NSW plastics ban a circuit breaker for whales and seabirds

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement that they will ban single-use plastics, heralding it as good news for the seabirds, turtles and whales that are being killed by ocean plastic.

Under the plan, lightweight plastic shopping bags will be banned within 6 months of laws passing. Currently, NSW is the only state without a ban on plastic bags, considered one of the most lethal plastics for ocean wildlife.

After 12 months, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, expanded polystyrene food service items, plastic cotton bud sticks, and microbeads in cosmetics will also be banned in NSW.

With laws expected to pass this year, the full ban would be in effect by the end of 2022.

While the ban does not match Queensland in banning disposable plastic plates and bowls, the state government has flagged these for later consideration alongside heavyweight bags, fruit & vegetable barrier bags, plastic cups, PVC fruit stickers, and oxo-degradable plastics.

Alongside the ban, the NSW government announced $10 million to help manufacturers and retailers move to more sustainable alternatives, $5 million towards pilot projects reducing hard to address plastics like medical waste, and $2 million for research.

AMCS plastics campaign manager Shane Cucow welcomed the commitments as a circuit breaker in national efforts to save wildlife from plastic pollution.

“As the state with the largest plastic footprint, today’s commitments would deliver a massive reduction in the flow of dangerous plastics into Australia’s oceans, ” he said.

“We congratulate the NSW Government for listening to ocean lovers across the state who have been demanding action to save threatened seabirds, whales and turtles.

“With safe, earth friendly alternatives available, it is time to put our wildlife first.

“Soft plastic bags and plastic straws are some of the most notorious killers of wildlife, causing life threatening blockages or internal injuries when eaten.

“By including cotton buds and microbeads, the NSW government has raised the bar for other states and territories in Australia.

“Together with vital funding for manufacturers and businesses to transition away from plastic, and critical funding for research into the threat of microplastics, this is one of the most comprehensive plans to fight plastic in Australia.”

Mr Cucow said eyes were now on Tasmania and the Northern Territory, the only states and territories without a plan to ban problem single-use plastics.

“Every day we wait, we lose more animals to the scourge of plastic pollution,” added Mr Cucow.

“With every other state moving to ban notorious plastics like straws, cutlery and polystyrene, it’s time for Tasmania and the Northern Territory to act.”

Assets

A table comparing Australian state and territory commitments on single-use plastics is available here.

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