Jo Clay - Speech on the Plastics Reduction Bill 2020


The Greens are pleased to support this Bill.

When China brought in its ban on receiving waste from other countries in early 2018, it was a wake-up call to Australia and many other countries that sending our waste off-shore was not a good long-term solution. Humanity can no longer afford the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude to waste. China’s 2018 National Sword Policy is a blessing in disguise for the ACT and Australia. It will drive recycling and make us take responsibility for our own waste.

The Bill is an important step towards achieving a circular economy. This is vital if we want to protect our planet for current and future generations. But we still have a long way to go. For a decade, ACT resource recovery has plateaued.

I’m pleased that this Bill takes necessary steps to tackle the issue of waste at its source – the initial creation of products that are used for a few minutes or a few seconds, and then discarded.

In doing this, the Bill follows the waste hierarchy of “reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover”, with disposal as a last resort. The “reduce” phase of this hierarchy has been something many governments have been reluctant to address. With plastic pollution persisting in the environment for hundreds or thousands of years, this needs to change. We are starting that change.

South Australia’s similar ban on single use plastic products took effect recently. The ACT now joins a national and global movement with many countries of the European Union.

And with additional mechanisms like the Australian National Packaging Targets, and the sustainable packaging initiatives being developed, the ACT is part of a general plastics reduction and recycling movement. We will keep working constructively at all levels, learning from and contributing to best practice around the world.

It is encouraging to note that the Bill establishes a framework that allows more products to be added to its provisions in the future. Streamlining plastic regulation by absorbing the existing plastic shopping bag ban is also a sensible approach.

Research has shown that if waste reduction and sorting systems are seen by business and the public as too complicated or inconvenient, they end up sapping consumer confidence in those systems. Levels of compliance gradually fall away and people try to circumvent the regulations. We need to ensure the systems we set up are well-designed, accessible to all, easy to use and show results that ordinary people can see.

As the Greens spokesperson on waste and the circular economy, I look forward to working with the community, businesses and industry to see innovative solutions to replace plastics and to set up good recycling chains for all substitutes.

While this Bill focuses on plastic, I also want to celebrate Government’s planned introduction of food and organic recycling. This will recover household food scraps and organic waste and I’m delighted to see a planned roll-out for 2023. Many of the items we substitute for plastic will be biodegradable, like cornstarch bags. We need to make sure these items can be recovered in our food and organics recycling system when it’s up and running.

Any new recycling initiative is a good thing. I was pleased to read CSIRO’s recent circular economy roadmap that made this point. I come from the recycling sector and we’ve long understood that it’s a real boon to the economy. Australian recycling creates 9 jobs per 10,000 tonnes of waste, which is three times as many jobs as we make in landfill.[1] As our circular economy gains ground, we’ll create more green jobs while saving our precious natural resources.[2]

The Greens support the Plastic Waste Reduction Bill 2020.

[1] Access Economics (2009). Employment in waste management and recycling. Australian Government. Canberra, Australia.