Let’s keep the momentum going on reducing plastic pollution
Updated: May 15, 2021
A summary of the latest from government on plastics and a container deposit scheme
Bans on single-use plastics are beginning
Five State and Territory Governments have passed a law or are planning to introduce bans on problem single-use plastics. These are South Australia, Queensland, the ACT, Western Australia, with Victoria recently joining them. Three jurisdictions still to act - New South Wales, Tasmania and the NT. NSW, the biggest state in the nation, is an embarrassment, having not even banned plastic bags!
South Australia began on 1 March 2021, banning plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery. Queensland will start on 1 September with, in addition to the SA list, plates, bowls and expanded polystyrene containers. ACT laws come into force on 1 July and will ban plastic cutlery, stirrers and expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers. Both Western Australia and Victoria plan to introduce bans in 2023.
The Boomerang Alliance continues to lobby for these actions to be introduced sooner.
As for NSW, Boomerang Alliance, WWF, AMCS and Clean up Australia met with the NSW Environment Minister last month to push for action. Boomerang Alliance also made representations to the Tasmanian and NT Governments. Their goal is to have every State and Territory phasing out problematic plastics, starting with takeaway by the end of this year.
Polystyrene packaging and cigarette butts in Commonwealth sights
The Commonwealth Government has introduced its first National Plastic Plan. It complements State actions by introducing a number of important new initiatives. These include the phase-out of polystyrene packaging used to transport consumer goods, a new Cigarette Butt Taskforce and a requirement for all new washing machines to have filters to remove microplastics and prevent these going down the drain.
Still a long way to go
The Boomerang Alliance has welcomed these actions by Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments. They will make a difference. However, they remind government (and the manufacturers and suppliers of these plastic products) that this is just the start of the journey.
Whilst there is a goal to have all plastic packaging either re-usable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. we are a long way shy of achieving that goal. There is still no data on how much plastic packaging is actually re-used or composted and the recycling rate for plastic packaging is only 18%. Only 2% of plastic packaging contains recycled content.
Boomerang Alliance plan to make 2021 the year of real change. To help their efforts to make a difference please consider making a donation. boomerangalliance.org.au/donation
Update: Proposed Container Deposit Scheme
Victoria will be the last state to roll out a scheme once it’s operational in 2023. Customers will receive a 10-cent refund when they return eligible cans, bottles or cartons to a collection point. While drinks will become slightly more expensive, the program is expected to reduce waste and ensure three billion containers - almost half of Victoria’s litter - is correctly recycled every year.
But Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio is under pressure over the model she has selected (which was also adopted in New South Wales and the ACT), over concerns it will generate profits for large private waste companies who will operate the recycling depots, drop-off sites and automated collection machines for a profit.
Scouts, local sporting clubs and charities have joined drinks manufacturers Lion Nathan and Coca-Cola Amatil in a bid to pressure the Victorian government to overhaul its proposed model for a container deposit scheme over concerns it will be harder for community groups to make money.
Coke and Lion have been pouring money into a campaign to get the design they want. It’s based on the inconvenient setup in Queensland which means beverage companies get to keep unredeemed consumer refunds increasing their profits, compared to the New South Wales approach. The scale of misinformation propagated by Coke and Lion is staggering. They have misled some charities and recruited them to their cause.
The Tasmanian government has outright rejected the position of these companies, with the Environment Minister supporting the NSW design. “The chosen model, a split responsibility Container Refund Scheme, will bring together the beverage industry and the waste and recycling sectors to deliver the best scheme for Tasmania. The split responsibility model, which is already operating in NSW and ACT and being developed in Victoria, involves a Scheme Coordinator who will run the administration and finance for the scheme, while a separate Network Operator runs the network of Refund Points.’’
Ms D’Ambrosio has also defended her preferred scheme, saying the alternative would give the beverage industry too much influence. She is being backed by environment group The Boomerang Alliance. The Alliance is raising concerns that recycling rates would be lower using the Queensland model, (as opposed to the NSW model), as there is less oversight. Boomerang Alliance Chief Executive Jeff Angel said community groups could still benefit by collecting recyclables then taking them to collection points themselves.
“The New South Wales scheme has the most collection points per 10,000 people, it operates for longer hours and it enables the highest amount of recycling,” said Mr Angel, whose group makes some profits through its 1/14th ownership of an automated depot in NSW.
In a late manoeuvre, the CEO of Coca Cola Amatil indicated they would now support this model. Tasmania is now preparing legislation and will call for tenders for the two key managing entities.
Victoria will soon move to the next stages. However, despite Tasmania's decision, Coke and Lion are still funding full page adverts and lobbying local councils and charities for their alternative.
What you can do
Boomerang Alliance has responded vigorously with a petition at change.org petition.. Already over 50 groups have shown support and more than 51,000 people have signed.
Please sign here to show your support!
(As at 7/4/21, only 23,352 more signatures are needed to reach the next goal of 75,000 signatures)
Victoria under pressure to change container deposit scheme model by Michael Fowler and Annika Smethurst, The Age, February 7, 2021
Boomerang Alliance Newsletter March 2021 at boomerangalliance.org.au. See also Recycle Right Victoria Campaign here.
Victoria bans single-use plastics by 2023 to slash amount going to landfill. The Guardian 27 Feb 2021.
Prepared by Ruth Yeatman