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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 August 2018) . . Page.. 3388 ..


very concerning risk to both our environment and our wellbeing. This is why it is so important for us as a community to reduce our waste.

When it comes to the environment, our first principle must always be: do no harm. In the hierarchy of waste, avoidance is the best form of waste minimisation. Not producing a unit of plastic means not having to dispose of that unit and not having to wait for it to degrade. It means one less unit of plastic entering our water system and it means one less unit of plastic breaking down into plastic debris and potentially entering our food supply chain.

Of course, fish are not the only way plastic is getting into our food supply. A recent study found that nearly all major brands of bottled water contain tiny particles of plastic. It seems quite ironic that we purchase bottled water as a healthy alternative to other bottled beverages, yet it contains an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair.

Consumer advocate Choice reported in 2014 that while the risk is low there is growing evidence that food can be contaminated by harmful chemicals in certain types of food packaging made from plastic. We are yet to fully understand the impact that plastic in our food supply is having on us. However, there is agreement that certain chemicals found in plastic act as endocrine disruptors in the body and cause a range of health problems. Issues such as infertility, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes may be caused by even low levels of exposure to certain chemicals in plastic.

Interestingly, our conservative commentators have argued, in their staunch opposition to the banning of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets, that our reusable bags present a public health risk. But these claims were discredited by an example in San Francisco which looked at emergency room data that found that food-borne illnesses rose by 46 per cent after a ban on plastic bags came into effect. These claims were discredited by a San Francisco health officer who stated that the claim was not warranted and the report had failed to even test the hypotheses that the increase in gastrointestinal food-borne illnesses and deaths was due to reusable bags. But of course the conservatives can simply brush this to one side, as they have done with the best available science on climate change.

But the fact remains that the waste generated from single-use plastic is slow to degrade and often harmful to the environment. It is for these reasons that avoidance must be our priority. Recyclable plastic often ends up in the general waste stream, and options for recycling of single-use soft plastics are limited.

We often make the mistake of thinking that if something is recyclable it will be recycled. However, most people are mortified when they hear the plastic bottle they are holding contains less than 10 per cent recycled material and, in many cases, as little as six per cent.

Drink manufacturers do not use bottles made from 100 per cent recyclable material. This is for one of two reasons: either they feel customers will be turned off by the cloudy nature of these bottles or because of the relative costs they face. The bulk of


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