Government must act fast on single-use plastics

9th March 2020
What’s the difference between China, Bali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia and New South Wales? Well, New South Wales is the ONLY place which

What’s the difference between China, Bali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia and New South Wales? Well, New South Wales is the ONLY place which hasn’t banned single-use plastic bags.
Of course, it’s not just plastic bags that are the problem. The amount of single-use plastics in our community has soared over the past few decades and it’s having an enormous impact on our environment and marine biology.
New data shows that, in some places, more than 70 per cent of seabirds have ingested micro plastics. Many of the fish we eat also contain micro plastics. Yes, micro plastics are now in our food chain.
I acknowledge that the State Government is right in trying to form a strategy to attack the bigger problem of single-use plastics in our society, but there’s no reason why it can’t ban single-use plastic bags right now while working on a broader strategy. The major supermarkets have already phased them out.
The Government had the chance in October to ban plastic bags but actually voted against a Bill proposed by the Labor Opposition, mainly to save face and come up with their own Bill.
Given that we’re so far behind so many countries in the third world, you’d think the Government might show some more urgency.
For every day that passes, more wildlife and marine life will die unnecessarily.

Here's the story from Alex Smith in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

NSW will become the last state to ban single-use plastic bags, although the new policy could be up to a year away with the Berejiklian government to first seek feedback on the plan.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Environment Minister Matt Kean released the government's discussion paper on tackling the use of plastics and reducing waste on Sunday.

The government will draft legislation based on the feedback, which is likely to be introduced late this year, and plastic bags will be phased out six months after the legislation is passed.

Ms Berejiklian said the government's plastics plan and waste strategy would make NSW a leader when it came to "reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment".

"We always want to make sure people aren't taken by surprise and have time to have their say and we're looking forward to moving forward after the consultation period," Ms Berejiklian said.

"We know other states have already done this but the difference with our paper is that it's whole-of-government, whole-of-plastics."

Ms Berejiklian said it was important that businesses had enough time to adjust to the phase-outs and could source sustainable alternatives.

Mr Kean said the plastics plan would outline a clear pathway to "reduce single-use, unnecessary and problematic plastics in NSW".

"It sets the stage for the phase-out of priority single-use plastics, tripling the proportion of plastic recycled by 2030, reducing plastic litter by a quarter and making our state a leader in plastics research and development," Mr Kean said.


NSW Labor's environment spokeswoman Kate Washington said the government had blocked several attempts by the Opposition to introduce legislation to ban bags.

In October, the government scuttled Labor's most recent push to ban single-use plastic bags, which had already passed the upper house, in favour of waiting to release its discussion paper.

“Ms Berejiklian’s consultation will undoubtedly lead to a report, which will go to a committee, which will consult some more before issuing another report," Ms Washington said.

"The cycle of inaction will drag on and just like that the Berejiklian government will have wasted another year failing to act on plastic pollution.

“Every other state and territory in Australia has banned single use plastic bags. Coles and Woolworths have done it. Even China has a bag ban. So why won’t Ms Berejiklian just get on with it and act to reduce plastic pollution?”

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles voluntarily phased out single-use bags in favour of reusable ones in their NSW stores in 2018. Harris Farm also stopped supplying them, and instead offers consumers alternatives, such as paper bags or boxes.

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