According the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia, Australians use 130 kilograms of plastic per person every year. Only 9 per cent of that is recycled. The rest ends up either in landfill or in our parks, waterways, beaches and bushland. In my electorate, single‑use plastics including shopping bags, straws, drink bottles and containers too often end up in the Cooks River, putting local birds and wildlife at risk and holding back our communities' efforts to restore health to the river. Overwhelmingly, the plastics we use are disposable and probably the most systemic issue is single‑use plastic bags. New South Wales is dead last when it comes to banning lightweight, single‑use plastic bags. Despite the promises from the media‑savvy environment Minister, nothing appears to be happening. Over a year ago the Minister announced that the Government would develop a plastics plan and 20‑year waste strategy, with a promise that plastic bags would be phased out over a six‑month period. Very little appears to have happened since then.
Ocean Crusaders estimates that 100,000 marine creatures and one million seabirds die from plastic entanglement or ingestion every year. The slow disintegration of plastics means that it passes through the food chain, killing smaller and smaller animals along the chain. Two‑thirds of fish stocks across the globe suffer from plastic ingestion. We are not immune either. Plastics make their way onto our plates via the ocean and our water sources. A recent study by the University of Newcastle suggests that we eat up to a credit card's weight of plastic each and every year. It is distressing to know that every time we feed fish and chips to the kids we are potentially feeding them plastic. It is also distressing to talk to them about seabirds that lie dead on the beach, about turtles with straws lodged deep in their noses and about the fact that we are approaching a time when there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Our kids get that. I am really proud to see many initiatives across my electorate teaching kids how to reuse, recycle and reduce waste.
Local schools are running plastic‑free days and encouraging families to keep plastic out of lunch boxes. Marrickville‑based Reverse Garbage does an extraordinary job of teaching kids in preschools, schools and Out of School Hours centres about plastics and what they can do to help reduce their use. Creative reuse experts visit kids in educational settings, encouraging them to create art projects from industrial and commercial discards. The process is fun and engaging and encourages kids to think about waste in a different way. Volunteers with Boomerang Bags make reusable bags from fabric offcuts. Across our suburbs fewer consumers are accepting plastic bags when they do their shopping. Local businesses are also thinking differently; businesses like Village Wholefoods and Bulk Foods in Marrickville are ditching the provision of bags and containers altogether, and customers are encouraged to bring their own. The community gets it and they are changing their behaviours.
However, leadership is missing from the State Government. In March this year Minister Kean announced those aforementioned strategies to much fanfare. Those plans acknowledged that 60 per cent of all litter produced in New South Wales was made from plastic and that the Government wants to reduce that by 25 per cent by 2025. The plan also signalled a six‑month phase‑out of single‑use plastic bags, giving businesses the opportunity to transition to other packing methods. However, almost a full year later all the website says is that the New South Wales Government is reviewing the feedback it has received. But that is too slow. We need to get on with the job. The community wants to see action. We need real leadership.
In March last year the Australian Council of Recycling warned that urgent action was needed to stem the increase in plastics entering our environment due to COVID. During the lockdown businesses had to offer takeaway, which increased the use of non-recyclable plastics. There is action on the Federal front; the nation's environment Ministers met last month to phase out a range of single‑use plastics nationally. It is embarrassing that all our environment Minister could do was to commit to turning up to the meeting. Queensland banned single‑use plastic bags in 2018, Victoria followed suit in 2019, South Australia banned all single‑use plastics this year and Queensland will do the same in September. Now we have a situation where the community, business, the Federal Government and our State and Territory governments are taking action and they are leaving New South Wales behind. That is embarrassing. We do not need any more discussion papers or empty promises. We need the State Government and the environment Minister to show real leadership. Ban the bag and phase out single‑use plastics.