Marine conservation organisations welcome Australia’s commitment to ending plastic pollution

Australia is showing leadership on ocean plastic by joining an international coalition that is pushing for ambitious rules to reduce plastic use worldwide, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said today.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said Australia’s commitment to a new global coalition that aims to end plastic pollution by 2040 is a breakthrough.

The Albanese Government has pledged to ensure 100 per cent of all virgin plastics are recycled or reused by 2040.

The 33 members of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to End Plastic Pollution, co-chaired by Rwanda and Norway, commit to a common negotiating position ahead of plastics treaty negotiations later this month.

By joining the HAC, Australia commits to a vision to end plastic pollution by 2040, as well as the three strategic global goals and seven deliverables for success, including:

  1. Restrain plastic consumption and production to sustainable levels
  2. Enable a circular economy for plastics that protect the environment and human health
  3. Achieve environmentally sound management and recycling of plastic waste

AMCS ocean plastics expert Shane Cucow described the news as an important signal of Australia’s intent to be a leader in advance of the first round of negotiations in Uruguay on November 28.

“Today’s announcement from the Australian Government is a clear commitment to leadership, just weeks before negotiations begin on a historic global treaty to end plastic pollution,” Mr Cucow said.

“By joining this High Ambition Coalition, Australia has joined a leading group of nations that are advocating for binding global rules that would bring plastic use down to manageable levels and increase the use of recycled content while also ensuring all plastic products are genuinely reusable, recyclable or compostable in practice.

“Yet this must be more than words.

“Just 16 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging is actually getting recycled, and we’re on track to see plastic pollution in our oceans triple by 2040.

“We urge the Australian Government to lead by example with strong domestic action by regulating the use of plastic packaging, setting mandated requirements for minimum recycled content and setting strong plastic reduction targets here at home,” Mr Cucow added.

Australia is home to an incredible diversity of ocean wildlife found nowhere else in the world.

“Yet, with plastic pollution rising rapidly, we’re going to see more plastic than fish in our seas within 30 years,” Mr Cucow continued.

“We’re now regularly seeing turtles and their hatchlings routinely washing up on our beaches, sick and dying from plastic consumption. We’ve seen whales stranding on our beaches with more than 100 kilograms of plastic in their stomachs.

“We’ll never be able to clean the plastic out of our oceans without first turning off the tap, and that means drastically reducing plastic use globally.

“Australia’s state and territory governments have begun the critical task of phasing out many of the single-use plastics most commonly found in our oceans.

“We now need concerted action to reduce plastic packaging in all sectors,” Mr Cucow continued.

“In the last week, we have seen the disastrous consequences of allowing companies to continue using plastic for every wrap, pack and snack, with REDcycle buckling beneath a tidal wave of soft plastics.”

Kate Noble, WWF-Australia’s No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager, said today the Australian Government has clearly signalled that it understands the urgency of the plastic problem and intends to push for a treaty with teeth to end plastic pollution.

“We cannot allow the least ambitious countries to determine our future,” she said,

“About 11 million metric tonnes of plastic flow into the world’s oceans every year, and if we don’t take action, this figure is projected to nearly triple by 2040.

“We need an ambitious and comprehensive treaty to tackle this environmental disaster, and we’re pleased to see Australia stepping up to help shape that process.”

The treaty has the potential to create global rules and obligations for the full life cycle of plastic, setting standards for reducing plastic production, consumption and pollution. The full content of the treaty is expected to be agreed upon by UN members by the end of 2024.

Ms Noble said a recent global survey showed strong support for a treaty to end plastic pollution, with nearly nine in ten Australians saying a global agreement is important. 

“That’s a huge mandate for decisive action,” she said.

“We know Australians care deeply about protecting our precious environment and wildlife from plastic pollution and about reducing the skyrocketing amounts of plastic we consume.

“Action on this starts in our homes and communities, but because plastic trade and pollution travel across international borders, we can only solve this problem by putting in place effective responses at all levels of government.”

Ms Noble urged the Australian Government to match today’s global commitment with a clear and ambitious domestic reform agenda.

“Australia produces more single-use plastic waste per person than any other country except Singapore – we need to turn that around,” she said.

“If we’re going to regenerate Australia and build a more sustainable future, we need to shift to a circular economy where plastic is kept in use and out of nature.”

The Advocate

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