The distribution of single-use plastic cutlery and straws is set to be phased out in Australia by 2025 after a nationwide deal was struck among state environmental ministers.
Earlier this week, a meeting of the nation’s environment ministers was convened to work out which single-use plastics would be phased out of distribution in Australia by 2025.
It was the first time in more than three-years that the nation’s environment ministers had met.
Scott Morrison had previously announced plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2025, but the claim failed to mention which specific single-use plastic items would be included in the plan.
Now, though, we have a list of the items that the nation’s ministers are targeting, which focuses primarily “problematic and unnecessary” single-use plastic items like straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, polystyrene containers and packaging, microbeads in cosmetics, as well as misleadingly-branded “degradable” items.
Up until this point, no official definition of which single-use plastics would be phased out had been established, so the government’s policy was essentially sitting in limbo until the definition was established.
In addition to a nation-wide agreement to support the national koala monitoring program, the ministers said the definition of which single-use plastic items will be phased out by 2025 represents “the vital role cooperation will play in building a more climate-resilient Australia.”
A statement released following the meeting of ministers “noted the Commonwealth’s commitment to subsequent phases of reform,” adding that it is working to “provide a timeline for subsequent phases of reform.”
It’s estimated that Australia produces more than 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, and just 16% of that figure is recycled. Environmentalists say that more than 130,000 tonnes of plastic waste makes its way into waterways and other ecosystems each year.
A number of environmental campaigners have criticised the government’s inaction to act on a review, and guidelines provided to the government last year from Professor Graeme Samuel.
In that review, Professor Samuel called for a significant revamp of Australia’s regulatory environment to create better plastic recycling and limits on single-use plastics being sold in Australia.
The Samuel Review listed 38 recommendations for the federal government, including a revision of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, as well as national standards enforced by state governments.
Single-Use Plastic Cutlery Phased Out Of Australia by 2025
One of those voices criticising the government, Suzanne Milthrope of the Wilderness Society has told The Guardian that “there is a lot of ‘noting’ and ‘discussing’ but not a lot of acting, especially on behalf of the Commonwealth.”
“What is clear from the Samuel Review is that state and Commonwealth governments must work together to raise the standard of environmental protection in Australia,” Milthorpe said.
“There is a reality gap between the current discussions and what is required to ensure icons like the koala and Great Australian Bight have a future,” she added.
Basha Stasak of the Australian Conservation Foundation has told The Guardian that “the government’s proposed interim national standards are incredibly vague and weak and they really need to be disposed of.”
“Any consultation that’s going to take place with the states and territories needs to be starting from scratch and based off the draft interim stands in Prof Samuels’ report.”