Our Plastic Free Places Program is now working in 5 communities across Australia (Adelaide, Byron, Perth, Cairns and Townsville), with our pilot community Noosa having been handed over to Tourism Noosa to manage at the end of 2019. We also ran three trial programs (two in Victoria and one in WA).
As at November 30, 2020, our programs had eliminated 6.3 million pieces of single-use plastic! We did this by working directly with local food retailers to help them eliminate, reduce, or switch to better alternatives, and working with suppliers and manufacturers to facilitate solutions for businesses.
2020 was a difficult year, with many businesses struggling to make ends meet. Despite this, we found that very few of our over 500 business members reverted back to using single-use plastic during the pandemic. Engagement with the program was down, but overall, we found there was no less importance placed on the problem of plastic pollution. Materials we made available to all businesses on how to stay plastic-free and reduce costs during Covid-19 was well received.
Many businesses have now started to bounce back and engagement is on the rise. The introduction of legislation banning some single-use plastics by the SA Government, which is being closely followed by Qld and the ACT, has helped to keep the agenda moving forward.
All our programs are set to continue into 2021, with the addition of Rockhampton & Livingstone (QLD) due to commence early in the new year.
Here's a quick rundown on what we've been doing.
Commencing in September 2019, Plastic Free SA is our largest program to date. Operating in identified precincts in Adelaide and surrounds, the program was set up by Green Industries South Australia to support businesses leading up to the single-use plastic ban. While 2020 has been quiet, our program has 80 members and has eliminated over 800,000 pieces of plastic and rising.
In operation since July 2018, Make the Switch is very active in the community, albeit with a gap in funding that put the program on hold for 4 months in mid 2019. One of our smaller programs, it has still eliminated over 1 million items of plastic! In 2021 we plan to introduce a hotels/accommodation sector program in Byron, which will become a template for our other communities.
Due to funding delays, our program in Perth commenced in March 2019 and only ran until August 2019. Despite this, we continue to hold space for the program and assist current members while seeking new funding avenues. In its time, WA Plastic Free worked with 30 members and saved 77,000 pieces of plastic. But watch this space.
Our Queensland based projects only commenced in March 2020 and were immediately stalled by café shutdowns. Despite the rocky start, the businesses of Cairns have embraced the program and we had welcomed a massive 107 members by the end of November. The program enjoys strong community partnerships which helped to establish it quickly as a presence
While Townsville was a little slower to embrace the program at first, our persistent networking has paid off, with a number of key players in the food space (including suppliers) recently jumping on board. Because of this, we have seen a sharp rise in plastic reduction now totalling nearly 150,000 pieces of plastic eliminated.
With funding assured by the Qld Government until the end of 2021 (and with the addition of Rockhampton/Livingstone), we are looking forward to big things in Qld.
We also ran several 6-month trial programs, which are smaller versions of our community programs. These are funded by local councils to help transition key areas and to gauge what results a wider program might achieve. Our two Victorian trials (which were completed before Covid-19 took hold) were a success, with 18 participating businesses in Elsternwick eliminating over 25,000 pieces of plastic, and 15 in Mount Martha eliminating over 30,000. Our current trial in Perth (Victoria Park) has been running for 4 months with 18 businesses and has so far achieved the elimination of 43,000 pieces eliminated.
For more information on all our programs, visit www.plasticfreeplaces.org