Clean Up Australia Day highlights Berejiklian’s failure on plastic bag pollution

In Parliament | 05.03.17

NSW Labor has warned on Clean Up Australia Day that plastic pollution will remain rife across NSW if the Berejiklian Government continues to drag its heels on a ban on single-use plastic bags.

The organiser of Sunday’s event, Clean Up Australia, stated in its 2015 report on plastic bags: 

It is the view of Clean Up Australia that a ban is the best mechanism to provide retailers with the economic certainty they require to phase out plastic bags and move to more sustainable alternative bags.” 

Yet the Berejiklian Government has repeatedly shirked responsibility for the matter by referring it to the National Environment Minister’s meeting, with delay after delay stopping action in New South Wales. 

Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe is delivering the warning as thousands of Australians volunteer their time to clean up rubbish in their neighbourhoods today. 

Opposition analysis of the recent National Litter Index report shows that plastic bags, beverage containers and other plastics showed the least improvement of all types of litter reduction in New South Wales, highlighting the need for serious change to consumer habits. 

Every year, tonnes of plastics are littered at beaches, bushland and waterways across the state. In New South Wales, up to 61 million bags are littered annually, while the national number of littered plastic bags is estimated to be 180 million. 

Bans in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT have seen a rapid reduction in plastic bag use with great consumer support. In South Australia, it is estimated that 400 million fewer plastic bags are used each year since the ban, while there was a 36 per cent reduction in bags going to landfill in the ACT. 

Labor has introduced a bill into the NSW Parliament that bans single-use plastic bags and is calling on the Berejiklian Government to back it. This Bill could be made into law this year if the Berejiklian Government sets politics aside and supports the proposal. 

There is also a petition for the community to sign to show their support for the ban: 

Quotes attributable to Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe MLC 

“It is past time for the NSW Government to take action to ban single use plastic bags and reduce their devastating effects on the environment. 

“Millions of bags are polluting our waterways, our bushland, our parks and our beaches. There is a solution that can be achieved with minimal cost through a simple law that has community support. 

“It is not good enough to tell the community to wait any longer – if Premier Berejiklian has the slightest regard for our wildlife and a healthy natural environment, she will act strongly and act now.”

Key Facts on plastic bags

  • The total lightweight plastic bag use in Australia is estimated at over 5 billion a year.
  • More than 70% of the rubbish entering our waterways and oceans is plastic.
  • The production of single-use plastic bags requires 1.75 kilograms of oil to produce 1 kg of high density polyethylene, of which single-use plastic bags are made. Single-use plastic bags require over three times the amount of greenhouse gas and almost five times as much energy to produce when compared to longer lasting green bags.
  • Plastic bags take decades to begin to degrade, polluting rivers and oceans, with more than 70 percent of rubbish entering our oceans identified as plastic.
  • The CSIRO estimates that there are 124 billion individual pieces of visible plastic littering the Australian coastline, and by 2050 95 per cent of all sea birds will have plastic in their gut.
  • If not properly disposed of, plastic kills up to 1 million sea birds, countless fish and 100,000 sea mammals each year. Once those animals decay, the plastic is released and spreads back into the environment causing further harm.
  • A July 2015 Omnipoll revealed 63% of Australian and 64% of NSW residents (and also grocery buyers) support a ban on single use plastic bags from supermarkets and stores in NSW.