Queenslanders poised to decide the future of single-use plastics

Queenslanders have until tomorrow, April 15 to consult with the government on a state-wide ban on single use plastic that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

The Government said it has been seeking feedback from Queenslanders and businesses on the proposed bans to ensure an understanding of the impact it may have, consider everyone’s needs and develop the best plan for transitioning to a future free from plastic waste.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem damaging the environment and marine life and Queenslanders were looking for a positive solution.

Comprehensive perspectives

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” Enoch said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

According to Enoch, the government wants to ensure everyone’s perspectives on single-use plastics has been heard. She said that it wanted to guarantee that the needs of people with a disability and the aged care sector are taken into account.

“Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change. Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead, she said.

Banning specific products

Enoch explained that the Queensland Government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products. She added that the next step was to consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers.

Queensland Disability Advisory Council chair Sharon Boyce said many within the disability community relied heavily on straws.

“This is a conversation our community welcomes – how those of us with high needs can find a practical solution to plastic straws,” she said.

Queenslanders, stakeholders and the community are encouraged to provide feedback by visiting www.qld.gov.au/reducingplastic.

Enoch confirmed that all submissions will be considered as the government shapes new legislation that helps move the state towards a zero-waste economy by 2050.

Industry leader gives shout out to essential contractors

On the day that Google honoured all cleaning workers globally on its  Google Doodles, the Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association of NSW (WCRA) executive director Tony Khoury, has praised the association’s members who are waste collection contractors.  Khoury described them as both resourceful and operational, saying that this will ensure that the essential work is still performed.

“The issues surrounding COVID-19 have had a major impact across the community. In these tough and uncertain times, the workers and contractors that collect waste and recyclables continue to perform their work albeit in difficult circumstances,” he said.

According to Khoury, the feedback from WCRA’s Members, is that many commercial waste accounts are either on hold, requesting a reduced service or are looking to cancel.

He noted that some members have also highlighted the difficulties associated with having staff work from home.

“Like many businesses at the moment, IT systems are struggling to cope and the problems that were previously solved with a simple office chat and a cup of coffee, are just a little more difficult to resolve,” he said.

Government assistance welcomed

However, he welcomed the initiative by the Federal Government to increase the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 until 30 June 2020.

“Any waste and recycling contractor that requires a piece of equipment and is in a position to bring forward a purchase decision can do so and obtain instant tax relief,” he added.

 

Government creates a department for regional NSW

A new Department of Regional NSW has been established to better coordinate support for communities, businesses and farmers in the bush that have endured drought, bushfire and flood and now face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro, said that the department will bring together Primary Industries, Local Land Services, Resources and Geoscience and regional coordination across government to form a central agency dedicated to regional issues.

It will be led by incoming Secretary Gary Barnes, currently the Coordinator General, Regional NSW, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Response to regional needs

Barilaro said that the government was urgently responding to the desperate needs of people in the regions and this new agency would work to ensure community wellbeing, resilient economies and strong key regional industries.

“We know that the issues faced by the people of Cootamundra are very different to those faced in Coogee and so it is imperative we have a government designed to properly support every corner of this State,” he explained.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made a big impact on what has already been a devastating start to 2020, as farmers continue to suffer through the worst drought in recorded history and towns torn apart by bushfires continue to feel the effects months on.

“The new Department of Regional NSW will be a voice in government for people in the bush and will have a laser-like focus on the challenges and opportunities unique to regional communities, helping them to get through hardships many of us have not seen in our time.

“This department will allow a more streamlined response to regional issues as experts in areas such as primary industries, land management, resources, regional development, drought response and bushfire recovery work closer together than ever before.”

According to Barilaro, the department will drive the delivery of recent bushfire and COVID-19 stimulus and industry recovery packages along with the NSW Government’s drought initiatives, $1.7 billion Regional Growth Fund and $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund.

“I said that regional communities would get their fair share and to date, we have fulfilled that commitment, from securing billions in funding to the urgent measures we have rolled out for farmers, business owners and families,” Barilaro added.

The Department of Regional NSW will be led by incoming Secretary Gary Barnes, currently the Coordinator General, Regional NSW, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

WRIAQ and state government unite to secure industry safety

A decree to make WARR confirmed as an essential service has been implemented following a direct request to the state government from the Waste Recycling Industry Association Queensland (WRIAQ).

In its submission, WRIAQ stated that it was critical that the sector maintain a secure supply chain and mitigated risk from any potential additional community health and environmental issues associated with uncollected wastes and recyclables.

In late March, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business Leeanne Enoch, confirmed that cabinet had agreed to that request.

Co-operative engagement

According to WRIAQ CEO Rick Ralph, Queensland remains one of only two states, along with South Australia, where a state government has made this decree.

“Additionally, we have also convened a weekly high level meeting with DES including having a Queensland Health representative on board to facilitate and share industry issues on an ongoing basis. It is now agreed that a separate recyclers meeting will also go ahead,” Ralph said.

 “We trust that this may provide a positive view of the genuine attempt by our regulator to work in partnership with us,” he added.