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The Conservation Council has welcomed the opportunity to make a submission on the ACT Government’s phasing out single-use plastic Discussion Paper. However, the ACT Government needs to be far more ambitious on the issue as Canberra has a real opportunity to lead on a plastic-free future.

As a society we must address problematic and unnecessary use of plastic. Many plastics are contributing to plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways, and our landscapes. Plastic pollution poses great threats to our wildlife, especially through residual micro-plastic particles, which are readily absorbed by plants and animals and disseminated through the food chain. Plastic pollution in the ACT has detrimental downstream impacts on other ecosystems, such as those in the ocean and national parks, and ultimately contributes to the global plastic pollution problem. In the ACT, the consumption of plastic is also a factor in increasing our ecological footprint, including greenhouse emissions. Furthermore, the manufacture of plastic through the burning of fossil fuels and use of rapidly diminishing resources contributes to the climate crisis and overuse of our natural resources at a rate that is unsustainable for a safe and liveable future.

We welcome the Discussion Paper’s emphasis on the extent of the plastic pollution problem globally and locally: the ubiquitous nature of the problem needs to be highlighted. We also welcome the acknowledgment that ‘the current life-cycle of plastic means that no matter how good we are at recycling, the only way to reduce the impact of single-use plastic is to avoid using it in the first place.’1 It is necessary to address the source of the problem over the long term by changing the way we produce and consume plastics. The shift towards a circular economy in which plastics never become waste, while creating economic opportunities, could be an effective strategy for tackling the problem of plastic pollution if implemented effectively.

The Conservation Council ACT Region believes that the Discussion Paper on single-use plastics is a helpful starting point, but the ACT could be more ambitious in its scope in the short-term as well as setting in train a plan to make further changes over the medium term. It is important that a push to reduce plastic pollution is not seen as completed once the lowhanging fruit of single-use plastics is dealt with. There are further changes that can be made via procurement policies and sector reform that would significantly reduce the cost that over-use of plastics is having in our community. The ACT has the opportunity to be a national and international leader in tackling plastic pollution by laying out an ambitious agenda over the longer-term that tackles the systematic and cultural issues of cutting our use of plastic.

You can read our full submission here.