The Turning the tide on single-use plastic products Discussion Paper invites you to consider:
• which single-use plastic items we should focus on
• the community and business impacts of any government action in relation to those items
• what are the best approaches government could take to address the issue of single-use plastics (eg. legislation, education, incentives)
You can also read a summary of the discussion paper.
The volume of plastic pollution is increasing
Globally, single-use plastic products are being consumed at an increasing rate, with significant environmental, social and economic impacts.
Plastic production has risen from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014. This is almost the same weight as the entire human population and is expected to double over the next 20 years.
Where do they come from?
The majority of plastics are produced from fossil fuels, representing around 6% of global oil consumption. This is equivalent to the global aviation sector.
At least 8 million tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean each year. This is equivalent to the contents of a garbage truck each minute and if current trends continue, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish. Wasteful consumption habits are not sustainable because of global limits to the availability and accessibility of the earth’s natural resources. There are limits to the amount of man-made waste and pollution that the earth can absorb or contain.
The European Union (EU) has announced its intention to ban single-use cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers from 2021. The EU also intends to use national reduction targets for plastics not directly ‘captured’ through banning and for which no alternative product exists including single-use burger boxes, sandwich boxes or food containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams. These items will have to be reduced by EU member states by at least 25% by 2025.
Here in South Australia
In South Australia, around 84% of all waste generated is diverted from landfill. There are strong local markets for construction waste and organic materials, but mixed plastics present challenges for resource recovery, and the majority of those that are recovered are aggregated for export to international markets. Stringent restrictions have been applied on recyclable materials in these markets and local solutions are required. Items designed and produced for single-use and disposal waste the resources that have been invested in their production.
Recent media attention
The ABC’s War on Waste and documentaries such as Blue Planet II have captured the attention of the community by highlighting the impact of plastics on the environment. It’s important that we move away from the “take, make, dispose” linear consumption pathway to one which continues to return materials back into the economy. Some plastics, and in particular single-use plastic items, are entering the environment rather than being returned to the economy for further use. There are economic as well as environmental benefits to a circular economy - an estimated 9.2 jobs are created for every 10,000 tonnes of material recycled compared with 2.8 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes landfilled. In South Australia, the recycling and waste industry has a turnover of about $1 billion and employs approximately 4,800 people directly and indirectly.