Plastic bags, plastic packaging and microbead controls- when will our governments provide the leadership the community is crying for?

Plastic waste is a big issue in our community, and perhaps moreso in our oceans for many years… too many years. There is a reluctance for Governments both Federal and State to do their homework and set some tough boundaries on packaging and microbeads with any urgency.

The ABC program War on Waste has generated a flurry of activity in the community around reducing and recycling single use plastic. It seems the community, and now businesses are ahead of the Victorian government, with the big 2 supermarkets Coles and Woolworths announcing last week that they will phase out single use plastic bags over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile in Victoria, a private members Bill (Greens) addressing plastics packaging and microbeads has been “sent back” for more community impact assessment. This Bill is bigger than single use plastic bags, however, and it’s a pity the Bill could not have been broken up, and Victoria at least make a start and ban single use plastic bags.  Local member Steph Ryan suggests this Bill will only become law if it is introduced by a Government member in the lower house. True? Lets get to work then….

The Bill                                                        

  • Restricts the sale or supply of plastic bags by retailers, with the exceptions for medical, security and the Ministers direction.
  • Restricts the sale or supply of F+V in polystyrene or polyethylene packaging
  • Makes it an offence to sell, supply or provide goods (health products- creams, toothpaste) containing plastic microbeads “without a reasonable excuse”

There are 7 findings that raise concerns about a broad impact on the community, on businesses, on suppliers and the like. Essentially, they all require “further impact assessment”.

Conclusion RECOMMENDATION 3: The government undertake a formal assessment of the impact of the Bill on communities, families, individuals, businesses and the environment. 

Comment: If 5 states can ban single use plastic bags, then they all should…and level the national playing field. No further delay required!

Another finding questions the roles of the State and Federal Government .

Comment: Here is a clear role for the Federal Government to take a lead. Instead, we have a convenient “buck-passing” and there is little happening. Fish continue to choke

What is curious about all of this in Victoria, is that the problems are clearly discussed in a Senate Report in april 2016 “Toxic tide: the threat of marine plastics pollution in Australia”. The case is there for controls, and BEAM supports this assessment with a level of urgency. This is an issue bigger than politics- plastics production will quadruple by 2050- so there should be an all-party campaign for plastic packaging controls, and leadership in environmentally responsible packaging. In the meantime, keep bringing your own bags, and talk about it lots.

The Boomerang Alliance is ramping up citizen pressure to address plastic pollution. The Boomerang Alliance, along with The Project, has drawn a lot of petition support for banning single use plastic bags in Queensland recently. Queensland joins SA, NT, Tasmania and the ACT in banning single use bags.

They also continue to lobby hard for cash for containers programsSA and the NT have shown the lead here for decades. They have established a value on drink containers (currently 10c) and this stimulates an industry and results in less roadside litter, amongst other things. CocaCola-Amatil have consistently lobbied for No Deposit, and won over all other States.

BEAM strongly supports a national Drink Container Deposit Legislation. It is time the beverage industry bullies came to take a more responsible role on containers and our environment.

Peter Lockyer July 2017

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