Scientists and community groups have been sounding the alarm on marine plastic pollution – and as you know the 2016 Senate Inquiry, Toxic Tide: the threat of marine plastic, strongly endorsed this concern, finding there is a ‘looming health crisis’.
The report also recommended comprehensive and concerted action on a range of plastic pollution sources. Over the past 18 months the Meeting of Environment Ministers has been considering policies on plastic bags and microbeads. The community is expecting action from your forthcoming meeting in November.
The microbeads industry agreement has world leading scope as it includes facial cleansers like the recent US ban, but also follows the research undertaken in Europe that identifies far larger sources of microbead pollution, namely detergents, synthetic waxes and polishes. Given the timetable set out by ministers and action by an increasing number of overseas jurisdictions we believe it’s time for Australia to complete the industry negotiation process. In addition there must be a regulatory underpinning for free riders – with many products still containing plastic microbeads.
Ministers should ensure a complete phase out by 1 July 2017.
Action on plastic bags is long overdue. Previous voluntary efforts have failed to stem single plastic bag use and litter remains a significant problem for our landscape and marine life. While some states have taken action to ban them, the policies have been weakened by exempting so-called ‘biodegradable bags (which simply break up into small pieces).
We understand Qld, NSW and Vic have been discussing joint action. We strongly urge that an agreement is reached at the November meeting. Our surveys of public opinion (Omnipoll) show that plastic bags are the top priority for action.
The community is expecting a decision and an effective ban during 2017.
Washing machine fibres are also a focus for new approaches as a large amount of microscopic fibres can be released into wastewater during each use of a domestic washing machine, with many likely to pass through sewage treatment and into the environment. Filters on washing machines to capture the fibres are one solution now being reviewed by some leading brands.
The Boomerang Alliance and its 45 allied groups have joined with the community to take action on plastic pollution.
We urge environment ministers to do the same.