Single-Use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill

Extracted from Hansard - House of Assembly 2 June 2020

I rise today to speak in support of the Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill 2020. I commend the Minister for the Environment and Water for bringing forward this bill, which is incredibly popular in the Adelaide electorate. We have a lot of people who are very environmentally minded and see this as a very positive step forward. We have had very good engagement in my electorate sending out a survey, and we had a very high participation rate of filling in that survey and sending it back to our office. 

Plastic production around the globe has increased from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014. I read that this is almost the same weight as the entire human population and will continue to grow at alarming rates. Plastic production is expected to double over the next 20 years. Most plastics are produced from fossil fuels, which use about 6 per cent of global oil consumption. Plastic rubbish ends up in our stormwater drains and out at sea, and at least 8 million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans each year. If we continue using our plastics in this way, by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean. 

Many of my constituents are very concerned about the effects that humans are having on the environment and are very keen to do their part to reduce waste. The Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Bill puts into practice what so many of us already support—a banning of the sale, supply or distribution of single-use plastic straws, cutlery and drink stirrers. In 12 months, this will be extended to the distribution of polystyrene cups, bowls, plates, clamshell containers and oxo-degradable plastic products. 

The Marshall Liberal government released the discussion paper 'Turning the tide on single-use plastics: approach and next steps' on 8 July 2019. The plan outlined how South Australia would ban certain products, including plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers and then takeaway polystyrene containers and cups. 

Following wide community and stakeholder support, this legislation now puts in practice the plan to ban a range of other plastic products over a period of time. Businesses have responded to their customers' calls for the ban and have embraced the banning of single-use plastics wherever possible; in fact, many have turned to the use of cardboard, paper and bamboo products instead of plastic. 

In my electorate, many of the coffee shops were already giving discounts encouraging the use of keep cups prior to COVID, and others, such as Cibo, had recycling bins, with others using compostable cups. Certainly, the Prospect council at a lot of its community events has been very proactive in supporting and encouraging that all the products that serve food and coffee and everything have to be compostable, so they are really leading the way. The Adelaide city council is also doing a fantastic job, so I am very lucky to have very proactive councils in my electorate. 

Although the COVID-19 health crisis has slowed down the implementation of single-use plastics from a six-month transition period to a later proposed date, I am confident that the community will overcome the recent challenges and continue transitioning away from plastics as a positive environmental measure. South Australia is leading the nation in waste management and recycling, initially with our container deposit legislation, which was introduced in 1977, and then in 1995, with the introduction of the 10¢ refund on cans. This policy, which is as successful today as it was when it was introduced in 1995, ensures that statewide recycling can capture over 90 per cent of items for recycling compared with other states, which recycle only 30 per cent. 

We have also led the way with 87 per cent of material recovered through diversion being recycled in our state. There are considerable economic and environmental opportunities to develop methods to re-use, recirculate and reproduce plastics to prevent these items becoming garbage and entering landfill. This is sensible legislation that will be embraced and welcomed by the community. It includes commonsense provisions such as allowing those with a disability or medical needs to be able to use single-use plastic straws. There are some other items, such as fruit boxes and yoghurts with spoons in their packaging, that will also still be allowed. There is significant community and industry support and my own electorate, as I have mentioned, is very supportive of these government measures. 

As I mentioned earlier, we had an electorate survey that was sent out in November 2019 during National Recycling Week. It was printed on 100 per cent recycled botany brown paper using soy-based ink, so we are trying to do our bit as well. This electorate-wide survey received one of the highest responses of any of my surveys over the last 10 years. There was 91 per cent agreement on the banning of single-use plastics; 88 per cent agreement on the immediate banning of plastic-lined coffee cups; 90 per cent agreement on plastic plates and cutlery being banned; 95 per cent agreement on plastic stirrers; 87 per cent agreement on thick plastic bags; 94 per cent agreement on the banning of plastic straws; and 90 per cent would like to see the phase-out over 12 months, expanded to include the polystyrene cups and food containers and non-compostable bags. 

There are many new inventions and new ways to replace plastics. I believe the Prospect and Walkerville councils have held workshops on making your own beeswax wraps. Instead of using glad wrap you can use beeswax covers that you can put over your jars, and I have a set of them. Of course, everyone is getting into re-using glass jars and sealed containers, and, if you grew up in the seventies, you probably have Tupperware containers in your cupboards that you could still use. But we need to do our part. There have been lots of workshops in all of my council areas on recycling, correct recycling, re-using what we can and also trying to buy less. 

There is the nude food movement, of course. I would love to see somebody open a supermarket with no wrapping in my electorate. I think it would go very well, if anyone is out there listening. I note that one of the former speakers mentioned Clean Up Australia Day. For Clean Up Australia Day this year, I cleaned up a section in the Adelaide Parklands and would you believe that the things I picked up the most were those covers that are put around shrubs in order to protect them. Those shrubs were now giant trees, definitely not in need of protection, but they were still stuck at the bottom, some of them in varying degraded ways that spread that green plastic all over the Parklands. We might need to really think about a better tree cover that breaks down without leaving mess everywhere, as occurs with the plastic-coated tree protectors. I welcome this initiative and I commend the bill to the house.