The Australian Government is taking further steps to tackle the detrimental impact of plastics on our environment.
Last December, Commonwealth, state and territory Environment Ministers announced plans to achieve a voluntary phase out of microbeads by no later than July 2018.
“Today I am pleased to announce that the Federal Government is taking a stronger stance on this important environmental issue,” Minister Hunt said.
“We will continue to work with companies towards a voluntary phase out of microbeads. However, if by 1 July 2017 it is clear that the voluntary phase out will not achieve what is effectively a widespread ban on microbeads, the Federal Government will take action to implement a ban in law.”
“We are also committing $60,000 of priority funding under the National Environment Science Programme (NESP) to kick-start research into the major sources of marine plastic waste and determine the most cost-effective options to reduce its volume.”
“I am aware of concerns about biodegradable plastics being used as a substitute for regular microbeads. Some companies are instead using natural alternative products due to concerns that biodegradable plastic microbeads do not break down in water.”
“The NESP will undertake research into this and I look forward to hearing about their findings.”
“I will discuss the Federal Government’s announcement at the Ministerial Roundtable being held at Taronga Zoo in Sydney today.”
The Ministerial roundtable brings together State and Commonwealth governments, representatives from industry, retailers, environment groups and scientific experts. The roundtable will review the experiences of Australian jurisdictions who have implemented plastic shopping bag bans.
“Like microbeads, plastic shopping bags have a devastating impact on the environment,” Minister Hunt said.
“Australians consume billions of plastic shopping bags each year, which are often only used for a few minutes before being thrown away.”
Many are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, which break down into smaller pieces of plastic and can exist in the environment for hundreds of years.
Plastic bags and plastic fragments easily make their way across our land as litter, eventually entering our waterways and oceans with harmful effects on our wildlife and marine life.
It is estimated that around eight million tonnes of plastics enter the world’s oceans every year.
“I’m looking forward to discussing options at the Ministerial Roundtable on how best to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags,” Minister Hunt said.
“What’s most important to me is that we get the best possible outcome for the environment.”
“I would like to thank the New South Wales Government for the significant role they have played in examining options for how best to deal with the problem of plastic bags.”
New South Wales Environment Minister Mark Speakman welcomed the Federal Government’s stance on microbeads.
“The NSW Government is proud to have been the first state to have led the push for a national ban on microbeads,” Mr Speakman said.
“We’re so fortunate to enjoy rich aquatic ecosystems in Australia, and yet personal care products can cause significant damage to our marine life, and scientists are also worried that this may have implications further up the food chain.”
DoSomething founder Jon Dee has played a major role in campaigning for companies and retailers to phase out microbeads from their products and shelves. He has also led the National Plastic Bag campaign since 2002 and co-organised Australia’s first ban on single use plastic shopping bags in the Tasmanian town of Coles Bay.
He has also played a leading role in the phaseout of single use plastic bags in South Australia and Tasmania and will be speaking at today’s Ministerial Roundtable.
“For the sake of the marine life who mistake plastic bags and plastic microbeads for food, we must act decisively and nationally on these issues,” said Jon Dee.
“When it comes to plastic microbeads and plastic bags, we need an outcome where we achieve the best possible result for the environment.”
“Given that we also have billions of plastic microbeads ending up in our waterways, we welcome Minister Hunt’s announcement that if the voluntary phase out is not working by 1 July 2017, the Federal Government will take action to implement a ban in law. This is a very welcome move.”