The NSW government has unveiled its plan to drastically cut the number of single-use plastics in circulation with a total ban by next year, and following quickly in its wake, WA has launched its own plan to fast-track its efforts.
From next year, lightweight plastic bags, disposable plastic straws and cutlery, plastic cotton buds, microbeads, and other forms of single-use plastics will be banned in the state, as part of the government’s $365 million five-year plan to reduce plastic waste by 30 per cent by 2025.
NSW environment minister Matt Kean says the changes were necessary because sticking to the current trend will see more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
“NSW contributes one third of Australia’s total waste, so the policies we make in NSW will make a difference for the whole country,” explains Keenan.
“We’re also investing in the infrastructure that will improve recycling that will help us create value from our waste stream. This is about ensuring that our scraps don’t languish in landfill, but we turn our trash intro treasure.
“This is a great day for our environment, and it puts NSW ahead of the curve.”
As for WA, the state has fast-tracked its efforts by four years, now aiming to phase-out single-use plastic bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, straws, polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags, helium balloons, takeaway coffee cups and lids, along with other single-use plastic materials by 2022.
State premier Mark McGowan says the ban is targeting the types of plastic items that often get “chucked on the ground and go into our oceans”, especially plastic straws and small food containers.
“I think this is a progression, and so what we’re doing today is bringing forward a whole range of measure to phase-out plastics both this year and next year,” McGowan continues.
“We will also support finding alternatives to other forms of plastic packaging, including those used by supermarkets, so by the end of next year, a lot of those common-use plastics you see around will not be there.
“We’ve got to work in an international way to make those things happen, but I’d certainly support measures being taken there and work with the Commonwealth government on that.”
Both states’ announcements have been praised by many industry and environmental organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia, who commends the states for raising their ambitions and speeding up final deadlines to achieve them.
According to Kate Noble, WWF Australia’s No Plastics in Nature policy manager, this announcement has been a long time coming and the organisation is pleased to see both states implement bold actions to achieve its goals.
“Plastic bags, straws and utensils are often discarded after a single-use, ending up in landfill or polluting our environment for hundreds of years, so banning these items is a simple and effective way to protect our beautiful beaches and marine wildlife,” Noble says.
“We’re also pleased to see polystyrene cups and takeaway containers included in the first wave of plastics to be banned.
“Expanded polystyrene is particularly dangerous when it enters our environment, due to its propensity to break down and flow into our oceans in lethal bite-sized pieces.”
Noble now says the NSW government should turn this momentum into action and commit to introducing legislation this year.
“The state government should prioritise its review of other problematic plastics, including heavyweight plastic bags, plates, bowls, coffee cups and lids,” says Noble.
“There are viable, sustainable alternatives to each of these items, so there’s no reason to delay action for another three years.
“An estimated 130,000 tonnes of plastic flows in Australia’s environment each year. That’s the equivalent of more than two Titanic ships of plastic entering our oceans and waterways, so we must act quickly to solve this waste crisis.”