In light of the National Plastics Plan (NPP) being released in March, Clean Up Australia believes that not only is a national approach key to reducing waste – the way we look at waste needs to change.
Clean Up Australia Chairman, Pip Kiernan said the ban, which aims to increase plastic recycling and find alternatives to the problematic plastics and reduce their impact on our environment, is paving the way for a plastic free future. However, it is still only a start, especially when many states have a lot of catching up to do.
“It is essential that the goals under the NPP are met and we continue to create that circular approach to our waste, across all streams, not just plastic but packaging and products,” Ms Kiernan said.
Whilst Australia has made vast headway in terms of adopting more sustainable disposal methods, it still remains the second most wasteful country in the world, where each individual produces an average of ten kilograms of waste a week.
Commending the initiative of Coles Supermarkets in banning plastic tableware, Ms Kiernan said: “That move alone will divert 1.5 million tonnes of single-use plastic each year, so it is impactful.”
Similarly, McDonald’s Australia opted to phase out its single-use plastic straws and cutlery, subsequently saving 512 million plastic straws a year from being produced.
Product Stewardship, whereby a product is designed with its end of life in mind, is also a method which is making strides in terms of how we think about waste. An example of which was presented by Nestle for the first ever chocolate bar wrapping made from recycled soft plastics.
“I think we are quite disgusted by how wasteful we are as a nation,” Ms Kiernan said.
She is confident that with a collective approach – which includes businesses, the government and the community, meaningful change will continue to transpire.
“The way we look at it, it is a process and its part of that waste hierarchy – we want to see the problematic and single-use plastics phased out and ultimately we want to see an approach where there is no such thing as waste. Everything is designed to be reused or recyclable”Pip Kiernan
There is a necessity to educate consumers on recycling as there remains great confusion over what can be recycled and how.
With a greater rollout of The Australian Recycling Label, a voluntary product scheme, as well as aims in place around packaging, Ms Kiernan believes items being reusable, recyclable or compostable will become mainstream.
As alarming as the subject matter of waste is, Ms Kiernan refers to the fundamentals that her father founded the foundation on and that is not to put our heads in our hands, and instead be willing to address the matter with practical action because we are all capable of being agents of change.
“We shouldn’t be pulling new resources out of the earth to make more plastic, there’s so much circulating already,” Ms Kiernan said.
The onus is on all of us to see waste as a resource rather than something to use once and dispose of. Ms Kiernan said that in doing so, we will enable a more attainable path to sustainability.
You can donate and find out more about Clean Up Australia at https://www.cleanup.org.au/.