The NSW Government says it is ramping up efforts to tackle plastic pollution by inviting the public to have its say on helping to prevent 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste produced each year from causing harm to the environment and human health.
Industry, businesses and the community are encouraged to share their feedback on the ‘NSW Plastics: Next Steps’ discussion paper as part of the state’s move to reduce plastic litter by 30 per cent by 2025, curb the impact of microplastics, and align with other states and territories.
According to the National Waste Report, 13 per cent of plastic waste was recycled in the 2020-21 period. Once thrown away, these materials pollute the environment, harm wildlife, pose a risk to human health and contribute to climate change.
‘NSW Plastics: Next Steps’ aims to identify and address items and materials that:
- Are frequently littered or release microplastics into the environment;
- Contain harmful chemical additives; or
- Are regulated or proposed to be in other states and territories.
Items containing plastic such as lollipop sticks, cigarette butts, bread tags and heavyweight plastic shopping bags are some of the problematic products that could be redesigned or phased out.
Consultation is open for 14 weeks from 29 October 2023 to 4 February 2024. You can participate in the Future of Plastics here.
Minister for the Environment, Penny Sharpe, said, “Plastic has become so widespread that we are constantly eating, drinking and breathing it in. NSW alone generates 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year and only 12 per cent of it is recycled.
“The NSW Government wants to hear your thoughts on what plastic items we should target to minimise harmful impacts on the NSW environment, animals and communities.”
The WWF says that this plan could cause NSW to “jump towards the top” of its ‘plastics scorecard’, an initiative which ranks states and territories according to their progress towards phasing out problematic plastics. Currently, Western Australia sits at the number one spot, having taken action on all WWF-identified issues.
“It is great to see NSW considering action on so many unnecessary and problematic plastics,” said Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastic in Nature policy manager.
“As Australia’s most heavily populated state, NSW’s action on plastics really matters.
“This plan has the potential to stop some of the most damaging single-use plastics from entering our beautiful beaches and waterways.”
Environmental group, Boomerang Alliance, also welcomed the initiative, with director Jeff Angel saying, “The identification for action shows NSW is getting its priorities right. For too long the state has been behind other states like WA, SA and QLD and as the most populous, plastic consuming state – we can’t afford to be laggards.’’
‘’With up to 580,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of ocean, we have a responsibility to act. As well as moving on single use plastic bags, the Boomerang Alliance is calling on all government and food service businesses and the general community to embrace reusability, which will also significantly reduce the amount of polluting plastic in the environment,’’ Angel added.
Not everyone is convinced, however. Ryan Nelson, founder of Refilled, a Sydney-based startup producing vending machines for use with a reusable bottle, said: “In its current form, the ban fails to address the most egregious single-use plastic problem, plastic drinks bottles. More than 891 billion single-use plastic bottles are produced worldwide every year and less than 20 per cent are ever recycled. This is a problem that governments have no idea how to solve. They are fiddling around at the edges by banning trivial plastic items like lollipop sticks and bread ties. Plastic bottles are a much bigger problem that needs to be solved.
“The best way to reduce plastic waste is not to make it in the first place. We can’t rely on people and businesses to recycle or re-use bottles if they can easily buy a new bottle of water anywhere and everywhere they go. We need to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles in all public spaces where people can be encouraged to bring re-usable bottles instead.”
Others are pushing to see materials such as bioplastics adopted. Fionnuala Quin, founder and CEO of Kelpy, a company which has developed a seaweed polymer solution, said: “We are seeing some true innovation in the novel material space which will require a review of current regulations to ensure truly sustainable solutions are not precluded from the market. Current approved alternatives include wooden and paper items, but not other bio alternatives, regardless of certification. PLA, sugarcane and even paper products containing PFAS and other toxins are currently allowed. Greenwashing has abounded in recent years with many misleading claims about biodegradability confusing consumers and regulators.”