Page 376 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 19 February 2019
We know that there are whole islands floating in the Pacific Ocean made purely of plastic, and we can all see the amount of plastic we put in our landfill bins each week. We have increased knowledge of the presence of plastic in all corners of the globe and the extraordinary consequences it can have on our oceans. I remember in my time back in Greenpeace we were able to garner footage and were looking at evidence of toothbrushes in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Hawaii and literally hundreds if not thousands of miles from any coastline you could see entire briefcases. It is extraordinary the things you can see floating in the ocean. As Ms Orr remarked, these are often items that have been used for only a short time.
Many people are now doing their best to reduce their personal and household use of plastics. They have become aware of the situation and are thinking about what they can do. They are also trying hard to recycle their soft plastics, but now we see mountains of soft plastics building up in the supermarket recycling bins with not enough demand for post-consumer plastics to solve the problem. This goes to the very point of needing a revolution in both not using the plastics at all in the first place but also ensuring that we build the industries that can use recycled products that are available and ideally give them a second, third or many more lives.
The Greens would like to see this issue addressed at the root of the problem—both production and consumption of these plastics—in the first place. The minister’s statement certainly does not give us any silver bullets; there really are not any when it comes to plastics. But it will help us set off together as a community to examine what we can all do differently.
I applaud the commitment by Australia’s packaging sector to work towards completely phasing out non-recyclable packaging over the next few years. I understand they are also willing to work towards increasing the amount of recycled products used in their products. These are positive things, and I think there is pressure on the political decision-makers to get behind that.
Having attended a recent ministerial meeting on behalf of Minister Gentleman it is fair to reflect on the fact that in many ways the political discussion is behind the community and industry discussion. We need to not only catch up but also help apply pressure to set clear time lines and ensure this revolution is enabled, not stymied.
We still need to address the key issue of all the disposable plastics that are used on a daily basis and evaluate whether they could instead be replaced by a more sustainable option. In that vein Minister Steel made some comments about straws. I was really pleased with Actsmart launching the straws suck campaign. This has taken the approach of working with cafes, bars, restaurants and the like and was a bit of a test of the community’s sentiment towards working on a voluntary basis. It is fair to say it was very well received. I was in a cafe just this morning that had on the counter steel straws available for individual sale, and people are increasingly using those. I was somewhere else in the last few days that served up paper straws.
There are clear and good alternatives and this effort is being well received. It highlights that the community in its various guises is ready for action, whether that is