Question Time: Plastic waste reduction

19th September 2018

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:05): My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment. With indisputable knowledge that plastics lost to the environment will effectively remain there forever and impact on all biological systems, will the Government act to ensure that there is an appropriate reuse, reprocessing or disposal pathway other than landfill for every plastic produced used in New South Wales?

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON (VaucluseMinister for the Environment, Minister for Local Government, and Minister for Heritage) (15:06): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question. It is a real and very good question. I also thank the member for his commitment to a sustainable environment and to practical solutions to environmental issues. The member for Lake Macquarie and I often talk about this and the Government also shares that commitment. It is really important that we reuse and reprocess our plastics. In July the former Federal Minister for the environment, Josh Frydenberg, and I opened a new processing facility at Wetherill Park in Western Sydney—Sydney's first alternative fuel plant—which will create 50 new jobs and turn non-recyclable product into fuel that can be used to create other products. It is being used to power cement kilns in Berrima and overseas. This is a practical way in which we are turning plastic into other uses across our economy.

Another major way in which the New South Wales Government is addressing this issue is through our container deposit recycling scheme. Some 30 per cent of the drink containers that go through that scheme are plastic and they are all being recycled. Since December more than 700 million drink containers have gone through our container deposit recycling scheme. The silence of those opposite is deafening, which means they love this scheme. Plastics are also being recycled through the yellow bins collected by councils. That is another important way in which we can recycle plastic. In March the New South Wales Government announced a $47 million package to tackle the challenge China has given us. Earlier this year China said that it would no longer be able to recycle or repurpose a whole lot of contaminated, recyclable wastes. So we took that head on and announced this $47 million package, which is helping our local councils and our waste industry to offset some of the extra costs associated with recycling. It is also improving their tendering processes. Does the Opposition want to listen to this answer?

The SPEAKER: Clearly not. The question is about the environment and they are not interested.

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: They are not at all interested.

The SPEAKER: Members will cease having private conversations. The member for Rockdale will cease being silly.

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: Finally, this $47 million package was to help councils—

The SPEAKER: I repeat, members will cease having private conversations. The Minister has the call.

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: The $47 million package will also help our councils educate communities about what can go into yellow recycle bins—we all have to do a better job at that. I want to remind the House of two more things, including the phasing out of microbeads. Microbeads are in cosmetics and cleaning products. At the national environment Ministers meeting it was reported that at a national level we have voluntarily phased out 94 per cent of products that used to have microbeads. We are taking that plastic out of the environment. Only 6 per cent to go and we will close the gap; I am confident we will do it.

The SPEAKER: I know the member for Cessnock is an expert on everything, but he will cease interjecting.

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON: They are just some of the practical ways in which the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments, together with the other States and Territories, are tackling the problem of plastics. We all have a personal responsibility to make a good environment. We can all choose not to use a plastic bag or not to take a banana wrapped in cling wrap. In conclusion, I look forward to continuing to work with the member for Lake Macquarie to make New South Wales an environmentally sustainable State.

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