Marine plastic debris is now recognised globally as a significant threat to biodiversity and the ecological functions of our oceans. It is officially recognised as a 'threatening process' under our own EPBC laws here in Australia, but there are things we can do to reduce and eventually remove this impact.
The nearly 40-year-old South Australian cash for container scheme or 'container deposit program' has achieved up to an 84% recycling rate on all beverage containers consumed, the highest recycling rate in Australia. In 2016 Australian Greens welcome the news that NSW is following in the footsteps of the South Australia, as the Northern Territory did in 2012, by announcing plans for their own scheme. Queensland’s and Western Australia’s governments have also both indicated that they will introduce schemes during their term in government. We congratulate these governments and now look to the laggard states of Victoria and Tasmania to follow suit. The Greens are still supportive of the potential for a national scheme being introduced, run efficiently and at a much lower cost than existing state schemes.
A few big powerful companies in the beverage industry - especially Coca Cola and Lion - claim that such a national scheme would be too expensive and an inefficient way to clean up our nation's rubbish, and the environmental problems it causes. In the past they have strongly lobbied state governments to prevent new schemes, and were also behind an aggressive national advertising campaign claiming that a national reward scheme for rubbish would strongly impact Australians' cost of living.
The recent Greens-initiated Senate Inquiry into the threat of marine plastics has been a turning point in this debate. The resulting report, Toxic tide: the threat of marine plastic can be read here. The evidence presented on the horrendous environmental and health impacts of plastic bottles and other micro plastics, and the stellar success of the South Australian scheme was crystal clear. For the first time, a recommendation by the Senate for a national container deposit scheme achieved full cross-party support. Greens candidates and parliamentary representatives along with thousands of committed community campaigners have been fighting for a national cash-for-container scheme for a generation now.
Senator Peter Whish-Wilson will continue to work with stakeholders, departments and industry to raise the issues covered in the inquiry at every available opportunity, and he urges all Australians to make themselves familiar with the recommendations that came from it.
During the 45th Australian Parliament Senator Whish-Wilson will continue to seek ways to implement all the recommendations from the Senate Inquiry, and thanks you for your interest and support in continuing this work. Peter continues to work locally, engaging in roadside and coastal clean-ups to highlight the issue of not only beverage industry rubbish, but all marine pollution, and the damage it is causing in the environment. Examples from South Australia and around the world show how effective container deposit schemes can be in reducing this pollution and mitigating impacts, particularly to our marine ecosystems. As a wealthy developed nation Australia is lagging behind in providing a response to plastic pollution in general and the Australian Greens will continue to campaign on this issue to improve recycling in Australia.