Single-use plastic products, such as takeaway containers, have been important tools in the fight against the spread of coronavirus but they are set to be banned in Queensland.
The State Government has reintroduced legislation to parliament to ban plastic straws, plates, cutlery and stirrers from September.
It is seeking community feedback on whether the ban should be extended to include polystyrene containers.
Richard Leck, the Australian manager for marine conservation and sustainable development at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the state should start eliminating plastic waste again now.
“We have seen a huge increase in single-use plastics and some of that is entirely appropriate for medical purposes and for personal protective equipment,” Mr Leck said.
Queensland’s health directions have been relaxed in recent weeks allowing reusable coffee cups to be accepted at cafes, but only where staff can do a “contactless pour” to reduce the spread of germs.
“There’s a frightening statistic that the [United Nations] put out that says the weight of plastic in our oceans will be more than the weight of fish in our oceans by 2050, unless we fundamentally change our use of single-use plastics.”
Banning plastic waste a ‘no-brainer’
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the Government had pushed back the start of the plastics ban from June to September to allow businesses to adapt.
“We know that COVID-19 has been a tough time for businesses, which is why we’ve said this ban won’t come into effect any sooner than the 1st of September,” Ms Scanlon said.
Joey Caruana, from The Windmill Bargara cafe, said he was forced to rethink his business at the peak of the pandemic.
Instead of plastic coffee cups and containers, Mr Caruana opted for more environmentally friendly recyclable and compostable options.
“There’s a significant difference in costs, you’re looking at 20 per cent on all packaging,” he said.
Despite the extra costs involved, Mr Caruana believes eliminating single-use plastics is a “no-brainer”.
“That’s really what we should be doing, it’s just a way forward … we’ve got alternatives already so there’s no need for them.”
Time for industry to prepare
Ms Scanlon said the hospitality industry would now have eight months to prepare for the ban.
“Many businesses have already started to transition because they know the general public expects better when it comes to waste reduction, so we’re hoping this will be a smooth transition and something that all Queenslanders support.”
The government is also seeking community feedback on whether to extend the ban to polystyrene food containers and cups, commonly used by fish-and-chip shops and other fast-food outlets.
It expects the bill will pass parliament early this year.
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