Following the State Government’s announcement on 25 November of a ban on lightweight, single-use plastics bags in Queensland, the public discussion paper ‘Implementing a Lightweight Plastic Shopping Bag Ban in Queensland’ has been released, with a deadline for submissions of 27 February 2017. Please show your support for the ban and have your say!
Designed not to seek views on whether there should be a ban, but rather on when and how the ban should be implemented, the discussion paper asks the four key questions below. Wildlife Queensland will be presenting a submission, however, we strongly encourage other organisations and individuals to give their views. Below is a summary of our perspective; please feel free to include these comments in your own submission. Why not maximise your impact by making a submission now and adding your name to the WPSQ submission in February?
Wildlife Queensland welcomes the decision to ban lightweight, single-use plastic bags in Queensland and include degradable and biodegradable bags in that ban. We welcome the fact that this has bi-partisan support. It’s about time! A ban will dramatically reduce the impact harmful plastic waste has on our wildlife, particularly sea turtles and sea birds who often mistake discarded plastic bags for food.
The alternatives to single-use plastic bags are well known and we encourage everyone to use their own BYO bags instead. Using your own bag is a simple solution to a very grave problem for our wildlife.
Banning plastic bags is an important step forward in the war on plastic waste but only a first step. We encourage the State Government to include other problematic plastics, particularly the mass release helium balloons (which are predominantly plastic, not latex) also having a devastating effect on sea birds in Queensland, and elsewhere.
We also support ‘A Continuous Improvement Strategy’ by the State Government to identify problem plastics, find solutions and put in place measures to prevent their use.
- What are the appropriate timeframes and transitional arrangements to implement a plastic bag ban in Queensland?
WPSQ says: We want a ban to be implemented as soon as practical and certainly by 2018. However, it is important that it is implemented properly and fully understood, so it is effective. A key feature prior to the introduction of a ban is an education program for both consumers AND retailers. Everyone needs to understand why a ban is being put in place and what alternative practices they should follow. It is important that these education programs are properly funded and achieve their outcomes. It is important that the ban applies to all retailers and is introduced at an appropriate time – not during the Easter or Christmas periods.
- Do you agree that biodegradable bags should be included in a ban?
WPSQ says: Absolutely. Degradable bags are designed to break into smaller pieces and therefore resemble food for wildlife even more than standard plastic bags. Biodegradable bags contain agents to slow down their decomposition when in contact with liquid so that they can be useful as carrier bags. This means that they decompose slowly in the marine environment. Some experts estimate that it takes up to two years for a biodegradable bag to decompose, by which time the damage has been done. Furthermore, as they are considered biodegradable they tend to be littered more often as consumers feel they are appropriate to discard.
- Do you support the Queensland Government working with other states and territories to encourage industry to reduce the number of heavier weight plastic department store bags?
WPSQ says: We need to reduce and eliminate all so-called ‘disposable’ plastic items. They all end up in landfill – not a good outcome – or littered in the environment. Alternatives to thicker bags, such as consumers using their own bags, must be encouraged. The best way to do this is to ban thicker bags or put a price on them.
- What else can be done by the Queensland Government to address plastic pollution?
WPSQ says: The release of helium balloons in Queensland should now be added to the plastic bag ban. Other plastic items such as polystyrene cups and plates, straws, plastic foodware, food trays and assorted packaging should be added to a list of problematic plastics for future policy consideration.
Microplastic fibres, pellets and beads also need to be managed either through bans, take-back schemes, filtration systems or simply using alternative, non-plastic items. Cigarette butts also contain plastic fibres and are usually contaminated with chemicals.
And let’s not forget that all these plastic products and materials are made using fossil fuels. Reducing plastic use also reduces our toxic load and greenhouse gas emissions.
Make a difference
Submissions for the discussion paper are due Monday, 27 February 2017. Wildlife Queensland encourages its supporters to make a submission now or add their names to the WPSQ submission released in February. But the best way to maximise your input on the issues raised is to do both!
Written submissions should be sent to: Waste Policy, DEHP, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, QLD 4001.
Thank you for helping to make a difference! And remember, you don’t have to wait for the ban – you can make a start today by saying no to plastic bags and other plastic items.