Page 3705 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 18 September 2018

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Single-use plastic

Discussion of matter of public importance

MADAM SPEAKER: I have received letters from Ms Cheyne, Ms Cody, Mr Coe, Mrs Dunne, Mr Hanson, Mrs Kikkert, Ms Lawder, Ms Le Couteur, Ms Lee, Ms Orr, Mr Parton and Mr Pettersson proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Ms Le Couteur be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The importance of reducing single-use plastic in the ACT.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.41): We are currently in a global crisis with regard to the environmental and health impacts of plastic pollution, and we need to drastically reduce our single-use plastic consumption. That is why I have called for today’s MPI. I am calling for a plastic-free ACT which will see an eventual ban on all single-use plastics.

Worldwide, only 10 to 13 per cent of plastic items are recycled, which is pitifully low. Single-use plastic usually goes into landfill, where it is burned, or gets into our waterways and makes its way to the oceans. Plastic pollution is at an unprecedented high. Scientists predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. As we have all seen, there are islands of plastic in the ocean.

CSIRO research has shown that approximately three-quarters of the rubbish along the Australian coast is plastic. Most of this is from Aussie sources, and the rubbish is concentrated near urban areas along our coastline. No country is exempt from plastic pollution. And all of this has basically occurred in less than a century, and all by our own hands. Despite Australia having some of the greatest natural wonders of the world, we have not looked after them.

Also, let us look at our health risks. Scientific understanding of the potential impact on human health from the ingestion of microplastics via seafood consumption is still emerging, and we definitely need more research here. The world is currently conducting an experiment. We are testing our bodies’ capacity to absorb plastic by-products. I do not know that it is going to end well for humans or other species.

Also, just looking at it from a straight-out economic point of view, the clean-up costs for litter are very high. Some of this is absorbed by the community. We have clean-up days; I have been fortunate enough to join Trash Mob a couple of times in their efforts in cleaning up Canberra. Otherwise it costs more. It is part of our city services budget, which we discussed earlier today. If the idea of a small baby bird does not incentivise change, maybe the financial impact of cleaning up will. The pollution in the ocean has huge economic costs in the reduction of fisheries, transport and tourism.

Looking at tourism, not only is a plastic-polluted ACT a deterrent to tourists, but a plastic-free ACT could be a selling point. Consumers conscious of the issue could flock to the ACT if we made it our mission to lead the way to be an environmentally

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