Toby Hutcheon

  • Fed Election 2019: Phase-out single use plastics next step in tackling plastic pollution

    Most countries, including Australia, have recognised the threats posed by marine plastic litter. Estimates show that at current rates of littering there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 (by weight).1 In Australia, the CSIRO calculate that ‘two thirds of the marine debris found along our coastline is plastic, most from local sources.’2

    Plastic packaging is routinely in the top 5 littered items in both the National Litter Index and Clean Up Australia reports. The most recent Clean Up Australia  (2018) report estimates that 39% of all litter is plastic. If left uncollected that plastic will break up into microplastics, threaten wildlife that consume it and potentially enter the human food chain.

    There are alternatives to single use plastic takeaway products. The primary option being to avoid single use items in favour of reusable food ware. If not possible, 100% compostable packaging is an available option. Fully compostable packaging is not derived from fossil fuels unlike other plastics.

    Many food outlets, markets and public events right around Australia have already changed their practices and reduced their plastic footprint, through these practices.

    ‘The Boomerang Alliance believes after banning lightweight plastic bags and introducing a deposit scheme for drinks containers, the phase-out of single use plastics is the next step in reducing plastic pollution and litter.

    As the largest component of litter, removing many single-use plastics will cut litter collection costs to Commonwealth, State and local Governments. Boomerang Alliance estimate that cost to be approximately $500 M spent annually on litter clean-ups.3

    There are also the additional unrecognised costs associated with community litter clean ups, and the efforts made by ordinary Australians over a quarter of a century.

    As the late Ian Kiernan AO stated at Clean Up Australia’s 2015 report, ‘ After 25 years of solid work by hundreds of thousands of citizens, it's about time for their government to acknowledge the efforts of these volunteers and demonstrate some leadership by stopping plastics and containers being discarded in the first place.’

    The Commonwealth and all State and Territory jurisdictions have agreed to having all packaging reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) have a target of 70% of packaging actually composted or recycled by 2025.

     

    Action, the next step

    To meet these targets, the Commonwealth needs to act now and set a schedule to achieve those outcomes.  In ‘away from home’ circumstances, the most obvious and achievable policy setting is to support reusable and compostable practices and set a phase-out date for single use plastics that do not meet those requirements.

    Australia has supported the UN Environment Program to reduce Marine Debris and needs to lead by example, assisting and lobbying others in our region to change practices. This cannot be done without a domestic policy shift on single use plastics.

    Internationally, countries and corporations are moving towards removing single use plastics. These practice changes need to be supported and regulated by Government to ensure they are achieved. Many international brands have promised to change practices to achieve packaging goals including 100% recycled content. They include Mars, Unilever, Pepsi, Coke, Nestle’, L’Oréal and Colgate-Palmolive. Most recently Coca Cola stopped supplying customers with plastic straws, as part of this practice shift.

    This year,  the European Union announced an intention to ban a range of single use plastics by 2021. Over 25 cities and regions around the world have already acted to remove  single use plastics, in addition to plastic bags. Etihad Airlines recently flew its first plastic free long distance flight.

    In Australia, the recent encouraging trend has been the ban plastics bags in most jurisdictions, with only NSW currently resisting. Major retailers have already acted to remove lightweight plastic bags, which has contributed to an estimated 80% reduction in lightweight plastic bag use (from 2017).  There are some questions however if the alternative heavier weight bags are reused by most shoppers, as intended.

    Most states and territories have introduced a container deposit scheme for drink containers. These schemes are proving that litter rates significantly reduce when they are put in place. In NSW, Return and Earn is responsible for an estimated 33% reduction in beverage litter and in QLD litter surveys indicate a 35% decrease in beverage container litter since the introduction of the CRS. In South Australia, which has had a CDS since 1977, litter rates are generally less by a factor of three compared to other States4

    Some states and territories are now considering their next steps in addressing litter and plastic wastes. Both South Australia and Western Australia are publicly canvassing plans to phase-out single use plastics. Most other jurisdictions are reviewing their own future policies with a single-use plastics phase-out a key consideration. Local governments from Cairns to Hobart are already acting. Many local authorities and public events have introduced plastic free events policies to reduce plastic use, litter and waste.

    The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Boomerang Alliance have formed a partnership to develop a Plastic Free Places community program to promote the switch away from single use plastic takeaway. The partnership is based upon a successful model developed in Noosa and extended to Byron Bay (NSW) and Bassendean (WA). This has demonstrated that the hospitality sector is able to play a positive role in reducing plastics and has willingly switched to alternatives. The Noosa project has removed nearly 3 million single use plastic items in 13 months of operation and continues to expand. Other community programs have produced similar results.

     

    Commonwealth must play a role

    The global trend and one that needs to be rapidly expanded  in Australia is  the phase-out of single use plastic takeaway items. To achieve the national targets set for packaging requires us to act now.

    Australia can make a big leap forward if the next Commonwealth Government, with the support of other political parties, set a date for the phase-out of a range of single use plastic takeaway items commonly found in litter and waste streams.

    The Boomerang Alliance has identified 6 items that should be included in a phase out: coffee cups and lids, straws, cutlery, cups and containers, plastic bags and plastic water bottles. All have readily available alternatives and, as many citizens and businesses are proving, the community is ready to change, if the Commonwealth sets the policy agenda.

    We don’t accept that enough is being done but a start has been made at this election. We framed our key election asks as Saving Recycling and Phasing-out Single Use Plastics. As at 6 May we have promises from all the key parties to support and invest in recycling. We need similar promises on single use plastics.

    To date Labor policies state the party is ‘open to extending phase-outs to single use plastics’. The Greens have committed to this policy by 2025. The Coalition has not made any statement.

     


     

    1 Ellen Macarthur New plastic Economy Report 2016

    2  Understanding the effects of marine debris on wildlife CSIRO study 2014

    Turn Back the Toxic Tide Report-Boomerang Alliance/Dave West 2016

    4  Understanding the effects of marine debris on wildlife CSIRO study 2014

     

    Authorised by Jeff Angel, Boomerang Alliance, 99 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010


  • Phase-Out Single use Plastics is the next step in reducing Plastic Pollution

    Most countries, including Australia, have recognised the threats posed by marine plastic litter. Estimates show that at current rates of littering there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 (by weight).1 In Australia, the CSIRO calculate that ‘two thirds of the marine debris found along our coastline is plastic, most from local sources.’2

    Plastic packaging is routinely in the top 5 littered items in both the National Litter Index and Clean Up Australia reports. The most recent Clean Up Australia  (2018) report estimates that 39% of all litter is plastic. If left uncollected that plastic will break up into microplastics, threaten wildlife that consume it and potentially enter the human food chain.

    There are alternatives to single use plastic takeaway products. The primary option being to avoid single use items in favour of reusable food ware. If not possible, 100% compostable packaging is an available option. Fully compostable packaging is not derived from fossil fuels unlike other plastics.

    Many food outlets, markets and public events right around Australia have already changed their practices and reduced their plastic footprint, through these practices.

    ‘The Boomerang Alliance believes after banning lightweight plastic bags and introducing a deposit scheme for drinks containers, the phase-out of single use plastics is the next step in reducing plastic pollution and litter.

    As the largest component of litter, removing many single-use plastics will cut litter collection costs to Commonwealth, State and local Governments. Boomerang Alliance estimate that cost to be approximately $500 M spent annually on litter clean-ups.3

    There are also the additional unrecognised costs associated with community litter clean ups, and the efforts made by ordinary Australians over a quarter of a century.

    As the late Ian Kiernan AO stated at Clean Up Australia’s 2015 report, ‘ After 25 years of solid work by hundreds of thousands of citizens, it's about time for their government to acknowledge the efforts of these volunteers and demonstrate some leadership by stopping plastics and containers being discarded in the first place.’

    The Commonwealth and all State and Territory jurisdictions have agreed to having all packaging reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) have a target of 70% of packaging actually composted or recycled by 2025.

     

    Action, the next step

    To meet these targets, the Commonwealth needs to act now and set a schedule to achieve those outcomes.  In ‘away from home’ circumstances, the most obvious and achievable policy setting is to support reusable and compostable practices and set a phase-out date for single use plastics that do not meet those requirements.

    Australia has supported the UN Environment Program to reduce Marine Debris and needs to lead by example, assisting and lobbying others in our region to change practices. This cannot be done without a domestic policy shift on single use plastics.

    Internationally, countries and corporations are moving towards removing single use plastics. These practice changes need to be supported and regulated by Government to ensure they are achieved. Many international brands have promised to change practices to achieve packaging goals including 100% recycled content. They include Mars, Unilever, Pepsi, Coke, Nestle’, L’Oréal and Colgate-Palmolive. Most recently Coca Cola stopped supplying customers with plastic straws, as part of this practice shift.

    This year,  the European Union announced an intention to ban a range of single use plastics by 2021. Over 25 cities and regions around the world have already acted to remove  single use plastics, in addition to plastic bags. Etihad Airlines recently flew its first plastic free long distance flight.

    In Australia, the recent encouraging trend has been the ban plastics bags in most jurisdictions, with only NSW currently resisting. Major retailers have already acted to remove lightweight plastic bags, which has contributed to an estimated 80% reduction in lightweight plastic bag use (from 2017).  There are some questions however if the alternative heavier weight bags are reused by most shoppers, as intended.

    Most states and territories have introduced a container deposit scheme for drink containers. These schemes are proving that litter rates significantly reduce when they are put in place. In NSW, Return and Earn is responsible for an estimated 33% reduction in beverage litter and in QLD litter surveys indicate a 35% decrease in beverage container litter since the introduction of the CRS. In South Australia, which has had a CDS since 1977, litter rates are generally less by a factor of three compared to other States4

    Some states and territories are now considering their next steps in addressing litter and plastic wastes. Both South Australia and Western Australia are publicly canvassing plans to phase-out single use plastics. Most other jurisdictions are reviewing their own future policies with a single-use plastics phase-out a key consideration. Local governments from Cairns to Hobart are already acting. Many local authorities and public events have introduced plastic free events policies to reduce plastic use, litter and waste.

    The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the Boomerang Alliance have formed a partnership to develop a Plastic Free Places community program to promote the switch away from single use plastic takeaway. The partnership is based upon a successful model developed in Noosa and extended to Byron Bay (NSW) and Bassendean (WA). This has demonstrated that the hospitality sector is able to play a positive role in reducing plastics and has willingly switched to alternatives. The Noosa project has removed nearly 3 million single use plastic items in 13 months of operation and continues to expand. Other community programs have produced similar results.

     

    Commonwealth must play a role

    The global trend and one that needs to be rapidly expanded  in Australia is  the phase-out of single use plastic takeaway items. To achieve the national targets set for packaging requires us to act now.

    Australia can make a big leap forward if the next Commonwealth Government, with the support of other political parties, set a date for the phase-out of a range of single use plastic takeaway items commonly found in litter and waste streams.

    The Boomerang Alliance has identified 6 items that should be included in a phase out: coffee cups and lids, straws, cutlery, cups and containers, plastic bags and plastic water bottles. All have readily available alternatives and, as many citizens and businesses are proving, the community is ready to change, if the Commonwealth sets the policy agenda.

    We don’t accept that enough is being done but a start has been made at this election. We framed our key election asks as Saving Recycling and Phasing-out Single Use Plastics. As at 6 May we have promises from all the key parties to support and invest in recycling. We need similar promises on single use plastics.

    To date Labor policies state the party is ‘open to extending phase-outs to single use plastics’. The Greens have committed to this policy by 2025. The Coalition has not made any statement.

     


     

    1 Ellen Macarthur New plastic Economy Report 2016

    2  Understanding the effects of marine debris on wildlife CSIRO study 2014

    Turn Back the Toxic Tide Report-Boomerang Alliance/Dave West 2016

    4  Understanding the effects of marine debris on wildlife CSIRO study 2014

     

    Authorised by Jeff Angel, Boomerang Alliance, 99 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010


  • Fed Election 2019: How to make Australia a recycling nation

    Image credit: Freepik

    We produce too much waste and do too little recycling in Australia.  A National Recycling Industry Development Program would boost the economy and create jobs across the nation.

    After China implemented tighter restrictions on the import of Australian plastic and other waste and other nations followed suit, it is now Australia’s responsibility to manage its own waste. We could also be a world leader in implementing a circular economy and cleaning up the plastics contaminating our oceans. 

    Did you know despite one of the highest GDPs per capita, Australia lands in 17th place for the global recycling rank and our current rates are stagnant1? Councils say a “lack of funding, coupled with rock-bottom recycling prices, is hampering efforts to build better infrastructure and reinvigorate a dying market2. If Australia is to increase its recycling rate and help the plastic waste crisis, two critical policies will need to be implemented: (1) funding for a recycling industry and (2) mandating a “Buy Recycled” program for product manufacturers. 

    Recycling has been shown to be more economically profitable than landfilling. A survey by Access Economics in 2009, estimated that 9.2 employees were directly employed in the recycling sector for every 10,000 tonnes of waste in Australia, compared to 2.8 directly employed with landfill3. In Victoria alone, an increase in recycling of 80% would create 2,310 jobs4. However, due to the lack of recycling infrastructure, recyclable material is currently being stockpiled, dumped, imported into Asian countries illegally, incinerated…just wasted!5

    Boomerang Alliance is calling for a minimum of $150 million to support a growing domestic recycling industry, including to improve infrastructure for the reprocessing of greater quantities of plastics. 

    In addition, Australia needs to build a market for the re-manufactured recycled material. Due to low oil and gas prices, virgin plastic is usually cheaper than its recycled counterpart.  Australia should achieve a 30% average recycled content in products by 2025 - but packaging manufacturers need an incentive to work towards this goal. The best way to create that demand is through a “Buy Recycled” scheme that makes the production of plastic from recycled material cheaper and more necessary than virgin plastics. For example in France, where it is proposed to impose a tax on virgin plastics6. We can also impose recycled content requirements as has been done in the EU. 

    This won’t be easy to navigate through the political decision process. Taxes and regulation are not popular with business and some political parties.  But it must be done and community support will be vital.  We confronted the same opposition when campaigning for a container deposit system. Eventually the community won and now litter is dramatically down and many more bottles are being recycled with hundreds of new jobs. Australia needs an assured path that will deliver an efficient and productive local industry to recycle plastic and contribute to an economically and environmentally sustainable future. 

    https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/dc87fd71-6bcb-4135-b916-71dd349fc0b8/files/australian-recycling-sector.pdf


    1 Gray, Alex. “Germany Recycles More than Any Other Country.” World Economic Forum, 2017, www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/germany-recycles-more-than-any-other-country/.

    2 Towie, Narelle. “One Year on: Where Is Australia's Recycling Going Now?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Jan. 2019, www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/29/one-year-on-where-is-australias-recycling-going-now.

    3 Access Economics 2009, Employment in waste management and recycling, July 2009

    Environment Victoria Annual Report 2009-2010.” Environment Victoria , 2010, environmentvictoria.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Environment-Victoria-Annual-Report-2009-2010.pdf

    5 Towie, Narelle. “One Year on: Where Is Australia's Recycling Going Now?” 2019

    Rush, Claire. “France Announces New Consumer Incentive to Reduce Plastic Waste.” RFI: The World and All It’s Voices, RFI, 12 Aug. 2018, en.rfi.fr/france/20180812-france-announces-new-consumer-incentive-reduce-plastic-waste.

     


  • FED ELECTION 2019: Our Key Issues for the Federal Election

    Image credit: John Cameron

     

    As in previous elections, the 2019 Federal election is an opportunity to get a new government, of whatever persuasion, to commit to acting to reducing waste and litter, particularly of plastics. And this year the time is especially urgent, given the international and domestic momentum to act on plastic pollution; and our recycling crisis.
     
    We are now facing two major challenges, Saving Recycling and Getting Rid of Single use Plastics. Our asks from political parties seek commitments that will put Australia on track to solve these issues, and assist our immediate neighbours and oceans to deal with an increasing tide of plastic pollution.
     
    Funding for Recycling Industry Development Fund. We have asked for $150m. This fund will help develop a domestic reprocessing industry to recycle products collected by households and business as an alternative to sending them overseas; to landfill; or incineration. Included in this are proposals for tax incentives for business and government procurement policy to ‘buy recycled.’
     
    Phase out date for single use takeaway plastics (coffee cups/lids, straws, cups and containers and cutlery). This follows the EU decision to phase out some key items in 2021 and increasing calls for similar action around the country. There are plenty of alternatives and will contribute to achieving the 2025 goals for all packaging to be composted or recycled.
     
    National bans on plastic bags and plastic microbeads and introduce CDS in every State. This meets Commonwealth promises internationally and puts pressure on remaining states (Victoria and Tasmania) to act. The current voluntary microbead ban has not gone far enough and has loopholes.
     
    The Product Stewardship Act should be strengthened by including eco-design requirements on packaging that minimise use and ensures packaging can be reused, composted or recycled. If we don’t make industry act, then local governments, waste industry and consumers and the environment will continue to suffer the cost of disposal and from litter.
     
    Adopt a Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy. This is an on-going program to examine and find solutions to other single use plastics. It involves engagement with industry and community sectors in retail, agriculture, industry and marine environments. 
     
    Support global action and assist our pacific neighbours to address plastic waste and litter. We want the Commonwealth to be pro-actively involved in global initiatives and, in particular, look to provide specific bi-lateral funding to Pacific and near neighbours to assist with plastic litter clean up and development of community-based recycling operations.

     


  • Our Key Issues for the Federal Election

    Image credit: John Cameron

     

    As in previous elections, the 2019 Federal election is an opportunity to get a new government, of whatever persuasion, to commit to acting to reducing waste and litter, particularly of plastics. And this year the time is especially urgent, given the international and domestic momentum to act on plastic pollution; and our recycling crisis.
     
    We are now facing two major challenges, Saving Recycling and Getting Rid of Single use Plastics. Our asks from political parties seek commitments that will put Australia on track to solve these issues, and assist our immediate neighbours and oceans to deal with an increasing tide of plastic pollution.
     
    Funding for Recycling Industry Development Fund. We have asked for $150m. This fund will help develop a domestic reprocessing industry to recycle products collected by households and business as an alternative to sending them overseas; to landfill; or incineration. Included in this are proposals for tax incentives for business and government procurement policy to ‘buy recycled.’
     
    Phase out date for single use takeaway plastics (coffee cups/lids, straws, cups and containers and cutlery). This follows the EU decision to phase out some key items in 2021 and increasing calls for similar action around the country. There are plenty of alternatives and will contribute to achieving the 2025 goals for all packaging to be composted or recycled.
     
    National bans on plastic bags and plastic microbeads and introduce CDS in every State. This meets Commonwealth promises internationally and puts pressure on remaining states (Victoria and Tasmania) to act. The current voluntary microbead ban has not gone far enough and has loopholes.
     
    The Product Stewardship Act should be strengthened by including eco-design requirements on packaging that minimise use and ensures packaging can be reused, composted or recycled. If we don’t make industry act, then local governments, waste industry and consumers and the environment will continue to suffer the cost of disposal and from litter.
     
    Adopt a Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy. This is an on-going program to examine and find solutions to other single use plastics. It involves engagement with industry and community sectors in retail, agriculture, industry and marine environments. 
     
    Support global action and assist our pacific neighbours to address plastic waste and litter. We want the Commonwealth to be pro-actively involved in global initiatives and, in particular, look to provide specific bi-lateral funding to Pacific and near neighbours to assist with plastic litter clean up and development of community-based recycling operations.

     


  • published We won! Queensland will ban plastic bags in Latest 2016-11-25 20:36:07 +1100

    We won! Queensland will ban plastic bags

    Qld_ban_the_bag.png

    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


  • Making a Splash with our Queensland Summer Campaign

    Boomerang Alliance and our partners have been out and about on the Gold & Sunshine Coasts and Bribie Island over the summer to promote Cash for Containers in Queensland. We have partnered with Wildlife Queensland, the Surfrider Foundation, Noosa Biosphere Association, Gecko (Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council) and the Sunshine Coast Environment Council - and many, many community activists, to make C4C a big issue to put pressure on state and local politicians from all parties to support the program.

    FullSizeRender.jpg

    Read more

  • Our campaign in Queensland is gaining more support

    The Queensland Government has now established two Advisory Committees to assist in the development of a cash for containers scheme and possible plastic packaging bans. I have been appointed on to both committees. We expect that the State Government will be asking the public what they think about these measures, within the next six months.

    Read more

Principal at Ecomatters Queensland
Join Donate