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Positive response from members of SA’s first single-use plastics taskforce meeting

A taskforce with representation from 15 organisations met for the first time on September 12 to help inform the next steps towards a single-use plastics ban in South Australia.

The taskforce has been asked by the state government to consider what impacts legislation might have to businesses and the community and to provide advice on what a phase out of single-use plastic straws, cups, drink stirrers and food service items might look like.

A wide range of members from interested stakeholders make up the taskforce, including environmental groups, business representatives, the hospitality industry as well as disability advocates.

The members of the government’s single-use plastics taskforce include:

  • Australian Food and Grocery Council;
  • Australian Hotels Association (SA);
  • Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation;
  • Conservation Council SA;
  • Environment Protection Authority;
  • Green Industries SA;
  • KESAB environmental solutions;
  • Local Government Association of SA;
  • National Retail Association;
  • JFA Purple Orange (disability advocate);
  • Disability Elders of All Ages (disability advocate);
  • Restaurant and Catering Industry Association;
  • SA Independent Retailers;
  • Waste Management Resource Recovery Association (WMRR); and
  • Woolworths Group.

Members of the taskforce discussed solutions and alternatives as part of any move to phase out single-use plastics to ensure South Australians can transition smoothly.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) government partnership manager, Peter Brisbane, said APCO applauds South Australia’s leadership on this issue and their highly consultative and inclusive approach.

“Yesterday’s meeting brought together key players in South Australia and nationally to begin what is going to be a really significant process, not just for SA bit also for the other states that are looking on and may end up adopting a lot of what we achieve in SA.

“As a national body, working on behalf of all jurisdictions and industry, APCO commends the work to engage all critical stakeholders across the national supply chain,” Brisbane said.

The phase out of single use plastic is an issue APCO is working actively to address at a national level, through the delivery of the Plastic Free Places program with Boomerang Alliance, and through its work on the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which includes a specific target to phase out problematic and unnecessary single use packaging by 2025.

“Next month APCO will also be hosting a national workshop on the issue, designed to help APCO’s members and partners to move ahead with supply chain adaptations with greater confidence that their actions are aligned or compatible with government priorities,” Brisbane explained.

Inclusion was a key part of the taskforce meeting that Purple Orange project officer, Kathryn Mills, explained needed to be a focus throughout the discussion and any decisions to ban single-use plastic products.

She said the meeting was an opportunity for the Purple Orange to share their perspective on the need for some single-use products.

“The taskforce got a sense of the experiences of why people living with a disability rely on plastic straws – as other options are inaccessible and not suitable for hot liquids.

“We were able to share our wisdom and get people moving from talking about banning things into reducing our plastic consumption in an inclusive way. It was a great foundation meeting and has set the tone for meetings to come.”

Purple Orange is a social profit organisation that helps people who live with disability by promoting the development of policy and practice that makes a difference.

Mills said Purple Orange would like to see an accessible, sustainable solution to the plastic straw as they should not be banned before a solution is created.

“We would like to see this taskforce lead by example in ensuring people living with disability are consulted with on issues that impact them.

“We’ve been supporting the reduction of single-use plastics at our facilities for ten years and we know that reducing plastic consumption can be done in an inclusive way,” Mills said.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the company was pleased to have been invited to take part in the single-use plastic taskforce.

“The taskforce is looking at a range of important and complex issues, and it’s vital industry participants are able to contribute to the discussion.”

The taskforce will seek presentations and meetings with those with a stake in any future changes to legislation, and will assist with the communication with the community and business ensuring SA maintains its leading reputation in sustainability and the environment.

Minister David Speirs said the issue of plastic use and plastic pollution is currently one of the most pressing topics.

“We won’t be left standing on the side-lines watching the impact on our environment go unchecked.

“We know that our interstate colleagues are eagerly awaiting the outcomes from our taskforce and from our plastic free precinct trials,” Speirs said.

Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO, Tanya Barden, said it was good to see the issue of single-use plastic discussed through the taskforce.

“We support national harmonisation to address community and government expectations around plastics,” Barden said.

Legislation banning single-use plastics in South Australia is expected to be introduced into Parliament in the first half of 2020.