17 August 2020
Author: Toby Hutcheon, Wildlife Queensland Campaigns Officer / Queensland Manager, Boomerang Alliance
Further to the tabling of the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items) Amendment Bill 2020 that introduced proposed bans on certain single-use plastics, the Parliamentary Committee examining the Bill has held its hearings and will submit its report to the Government on 28 August 2020. We remain confident that the Bill can be passed before the election.
The Bill proposes a ban on plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates and bowls, in July 2021. Exemptions include access for those with a disability to use plastic items, and 100 per cent certified products to the Australian compost standard are exempted.
The current proposed legislation does not include expanded polystyrene in the ban – that is planned for later. We have made representations with the support of WWF, National Retailers Association, LGAQ, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Disability sector and Master Grocers for polystyrene to be included now.
The South Australian Government hopes to have their plastic bill passed in September. This includes bans on straws, stirrers and cutlery and we are expecting similar legislation to be announced in the ACT very soon.
We hope to have announcements on plastic bans in Western Australia and New South Wales before the end of the year. That will leave only Victoria, Tasmania and the NT without similar legislation to ban identified plastic takeaway items.
BYO coffee cups under COVID-19
After many cafes initially refused BYO cups and containers, we have been able to negotiate some clarity about this. The current position is that virtually all jurisdictions and the key hospitality associations allow BYO cups, as long as hygiene protocols are followed and under a ‘contactless pour’ procedure.
The exception is Queensland. Queensland Health made the decision in June to prohibit the use of BYO cups at cafes and food outlets in Queensland.
Queensland Health is trying to make the argument that a contactless pour procedure for a BYO cup, where the only person who touches the cup is the customer, is less safe than using a disposable cup that is left above the coffee machine and then touched by both staff and customer.
The decision has annoyed many, and many cafes who do not want to refuse BYO cups from their regular customers, trying to do the right thing. If you want to complain we suggest an email or call to Queensland Health.
Ironically both Starbucks and McDonalds have just announced they were allowing their franchises to accept BYO coffee cups, having stopped the practice in March.
Boomerang Alliance, WWF and Plastic Free July Foundation presented at the recent Senate Inquiry into the proposed Greens Bill for a Product Stewardship for Packaging. All argued that Australia needs national mandated targets for plastic reductions and recovery, and genuine labelling standards that meant a product marked compostable or recyclable was actually composted or recycled.
The Commonwealth supports having reduction and recovery targets for 2025, but with voluntary arrangements. The Greens back mandatory targets and we urge Labor and other parties to do likewise. 2025 targets won’t be achieved without them.
In the last 20 years – since 1999 – Australia has had a voluntary packaging covenant arrangement in place. In 1999 the plastic packaging recovery rate was 20 per cent, in 2018 it was 16 per cent (data extracted from APC/APCO reports).
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