The NSW government has announced a comprehensive plastics plan and waste strategy.
Under the strategy, plastics like single-use lightweight bags, cotton-buds, straws and stirrers will be phased out, and green bins for food and organic waste will be rolled out across the state.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says more than $356 million will be invested over five years to implement the nation leading plans to protect the environment and promote recycling.
“We want NSW to be a leader when it comes to reducing waste, maximising recycling and protecting our environment, but we want to do it in a way that drives job creation and innovation,” she says.
“The community has high expectations, and we need to make sure we put in place the best plans for the future while also giving businesses and councils enough time to adjust to the phase-outs and find sustainable alternatives.”
Environment Minister Matt Kean says we must reduce the plastics ending up in the environment because we are on track to see more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
“The single-use items we are phasing-out will stop an estimated 2.7 billion items of plastic litter from ending up in our environment and waterways over the next 20 years,” he says.
“We can’t keep sending our scraps to languish in landfill when there are huge opportunities to turn our trash into treasure.
“Under our plans, every household will have access to a separate bin for their food and organic waste for the first time in NSW.
“This will not only deliver on our commitment to achieve zero emissions from organics in landfill by 2030 but will also grow our economy by extracting more resources like biogas from our waste.
“In addition, we will lead by example and help stimulate new markets for sustainable products by adopting an ‘if not, why not’ approach to the use of recycled materials in government procurement.”
Support and education
To maximise the success of the new strategy, the NSW government will provide support and education.
Small businesses, according to the government, will be supported to transition to new products before the phaseouts come into effect.
State-wide, an education campaign will be rolled out to provide households with clear information on how to get onboard with the new waste programs, and to learn how to properly dispose of food and organic waste.
The government will also continue to work closely with councils, with $206 million in funding available to support local government to deliver these plans, including $65 million to support the rollout of green bins.
Exemptions will be available for members of the community who rely on particular single-use plastics for disability or health needs.
Welcomed by industry
The NSW government’s strategy has been welcomed by the grocery and retail industries.
Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden says the food and grocery sector supports the plastic action plan, which strikes a balance for all sectors to collaborate and develop a much-needed plastics circular economy.
“The AFGC is leading the development of the National Plastic Recycling Scheme with the aim of dramatically increasing the collection and recycling of soft plastic packaging such as bread bags, toilet paper wrap and confectionery wrappers,” she says.
“The NSW plastic action plan’s support for R&D and trials to find innovative recycling solutions and increase the recycled content in food and medicinal safe packaging is much needed and welcomed by industry.
“Providing a clear policy framework supported by innovation funding support will drive industry confidence and actions towards creating a circular economy where packaging materials are not only collected locally but recycled locally to produce high quality material able to be remanufactured into food grade packaging.”
Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra says – reflective of changing consumer sentiment – plastics and waste are important issues for retailers in NSW and across the country.
“The announcement is also important because it moves us closer to national harmonisation on the phase-out of single-use plastics and positions NSW, the largest market for our members, as a leader in waste management and recycling,” he says.
“We believe that this will also support the efforts of other jurisdictions to move forward with their own phase-outs of single use plastics.
“And whilst we recognise the significant environmental impact caused by single-use plastics, we need to ensure that these important changes are implemented in a way that minimises operational impacts for our members, with cost-effective sustainable packaging alternatives available to support the phase-out.
“The ARA is committed to being a supportive and constructive government partner as we transition to the circular economy of the future. We have recently announced our own partnership with Good360 to start addressing pre-consumer waste, we are actively participating in federal government discussions on clothing textile waste, and we look forward to working with the NSW government to make sure these changes achieve their desired objectives.”