28 February 2019
2018 was a stellar year for progress on plastic litter. Campaigns by Wildlife Queensland led to the introduction of a Queensland ban on lightweight plastic bags in July and a Container Refund Scheme for bottles and cans. We should see a dramatic reduction in litter and fewer threats to native wildlife as a result.
The retail industry estimates that there has been an 80 per cent reduction in lightweight plastic bags used, and COEX (who run the container refund scheme in Queensland) claim that over 200 million containers have been collected so far in the first three months of operation.
We’re off to a great start … what’s next?
These two initiatives are a great start but we can’t rest on our laurels. Wildlife Queensland is now working on our next targets:
- to have all thicker plastic bags phased-out
- to have a ban put on deliberately releasing helium balloons.
And we are already making progress.
Thicker plastic bags
The Commonwealth and State Governments have now recognised that thicker plastic bags are a litter problem. There are over 900 million of these still being provided by retailers across Australia.
The Queensland Government, on behalf of other jurisdictions, has been asked to develop a phase-out strategy to get rid of thicker plastic bags and to present this to other jurisdictions later this year. This could mean that we could soon see thick plastic bags phased out right around Australia.
On helium balloons, the Queensland Government has been advertising the fact that deliberately releasing balloons is an act of littering and promoting this fact to the community and business. Wildlife Queensland has written to all Queensland State Schools to point this out and to warn of the dangers to wildlife about the practice. Through our branches, we have been spreading the word to other organisations and community groups.
In October the Local Government conference in Queensland voted to support a state ban on the deliberate release of helium balloons. Wildlife Queensland is now working with the Boomerang Alliance on Council guidelines to prevent balloons being released at any Council events.
We are now well on the way to removing the practice of deliberate helium balloon releases in Queensland.
Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy
On a final note, we are pleased to see the Queensland Government introduced a Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy. This is a program to identify problem single-use plastics in the home, away from home, in agriculture, business and industry and in the marine environment. Implemented properly, it should be a long-running program that will introduce plastic reduction initiatives and ensure the State continues to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics.
The next obvious step is the phasing out of non-compostable plastic takeaway items such as coffee cups, straws, containers and cutlery.
With a waste levy being introduced in July 2019, there will also be funding available to invest in waste avoidance, composting and recycling. Less waste means a healthier planet and more protection for our native wildlife.
Wildlife Queensland is continuing to make a difference on plastics.