In a bid to tackle pollution and environmental damage, Queensland has become the second state after South Australia to pass bans on single-use plastics.
From September 1 this year, the supply and sale of disposable plastic cutlery, plates, straws and expanded polystyrene takeaway food containers and cups will be banned in the state, making it illegal for businesses such as restaurants, cafes, takeaway food shops and supermarkets from providing disposable items. Plastic items that are 100% compostable and meet Australian Standards are exempt from the ban as well as certain businesses such as pharmacies, dental clinics and facilities that provide disability care, aged care and healthcare.
This decision comes on the back of overwhelming response indicating widespread community support for the government to take action on single-use plastics.
“In March 2020, we asked Queenslanders to decide the future of single-use plastic items and the overwhelming majority were in favour a ban,” said Meaghan Scanlon, Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef in a press statement. “The community’s sentiment is clear, with 94% of the 20,000 respondents supporting the proposal to ban single-use plastic items.”
Considering the pressures placed on businesses by COVID-19, the government has pushed the ban start date from July 1 to September 1. “This will allow businesses and the hospitality industry time to source appropriate products and further consultation to occur,” said the Minister
This plastics ban comes on the back of other state-wide initiatives already implemented to curtail plastic pollution such as its container refund scheme and the ban on the supply of lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags.
Queensland is home to some of the world’s most beautiful natural places including five World Heritage listed sites such as the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics in far north Queensland, considered the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforests on earth. Nicknamed the Sunshine State for its warm climates, golden beaches and tropical islands, tourism plays an essential role in the state’s economy.
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According to the government’s discussion paper ‘Tackling plastic waste: Queensland’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan‘, around 800 species worldwide, including 77 Australian species, are impacted by plastic pollution and 70% of dead loggerhead turtles in the state were found to have ingested plastic. The government’s plastic ban aims to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the environment to reduce pressure on ecosystems, wildlife and human health.
While seven out of ten Queenslanders are taking steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics when away from home, more than half of the state’s waste still ends up in landfill with the amount of waste produced growing faster than its population. In addition, Queensland consistently records higher litter rates than the Australian average.
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Cover image of the pristine waters of Whitehaven Beach in Queensland’s Whitsundays by Calvin Shelwell.