Wildlife Queensland’s plastics campaign is making progress having recently achieved two very significant milestones.
Working alongside the Boomerang Alliance to achieve action by the state government on both plastic packaging and beverage containers, WPSQ achieved its initial goals in June when the government announced an investigation into a container deposit scheme for Queensland and a potential ban on problematic plastic packaging, particularly single-use plastic bags.
Wildlife Queensland welcomes these two key outcomes of the 100-Day Plan it presented to the state government early this year as significant steps forward in reducing litter and the threats it poses to our native and endangered wildlife.
By acting, the state government has given us hope, an opportunity to address litter and plastic pollution and a chance to highlight a broader agenda around plastics within our environment.
The campaign is now active in ensuring that both measures are implemented, and in building support within the community.
Where to from here?
Both Wildlife Queensland and Boomerang Alliance will be represented on the recently established taskforce to advise the state on addressing plastic waste and the development of a public discussion paper on a container deposit scheme, likely to be released by the end of this year.
We have also highlighted the need for a phasing-out of plastic micro-beads. Used as abrasives in many personal care products such as toothpaste, plastic micro-beads are increasingly affecting our marine environment and possibly also the marine food chain. While many industries are now voluntarily phasing them out, we are urging our state to join the New South Wales program which seeks a complete phase-out of plastic micro-beads from personal care products by 2016.
To build broad community support for our growing campaign, Boomerang Alliance is planning a regional tour supported by Wildlife Queensland and its Branches. The tour is designed to take our message around Queensland so that when government discussion papers are released, the community will be more aware of supporting these measures to clean up our environment.
Schools across Queensland are being encouraged to get involved by making their annual fetes ‘plastic bag free’. This is a great way for schools to help the environment, educate students about plastics, and engage parents as part of the wider community. School organisers can also raise additional funds by selling re-usable bags at their fetes!
Many schools’ P&Cs and organisers have already embraced the campaign by introducing Boomerang Bags, installing hydration stations for water refills and encouraging reusable bags instead of plastic ones.
‘Degradable’ plastics – not the answer
We have also been keeping tabs on the increasing use of ‘degradable’ plastic bags. Many retailers are listening to customer concerns and trying to do the right thing but, unfortunately, are offering ‘degradable’ bags as an alternative to plastic one. While these bags are designed to break down into smaller plastic pieces and are often marketed as ‘environmentally-friendly’, they are not! In fact, they are more dangerous to our wildlife as when they get littered, the smaller plastic pieces they break into look even more like food for marine animals and birds.
If your local shop is providing these bags, please have a quiet but respectful word with the manager. While cardboard boxes or re-usable bags are the best alternatives, only plastic bags that meet the Australian Biodegradable Plastics Standards (AS 4736) – outlined below – should be provided as necessary. These plastics break down quickly with no toxin discharge and can be placed in a compost bin.
The Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA) notes that in order to comply with AS 4736-2006, plastic materials must meet the following requirements:
- minimum of 90% biodegradation of plastic materials within 180 days in compost
- minimum of 90% of plastic materials should disintegrate into less than 2mm pieces in compost within 12 weeks
- no toxic effect of the resulting compost on plants and earthworms
- hazardous substances such as heavy metals should not be present above the maximum allowed levels
- plastic materials should contain more than 50% organic materials.
Let’s keep up the fight
Wildlife Queensland and Boomerang Alliance take the view that these measures represent positive and vital first steps in addressing the issue of plastic litter and its pollution of our environment, while also turning a spotlight on our wasteful culture.
Our message is centred around the need to introduce proven and responsible measures which have the power to change behaviour, protect wildlife and the environment, AND encourage a new economy in avoiding unnecessary plastic products and recycling those already in use.
Please help us keep it up!
Wildlife Queensland Campaign Manager for Plastic Waste