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The ACT Government is holding community and business information sessions on its proposal to tackle single-use plastics in the ACT.

These sessions form part of the ACT government’s consultations on its Phasing out single-use plastics discussion paper. Although the discussion about banning some single-use plastics is welcome, the ACT Government needs to take decisive action on plastic waste, and lead the community discussion about different ways of doing things.

Plastic pollution is a significant problem in the ACT, nationally and globally, and it is high time we take responsibility to reduce our plastic footprint. Single-use plastics are all around us: in our homes, workplaces, waterways, city parks and even our nature reserves. Australia generated about 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2016-17 – this roughly equates to 103 kg of plastic waste per person annually! Of this, only 12 per cent was recycled, 87 per cent was sent to landfill and one per cent was sent to an energy-from-waste facility. (1)

In the ACT, plastic pollution poses threats to our precious wildlife including death or injury from nets and bottle rings; wildlife consuming plastic items after mistaking them for food; and disturbance of national ecosystem functions that can occur, for example, when light cannot penetrate water due to pollution. (2)

The ACT Government paper flags a range of products, and asks the community about the possibility of legislating to prevent their use. These are plastic cutlery, disposable plates and cups, disposable plastic line coffee cups and lids, polystyrene food containers and cups, and light weight fruit and vegetable bags.

All of these items speak to convenience, and with some changes, there is no doubt we can manage without them. Many people already say no to using these items. Polystyrene is especially problematic as it cannot be recycled. There are other places where our use of plastics for convenience seems to have gone too far, for example, newspapers delivered wrapped in soft plastic (in some cases when consumers aren’t even subscribed to the newspaper!), supermarket fruit and vegetable packing with pre-prepared cut veggies, and those little sushi soy sauce containers! Is it really too inconvenient for us to use soy from a bottle or chop our own veggies?

The ACT has demonstrated leadership and influenced the national debate on a range of environment and waste issues. On this issue they should continue to show leadership. We can no longer afford to continue using single-use plastics at the current rate, especially when we can take simple regulatory, community and personal steps to reduce our plastic footprint.

It is time to give up our love affair with single-use plastics.

Phasing out single-use plastics discussion paper is open for consultation until the end of July 2019. Complete the survey to have your say about single-use plastics in the ACT.

Community information session:
Tuesday 18 June 2019 06:00 PM – 08:00 PM
Hellenic Club Canberra, Matilda Street, Phillip

Business information session:
Tuesday 25 June 2019 07:00 AM – 09:00 AM
Rydges Capital Hill, Canberra Avenue, Forrest


(1) Andrew Macintosh, Amelia Simpson and Teresa Neeman (2018) Regulating Plastic Shopping Bags in the Australian Capital Territory: Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2010 Options Analysis, Australian National University, Canberra, p 44.