Imagine a world where consumers treasured plastic as a valuable resource and not mindlessly toss it in the trash. Imagine if big brands thoughtfully designed packaging and products that were truly circular. The good news is there is a glimmer of hope with Australia tip-toeing in the right direction.
Plastic is a revolutionary material that makes our lives convenient. Which is why we need to reframe the consumers mindset that plastic is treasure not trash. Right now plastic litter is one of the most insidious forms of pollution with around 80% of marine litter pulled from the ocean being plastic. It's estimated that by 2050, there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish in weight.
Now is the time to change the way we create and utilise plastics and stop using the plastics we can’t manage effectively. Plus, we need to seek ways to reuse the plastics we've already created, used and discarded.
Time is up for problematic single use plastics in NSW
Recently, the NSW parliament passed the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Bill 2021. From June 2022, businesses will no longer be able to use single use plastics in their day-to-day operations.
The first to go in June 2022, will be light weight plastic bags. Followed by single use straws, cutlery, plates and bowls being phased out in November 2022. There will be exceptions for single use plastic straws for people living with disabilities. Plastic micro-beads found in cosmetic and personal care products will also be phased out.
Ryde Council (NSW) are helping their locals with producing a great resource for small business. This will help businesses conduct an audits to identify what single use products are used in daily operations and how they can be swapped or eliminated. This is wonderful progress and it’s a direction that many businesses have already taken.
The National Plastic Summit
In 2020, the Australian Government launched its first National Plastic Summit in Canberra hosted by Minister Sussan Ley. This was a one-day forum which gathered over 200 senior individuals from government, industry and community sectors. The Summit highlighted and identified new solutions to the plastic waste challenge. It also explored new opportunities to directly address targets under the National Waste Policy Action Plan.
Two years later the much anticipated announcement of the second summit has been scheduled for February 14, 2022. The Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, hopes “The summit will focus on designing reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic products in every-day applications and I am challenging companies to come forward armed with ideas and clear commitments.”
Along with the news of the summits confirmed date, Cadbury Australia promoted their latest developments. Spruiking their commitment to purchase enough recycled plastic packaging to wrap 50 million family blocks of chocolate. President of Mondilez International (Aust, NZ, Japan), the owners of Cadbury Australia, Darren O’Brien said “We know that demand for circular packaging will continue to grow and we’d love to see recycling technology built in Australia,” Mr O’Brien said.
Collecting valuable soft plastics
Currently in Australia the recycling of soft plastics has mostly been done by consumers who are motivated, diligent and have made a conscious effort to recycle. An average Australian may be unaware of the option to recycle soft plastics at their local Woolworths or Coles supermarket.
Experience in Australia and around the world shows that people are more likely to recycle when it is easy to access. The good news is that there are some exciting developments with kerbside pick up of soft plastics being rolled out in parts of NSW by Curby. Participating in this program does require a little bit of planning and tech know-how but the convenience of dropping household soft plastics into the yellow bin for collection is a breeze.
Creating easy choices for consumers
Now is the time for big brands and supermarket chains to invest profit into much needed research and development for single use plastic alternatives and recycling collection methods. Consumers need to be able to go to the supermarket and not have to think twice about the packaging that they will bring home and ultimately toss into the environment.
With the up coming National Plastic Summit there is hope that Australia will see bold ideas and innovations to help shift the current state of plastic waste. This is now the time for leading brands to rethink the way this space operates and be the leaders in preventing further environmental damage. Taking ownership of their products at every stage from manufacturing through to end use and disposal.
National Plastic Summits starts February 14th 2022, Tackle Lab will be watching this space.