model,” Sloan said.
“These high-level actions announced are positive and welcome, but this is just the start of the journey; the details that will help us meet our goals and targets will need to be ironed out and our essential industry looks forward to working with all levels of government and other supply chain stakeholders as we strive ahead in our quest to build a sustainable Australia.”
Sloan added that WMRR looks forward to the Federal Government’s reformist agenda continuing for plastics and packaging, particularly with the current opportunity to review the used packaging NEPM.
“Ideally, the Federal Government will adopt a polluter-pays model for managing packaging materials, with stronger independent oversight and improved targets of recycled content in plastics, given the current 20 per cent target for plastics is wholly inadequate,” she said.