Give the oceans a voice

With the up-coming by-elections for NSW in coastal electorates, the next few weeks are critical for increasing the pressure on the current liberal Government to implement a ban on single-use lightweight plastic bags in NSW.

Give the oceans a voice by sending a personal email to Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for the Environment, asking for a ban on lightweight single-use plastic bags, and explaining why you care. It doesn't have to be a long email, but please try to make it sound personal. We need to show her that we really want to protect our oceans and its stunning marine life.

    In my view the immediate and effective policy response from State jurisdictions on plastic bags should be:

    To ban all single use HDPE bags up to 70 microns. This ban should apply to all wholesalers, importers and retailers who provide these products to their customers both in shop and online, including all small business.

    The ban should include all identified 'biodegradable and degradable' bags up to 70 microns (standards used in current laws for biodegradability/compostability do not prevent microplastic pollution – see below).

    Specific purpose bags less than 70 microns such as barrier bags could be exempted, but only where there is a demonstrated health, food safety or fit-for-purpose reason and where no viable alternative exists. Any such exempted bags should be uncoloured and unbranded to avoid increased ingestion by marine life.

    Ensure targeting of bait bags and ice cube bags which are usually used outdoors and represent a particular problem in the litter stream.

    A transition period of 6 months should be established between an announcement and introduction of any bans, to allow for alternative arrangements and a public/retailer education program.

    An effective penalty and resourced compliance regime.

    A levy not be supported due to administrative complexity and the lack of long term impact.

    An Intermediate Policy Response (a continuous improvement strategy) should be:

    The establishment of an expert taskforce to review and report back to government within one year on recommended actions to restrict other forms of single use plastic packaging not included in the immediate policy. This review should include the identification of alternative products and practices to single use plastic packaging.