As welcome as the Government’s introduction of a Bill to ban lightweight plastic bags and introduce a container deposit scheme has been, Wildlife Queensland joins other leading environmental groups in arguing for further bans on disposable plastics.
When appearing on 12 July before the Agriculture and Environment Committee to present further on the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017, Wildlife Queensland’s Des Boyland took the opportunity to ram home the message that more could – and should – be done to reduce our litter stream and plastic waste.
Boyland purchased for 15 cents a plastic bag Coles has already produced, and used it to illustrate to the Committee that while the ban on lightweight plastic bags will significantly reduce pollution as well as the threat to wildlife, unfortunately plastic waste will be with us for some time to come. The bag, apparently 55 microns thick, is certainly thicker than single-use bags, but certainly not a safer 70 microns.
Our position also was to call on the ban of degradable or biodegradable bags as these are designed to break down into small pieces and are therefore a threat to our wildlife. We are delighted that this has the potential to come to fruition.
The Society recently reminded Brisbane Times that deliberately releasing helium balloons should also be stopped, as it accounted for more than 70 percent of plastic found inside dead turtles in Moreton Bay, and strongly urged the Committee to consider recommending the inclusion of this ban also.
“Many community members are not currently aware of the potential consequences of their actions when releasing these balloons,” said Boyland.
Another major source of plastic pollution is bait bags. Wildlife Queensland is of the view that including bait bags in the Bill would reduce another major source of plastic pollution.
Sunshine Coast Surfrider Foundation and Norman Creek Catchment Co-ordination Committee representatives agreed that bait bags should be included in the legislation, due to it being their very nature to be used on or close to water and their invariably ending up there.
The Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council’s Mike Moller also echoed the groups’ recommendations, telling Brisbane Times that “the government should establish a plastic pollution reduction taskforce to identify other problematic, single-use and disposable plastic items (i.e.: coffee cups, polystyrene, straws, takeaway containers…and water bottles) for future policy action.”
That position was supported by the Boomerang Alliance, Greenpeace and Queensland Conservation Council.
While the enactment of the Bill is looming as one of the more significant achievements of the Palaszczuk Government with regard to environmental issues, clearly the real journey on reducing plastic waste has only just began. And if it is to gather momentum, the Bill’s enactment must be supported by the timely implementation of a public awareness and education program. Without this, the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome – a positive change in behaviour – will be greatly diminished.
Banning the bag is only the start – a very good start – in our war against plastic waste. Much more must be done to reduce our litter stream and protect our precious wildlife. The bag ban campaign has shown that a clear and strong message, when supported by the commitment of a broad range of people passionate about the cause, the generosity of donors, and politicians not only prepared to listen but to take action, can be successful. It is all possible, and will occur, if we all work together.