Urgent call for state leadership to speed up war on waste

A statewide ban on single use lightweight plastic bags will be a win for Ballarat environmental activists who have spent the past three years campaigning for state wide regulation.

The Victorian government is expected to announce the details of the ban in coming weeks.

NO PLASTIC: Michelle Stephenson from Plastic Bag Free Daylesford. Picture: Dylan Burns

NO PLASTIC: Michelle Stephenson from Plastic Bag Free Daylesford. Picture: Dylan Burns

But members of advocacy group Plastic Bag Free Ballarat say state and federal legislation to reduce plastic must be implemented urgently. 

City of Ballarat councillor and sustainability advocate Belinda Coates said it was difficult to encourage action to reduce plastic waste driven solely by community pressure.

“Without legislation, it is difficult to do things on a local level,” she said. 

We are one of the last states now to ban plastic bags. It is pretty disappointing we are so slow off the mark.

Cr Belinda Coates

Plastic waste can persist in the environment for centuries. Most plastic items never disappear, they just get smaller and smaller. Many tiny plastics are swallowed by farm animals or fish, and have also been found in majority of the world’s tap water.

If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

A large number of countries have completely banned plastic bags including developing nations such as Cambodia, Rwanda and Ethiopia. France, Italy and the Netherlands have led the way on bans in Europe.

The details and time frame for a ban on single use plastic bags in Victoria are set to be released in coming weeks, along with a collation and analysis of more than 8000 public submission.

The announcement will also include plans for the next steps to tackle other types of plastic pollution. 

CONTAINER DEPOSIT SCHEME: Annett Finger from the Boomerang Alliance, Cr Belinda Coates and Nicole Elliott from No Waste Ballarat are calling for a container deposit scheme in Victoria. The Boomerang Alliance travelled through regional Victoria with a 3m-long giant Coke bottle to campaign in April.

CONTAINER DEPOSIT SCHEME: Annett Finger from the Boomerang Alliance, Cr Belinda Coates and Nicole Elliott from No Waste Ballarat are calling for a container deposit scheme in Victoria. The Boomerang Alliance travelled through regional Victoria with a 3m-long giant Coke bottle to campaign in April.

Cr Coates said she agreed a plastic bag ban should be the first priority in the ‘war on waste’.

She said a container deposit scheme should be a second priority. 

Victoria is one of two Australian states yet to commit to a container deposit scheme, where refunds are given for the return of beverage containers to depots for recycling. 

Plastic Bag Free Victoria made a submission to the Victorian Government outlining other options to reduce plastic packaging in Victoria.

The submission included a list of actions:  

  • ban plastic barrier bags for vegetables and replace with paper
  • ban polystyrene produce trays and replace with cardboard or re-useable PET trays
  • ban plastic film, invest in research and development to find an alternative to plastic film
  • mandate plastic packaging to be left at the store for re-use
  • get consumer groups on to Australian packaging covenant not just big business
  • facilitate community to advocate to industry for change
  • ban or levy plastic straws
  • ban stickers on fresh produce
  • tax single-use food containers

“We need to accelerate action in order to begin to address our growing plastic problem and turn it around,” Cr Coates said. 

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