20 December 2019
Wildlife Queensland, in partnership with the Boomerang Alliance, has campaigned to reduce plastic pollution and litter in Queensland, with a particular focus on single-use, disposable plastics.
Items such as:
- plastic bags
- plastic cups and containers
- water bottles
- helium balloons
After cigarette butts, these items are the most commonly littered items in Queensland. The 2018 Clean Up Australia Rubbish Report for Queensland estimated that these items represented 36% of all litter in Queensland.
In the last 5 years, we have successfully achieved a ban on lightweight plastic bags (July 2018) and a container refund scheme for bottles and cans (November 2018). Queensland Government data shows that as a result, 1 billion plastic bags have been removed from use with a 70% reduction in plastic bag litter. Since November 2018, over 1 billion containers have been collected for recycling with container litter reduced by 35%.
This year our focus turned to the takeaway items as outlined above, and helium balloons.
Qld Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan released
We are pleased to report that Queensland, at least, is now at the forefront of policies to address these plastics. On 7 November, the State Government released its Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan (see previous article). The plan is about reducing single-use plastics in the home, away from home, in business and industry, in agriculture and in the marine environment and proposes:
to introduce legislation in 2020 to ban plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates and, following further investigation coffee cups, containers and heavyweight plastic bags.
The State Government will not allow the release of helium balloons either at their events, something that is now supported by most local governments in Queensland. The deliberate release of helium balloons is recognised as an act of littering, punishable with fines.
2019 Meeting of Environment Ministers
We are now turning our attention to the rest of Australia. At the recent Meeting of Environment Ministers (see previous article), we promoted a number of national initiatives that included a ban on exports of collected plastics and investment in domestic recycling, such as glass, tyres and plastics. We also lobbied for a single-use plastics phase-out and plastic bag bans and container refund schemes in every State (Victoria still does not have a container scheme and New South Wales still does not have a bag ban).
Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that the outcome of the meeting was somewhat underwhelming with little of what we proposed agreed to. On the positive side, it was what was discussed but not yet agreed to that is promising.
- The Ministers did agree to a ban on collected plastics exports from July next year and are now working on a plan for domestic recycling and agreements on government procurement for recycled products.
- On single-use plastics, whilst there were no new announcements, we have two states, South Australia and Queensland leading the policy charge with other states developing their own policies to follow. If this happens, we do expect a plastic bag ban in New South Wales and a container refund scheme in Victoria very soon.
Wildlife Queensland will continue our campaign efforts to get all States and Territories, not just Queensland, to act. The great news is that we are creating change and the data is demonstrating that when the initiatives we have promoted are introduced, litter and plastic pollution significantly reduce.