The ACT Greens have given the ACT Government a hurry-up on single-use plastics, calling on it to commit to banning a range of products by 2022, and to plan for an orderly transition to a future free of the environmentally damaging items.
ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said the ACT could become a world leader in the war on waste by acting now to begin phasing out these products that were contaminating the land environment and ending up in the oceans.
She said the government, which conducted a public consultation on single-use plastics from April to July this year but is yet to release a report on the findings, was due to renew the ACT’s waste management contracts by 2023.
But Ms Le Couteur says the Government should start the work now to be ahead of the curve in what she calls the necessary transition towards a single-use plastic-free future.
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“By starting early – now – the ACT Government could become a world leader in the ‘war on waste’ – well before this contract is negotiated, and well before the inevitable day comes when single-use plastic is no longer widely used,” she said.
Following its own submission to the government consultation, the Greens are calling on the government to take aim at single-use plastic takeaway containers, cups, crockery, cutlery, straws and stirrers from takeaway food outlets in the ACT.
They also want single-use polystyrene products in the ACT – including coffee cups, plates, bowls, takeaway food containers, packing ‘peanuts’ and food trays used in supermarkets – to be banned.
Disposable plastic water bottles in Government schools, hospitals, office buildings and other facilities should be replaced by reuseable containers as well.
“Single-use plastic may be convenient to use for a few minutes, but the time, effort and energy that goes into producing this ‘throwaway’ plastic just doesn’t stack up, while the volume of plastic making its way into our oceans and waterways continues to grow every year,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“There are plenty of plastic-free alternatives becoming readily available. Many Canberrans are choosing to move away from single-use plastic items and are choosing more sustainable options like reusable coffee cups, bringing their lunch from home, or simply purchasing products that don’t come in insidious packaging, such as polystyrene.”
But Ms Le Couteur said it would be important to evaluate the impacts on consumers for changes to individual items such as alternatives to plastic straws for people with disabilities.
“An orderly transition, made in consultation with the community, will ensure that no-one is disproportionately impacted by this important shift. Food halls may wish to invest in reuseable crockery and cutlery now to be ready for a ban,” she said.
Ms Le Couteur said the tide was turning on the use of single-use plastics with a Senate inquiry finding last year that there should be a national ban on single-use plastic products within five years, and other countries and jurisdictions moving to ban or phase them out.
The ACT banned single-use plastic shopping bags in 2011.