WWF-Australia and the Boomerang Alliance have welcomed a long-awaited plan to ban harmful single-use plastic items in NSW and called on the state government to introduce legislation this year.
The NSW Government announced its plan to finally phase out lightweight plastic bags, cotton-buds, expanded polystyrene foodware, straws, stirrers and single-use cutlery by 2022. Other items including heavyweight plastic bags, plastic plates, bowls, coffee cups and lids will be considered for action in the future.
“It’s been a long time coming, but today is a terrific outcome for the environment. We’re pleased to see NSW proposing bold action to stop some of the most problematic plastics from entering our oceans,” said Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager. “Plastic bags, straws and utensils are often discarded after a single-use, ending up in landfill or polluting our environment for hundreds of years. Banning these items is a simple and effective way to protect our beautiful beaches and marine wildlife. We’re also pleased to see polystyrene cups and takeaway containers included in the first wave of plastics to be banned. Expanded polystyrene is particularly dangerous when it enters our environment, due to its propensity to break down and flow into our oceans in lethal bite-sized pieces.
“NSW should turn this momentum into action and commit to introducing legislation this year. Our precious oceans and marine wildlife cannot afford to wait,” she said.
Noble also called for the state government to prioritise its review of other problematic plastics, including heavyweight plastic bags, plates, bowls, coffee cups and lids.
“There are viable, sustainable alternatives to each of these items, so there’s no reason to delay action for another three years,” she said.
“An estimated 130,000 tonnes of plastic flows into Australia’s environment each year. That’s the equivalent of more than two Titanic ships of plastic entering our oceans and waterways, so we must act quickly to solve this waste crisis.”
The Boomerang Alliance agrees. The release of the Plastics and Waste Policies will move the state into a new era of pollution reduction and recycling, said Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel.
“Highlights are; the banning of key polluting single use plastic items like straws, stirrers, bags and EPS foodware; also removal of plastic stemmed cotton buds on which NSW is taking the national lead; mandating food and garden organics collection, making a big contribution to reducing landfill; and an extended producer responsibility scheme for cigarette butts which will be a driver for the cigarette industry to take its litter more seriously,” said Angel.
With the alarm on plastic pollution and waste sounding ever louder, Boomerang Alliance will continue to push governments to do more, faster. This particularly applies to the government’s proposed second tranche of plastic bans; and mandating industry action on the 2025 national waste and packaging recycling targets – as relying on voluntary action by business is a dead end street. We also urge government agencies to show real commitment and targets for using recycled content in their purchasing chains.’’
“We are pleased the government has adopted our proposal to fund Operation Clean Sweep to stop microplastic pollution by nurdles escaping from plastic factories,’’ said Angel. The government will find it difficult to get the community onside with plans to open the door to waste to energy plants. These are fraught with toxic emission and resource waste issues. They particularly gobble up resources that could be recycled instead of incinerated. Overall, the two policies embody a comprehensive approach that will require dedicated and focused attention and ongoing updates, in coming years. We can’t afford to slacken the pace of change.’’