Queensland passes plastic bag ban, cash for containers scheme
Queensland’s parliament has officially passed the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017, which introduces both a container refund scheme and a ban on single-use plastic bags.
The container refund scheme will see most drink containers between 150 mL and 3 L eligible for a 10c refund, though some containers for wine, milk and juice will be exempt. Refunds will be available when empty eligible containers are returned to designated container refund points across the state, with reverse vending machines likely to play a significant role in the scheme.
Meanwhile, all retailers are obliged to not supply consumers with single-use plastic shopping bags, including degradable and biodegradable bags. Retailers who flout the laws face up to a $3000 fine.
Both aspects of the Bill will come into effect on 1 July 2018.
According to Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles, the Bill passed through parliament with bipartisan support, reflecting the “overwhelming community support” for both the refund scheme and the bag ban. He has been particularly pleased to learn that some retailers have already stopped supplying lightweight plastic shopping bags in advance of the official commencement date.
The recycling industry has been quick to praise the Bill, with Waste Recycling Industry Association (Qld) Inc CEO Rick Ralph saying the container deposit scheme “gives every Queenslander access to a recycling system for used containers”.
“Until now, unless you have a kerbside collection system, recycling in remote and regional areas has been very limited,” Ralph noted.
“That limitation will be removed, enabling new jobs and greater community engagement through a CRS system.”
Ralph also showed the association’s support for the plastic bag ban, noting that Queensland uses almost a billion lightweight single-use plastic shopping bags each year — none of which are recyclable.
“Some 16 million of these bags end up as litter each year, greatly harming our marine wildlife such as turtles and sea birds that ingest or become tangled in them,” he said.
Toby Hutcheon, representing the Boomerang Alliance and Wildlife QLD, said both groups are delighted the Bill had passed into law, having worked closely with the Queensland government to ensure the two initiatives work to slash litter rates and increase recycling. He said the introduction of these two measures represents “the most significant policy on litter reduction in a generation”.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has also welcomed the Bill’s passing, with AMCS Marine Campaigner James Cordwell saying the new law “sets the gold standard for waste reduction in Australia”.
“Queensland is the most polluted state in Australia, according to the Keep Australia Beautiful Litter Index, with the incidence of litter 41% higher than the national average,” noted Cordwell.
“This new law has the potential to reduce Queensland’s plastic litter by half — drastically cutting the plastic that ends up in our oceans, entangling or choking marine wildlife.”
But the hard work is not over yet, said Cordwell, who claimed the Queensland government must now implement best practice regulations and community education in coming years.
“Education is vital,” he said. “You can have a fantastic system, but if the community isn’t adequately informed on how it works and how they can participate, you’re heading for failure.”
According to Miles, the state government will be working hard to ensure this is not the case. He said the government will work closely with beverage manufacturers, retailers, local government, the waste and resource recovery industry, and the community to ensure a smooth transition and operation of the container refund scheme and plastic bag ban.
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