Hobart’s single-use plastic ban spells bigger opportunity, says WMRR

"The ultimate goal is avoiding the creation of these materials in the first place."

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has welcomed Hobart City Council’s proposal to phase out single-use plastics by 2020, however, the association believes the transition stands a better chance of success if it were rolled out state-wide and ideally nationally, querying how it can be enforced otherwise.

Earlier this month Hobart City Council voted in favour of a by-law designed to restrict the use of single-use plastic takeaway packaging. The by-law encompasses the packaging in which takeaway food is supplied to consumers at the point of sale.

It includes items such as plastic cutlery; sauce sachets; plastic takeaway hot food containers and lids; plastic straws; plastic lined noodle boxes; plastic lined coffee cups; plastic lids on takeaway cups and plastic sandwich wedges.

The change will only affect packaging that is provided at the point of sale, such as when food is prepared onsite then packaged for takeaway. Pre-packaged food (food that is already packaged like chocolate bars and soft drinks) will not be affected. Pre-packaged fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, will also not be affected.

Under the changes, businesses within the Hobart area will need to start phasing out single-use plastics, moving towards re-useable or compostable packaging, such as paper, cardboard and bioplastics which present lower risks to human health and the environment.

WMRR said it supports eliminating single-use items including plastics as far as possible, favouring instead an emphasis on products designed for reuse and where practicable and conceivable, avoiding single use items and demand for them, including packaging.

“The ultimate goal is avoiding the creation of these materials in the first place, given what we are doing is effectively designing waste,” WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan said.

“Hobart City Council has certainly proven that it is willing to take the lead by voting for a ban and could set the bar for other councils to follow. However, we must not undermine the value of working on such initiatives on a state-wide and nation-wide level.”

Sloan said adoption of a single-use plastics ban by the state government would lead to much-needed consistency in messaging and education, which are key in changing consumption behaviours. It would also ensure a level playing field for businesses across the State instead of putting only Hobart businesses at a disadvantage as there will be a short-term economic impact.

“We would support Hobart City Council to continue to take the lead by lobbying the state government to implement the ban instead of going it alone and while doing so, to continue to place emphasis on avoidance and reuse.

“However, with the passing of the single-use plastics by-law, it is critical that council consults and works with all stakeholders throughout the process and rolls out incentives and grants to assist businesses during the transition.”

The by-law has been submitted to the Director of Local Government (state government) for consideration. If satisfactory the director will certify that the Council may commence with public consultation before formally making the by-law. Council will publish a public notice and seek comment for a period of at least 21 days.

The announcement follows Qantas Group’s plans to become world’s first airline to reuse, recycle and compost three-quarters of its general waste by the end of 2021, and the ACT government’s proposal to ban single-use plastics.

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