It’s clear we have a worldwide dependence on plastics. It continues to cause severe damage to almost everything it touches and its one that we desperately need to kick. Only 9 per cent of plastic is recycled world-wide. The rest either makes its way into landfill or into our environment.
Regardless of where it ends up, plastic causes serious and incomprehensible damage to our environment, our wildlife and ourselves.
Since large-scale production of plastics began in the 1950s, humans have collectively produced around 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics. If we continue to follow these past trends, we can expect to produce that same amount again between 2017 and 2028. That’s 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics in just 11 years.
While the statistics alone are stifling, it’s the effect that these plastics have on our wildlife and environment that’s most distressing. In 2011 alone, 8 million tonnes of plastic went into the ocean. Once in the ocean, plastics often end up being consumed by sea life. It’s not difficult to recall the many heartbreaking images we have all seen of sea life getting caught up in plastic bags and other plastic waste. This excessive plastic waste causes similar harm everywhere in our environment. Whether it’s littered along our streets, parks, waterways or even in our food, our worldwide plastic dependence is deadly.
Despite the well-documented effects of our excessive plastic use, we continue to use it in so many aspects of our daily lives. While reusing and recycling is a great start, the best way to minimise harm caused by plastics is to avoid them all together.
Recently, a growing number of events in Australia and abroad have started implementing strategies to reduce and avoid plastic waste.
This trend has taken over a growing number of festivals including the Yours & Owls festival in Wollongong which pledged to make this year’s festival plastic-free, and Splendour in the Grass announcing plans to phase out plastic water bottles and straws. Internationally, the Association of Independent Festivals which represents more than 60 independent British festivals, pledged to go plastic free by 2021.
The ACT is host to many well attended events, and I believe that the ACT Government has the opportunity to make a real difference in the amount of plastic waste that’s being produced by our community.
This week I’ll be moving a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly calling on the ACT Government to deliver the first ACT Government run plastic-free event before the end of this parliamentary term.
With large-scale events like the Multicultural Festival and Floriade, attendees often don’t realise the vast amounts of plastics that are used. Most often this comes in the form of disposable cups, water bottles and straws. These are all things that have been eliminated in other events by hosts encouraging attendees to bring their own water bottles, working with vendors to ban straws and finding alternatives to plastic products.
In following on from these admirable examples, I believe the ACT Government has the opportunity to lead the way with plastic reduction. Plastic-free events are a first step in fighting back against our own plastic dependence.
I’m proud to be taking this step along with my Government colleagues and I look forward to attending the ACT Government’s first plastic-free event.
Suzanne Orr is a Member for Yerrabi in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
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