Nature & Wildlife

Queensland’s turtles and whales to benefit from plastics ban

Australia’s leading ocean conservation group has congratulated the Queensland government for passing legislation to ban single-use plastics and save marine wildlife like turtles and whales.

Single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, plates, bowls and cutlery will be banned in the state, with the Environment Minister stating the government intends to begin the ban on 1 September 2021. Following pressure from Queensland ocean lovers, the Government has also added polystyrene food and beverage containers to the ban. 

Further products will be considered for prohibition at a later stage, including coffee cups, takeaway food containers and heavyweight plastic bags. The laws include exemptions allowing the sale or supply of plastic straws at healthcare businesses or schools, ensuring that people living with a disability or those with a medical need can still access them.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) welcomed the Queensland Government’s action, hot on the heels of South Australia. Queensland becomes the second Australian state or territory to pass laws banning single-use plastics – with South Australia’s ban commencing last week.

“These life-saving laws are fantastic news for Queensland’s turtles, whales and seabirds,” said Shane Cucow, plastics spokesperson for the AMCS.

“They couldn’t be more timely. Just last month, we saw sickening reports of dead and sick baby turtles washing up on Queensland beaches after swallowing plastic. 

“Sharp, highly likely to be contaminated and commonly found in waterways, plastic straws and cutlery can cause serious injuries. They get stuck in airways and cause painful internal injuries and poisoning when eaten.

“These laws are a testament to all the caring Queenslanders who have been demanding action to protect our iconic wildlife. We wouldn’t be here today without their heroic actions.

Mr Cucow said it was important the laws were quickly expanded to ban other single-use plastics lethal to wildlife, including plastic cups, fruit and veggie bags, balloons, plastic takeaway containers and heavyweight plastic bags. Queensland used to be one of the worst on plastic pollution. Following their actions to ban lightweight plastic bags and implement a container deposit scheme in 2018, these new laws make Queensland one of Australia’s leading states in the fight against plastic.

Mr Cucow urged other states and territories to quickly follow suit.

“Every day we wait we lose more animal lives. We urge every state and territory to join Queensland and South Australia and ban single-use plastics this year.

“With earth friendly alternatives now widely available, it’s time to ditch killer plastics throughout all of Australia,” he said.

Assets

Radio grabs on the new legislation are available here

A table comparing Australian state and territory commitments on single-use plastics is available here 

Notes

Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025. 

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commenced on 1 March 2021, banning plastic cutlery, straws and drink stirrers. Details here.

The ACT Parliament is currently considering a bill to ban single-use plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers, with the Government indicating it would commence 1 July 2021. See Government Release here.

The WA Government has committed to phase out single-use plastic plates, straws, cutlery, drink stirrers, heavyweight plastic bags, polystyrene food containers and helium balloon releases by 2023. Details here.

The Victorian government recently announced they will move to ban angle use plastics by February 2023, including single-use plastic straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, polystyrene food and drink containers, and plastic cotton bud sticks. In correspondence with AMCS, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has confirmed oxo-degradable plastics will also be included in the ban.

The New South Wales Government recently completed public consultations that canvassed the idea of a ban on single-use plastics. They are yet to announce their plans.

Tasmania and the Northern Territory have made no commitments to ban single-use plastics.

Recent statistics released by Tangaroa Blue’s ReefClean Project showed that in 2019, 24 tonnes of marine debris was cleared from the Great Barrier Reef alone.

Plastic pollution has also been associated with disease on coral reefs. A recent study of the effects of plastic on 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia Pacific Region (including Palm Islands, Whitsunday Islands and Keppel Islands) found the likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic.

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