Fantastic news today! The Queensland Government has just announced the introduction of a ban on single use, lightweight plastic bags. This is a significant step forward in reducing plastic litter and its impact upon native and marine wildlife. Plastic bags in particular are a problem for birds and marine animals that often mistake these for food or get entangled in them. They also break up into microplastics that enter the marine food chain and onto our dinner plates.
The proposed Queensland ban will follow similar bans already in place in South Australia, ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania but Queensland has taken it a step further with inclusion of so-called degradable and biodegradable plastic bags in the ban. These also break up into dangerous microplastics that enter the food chain.
We call on NSW and Victoria to join in – already well-over one billion bags have been littered in the last 10 years through their inaction. NSW is the worst laggard.
Toby Hutcheon, Queensland Manager
& Jeff Angel, Director
Together we could get a ban on single-use plastic bags along the Australian's east coast!
With your help, the plastic bag ban is on the agenda of the next Environment Minister meeting on 25 November but we need to keep up the pressure to make sure they make the right decision. Yesterday we sent a demand to the ministers to finally resolve this urgent issue, from 50 environment and community groups representing hundreds of communities from around Australia.
We're making as much noise as we can: sending thousands of letters to the environment ministers, organising stalls at community event across the states, keeping the issue in the media, releasing plastic bags monsters in Sydney and delivering tote bags to the members of the NSW cabinet.
Please help us put pressure on them. Together we could save countless turtles, whales, birds and other marine life from harm.
> NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman (email@example.com or (02) 8574 6390
> Queensland Environment Minister, Steven Miles (firstname.lastname@example.org) or (07) 3719 7330
> Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D'ambrosio (email@example.com) or (03) 8392 2100
You can also make a donation for the plastic bag push here.
We believe succes in just around the corner.
Jeff Angel, Convenor and Director
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.
In 2016, the Boomerang Alliance, scientists and community groups presented extensive evidence to the Australian Senate’s Inquiry into marine plastic pollution. Our report calculated for the first time the extent of pollution and presented comprehensive solutions. In April the Senate Inquiry, comprised of all the main political parties, released its report appropriately titled Toxic Tide: the Threat of Marine Plastic Pollution in Australia. It presented a consensus of evidence, which showed “the magnitude of marine plastic pollution in Australia and Australian waters ... is a problem that cannot be ignored and is growing year-on-year.”
Describing the devastating impacts of plastic on our sea life and dire predictions of future impacts including concerns about health risks associated with plastic infested seafood, the Report outlines a series of recommendations reflecting our long standing agenda: including the adoption of Container Deposits, banning plastic bags and microbeads, develop innovative alternatives to plastic packaging, reinstating funding for Ghost Nets Australia, a national policy for stormwater management, and active government support for research on marine plastic pollution.
The Senate Committee expressed its disappointment, “with the apparent lack of action on this issue” and stated “there is a need for increased national leadership on marine plastic pollution abatement”.
WOW! After 10 years we’ve won – or so we thought - and with a Federal Election on the horizon the Liberals, The Labor Party and the Greens had outlined a comprehensive agenda to make immediate and deep cuts in the amount of plastic polluting our shores. But in less than 3 months, plastic pollution has faded from the political agenda. As election day loomed, we saw hundreds of announcements but silence on how to tackle marine plastic pollution.
So it’s up to us – again! We’ve made great progress; both the problem and our key solutions are largely accepted – but we have to put pressure on our political leaders to stop talking and act!
We think the best way to seize the moment is by developing our own, community driven, Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) on marine plastic. To do that, we have started a weekly blog canvassing 9 key themes for action. In 2017, we will bring each aspect of the plan to the wider community together for the first Australian multi-stakeholder conference where we will hash out a program to cut the amount of plastic entering our waterways by at least 70% by 2020. That plan will be presented to every State, Territory and Federal politician in the country and we will demand its implementation. We can’t afford anything less.
It’s a massive task – but absolutely essential. And we need your help to be successful.
Author: Dave West
Please find the latest iteration of our Threat Abatement Plan here.
This is a message that has been sent to all Australian MPs for World Ocean DayRead more
The Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia. This is the opportunity for the community, either as individuals or groups, to provide important feedback on the way plastic pollution impacts marine life and to highlight your concerns by reflecting on your own experiences.Read more
The Queensland Government this week announced that they are considering banning plastic bags and other problematic packaging. The decision comes on top of their statement last month that they would investigate a cash for containers scheme for Queensland.Read more