Ballina MP Tamara Smith and the NSW Greens have welcomed Labor joining their long-time campaign to ban single-use plastics bags across the state.
Ms Smith, the state Greens’ marine environment spokesperson, said that ‘with Greens and Labor in support, there was further pressure on the Baird government to act.
Yesterday, Labor leader Luke Foley said the opposition plans to bring forward legislation via a private members bill for debate in the NSW Parliament next year.
Ms Smith said the NSW Greens were drafting a ‘Ban the Bag’ bill ‘and we’ve had public feedback coming in on this since February’.
Mr Foley said the legislation was about ‘bringing NSW in line with other states and territories and playing a leading in conservation – particularly on the east coast of Australia’.
Ms Smith said it was time to act as ‘we must take action against the wasteful use of plastic bags, it’s the least we can do to minimise the plastic waste entering our marine environment, threatening our marine life’.
The Greens’ environment spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqui said ‘we know NSW remains well above the national average in litter so a plastic bag ban makes sense’.
‘Plastics waste is a major problem, including tens of millions of plastic bags entering the environment every year causing pollution of waterways and oceans,’ Dr Faruqui said.
‘The models already exist in the ACT, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. It is time for NSW to catch up.’
Mr Foley said ‘across the country, hundreds of thousands of plastic bags end up in our waterways and bushlands. It’s an environmental nasty that can easily be reduced by reasonable policies on plastic bags.
‘Labor wants to see NSW become the latest and most significant state or territory in Australia to introduce a ban on the lightweight plastic bags that pollute marine ecosystems and put wildlife at risk,’ he said.
‘The proposal from the Opposition is principally based on the ACT model, which bans single use, lightweight plastic bags. South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory also have similar bans in place, while Queensland is actively considering the proposal.
‘Retailers would be able to sell re-usable bags that have a much smaller environmental impact.
‘Heavier style retail bags, bin liners, compostable biodegradable plastic bags and fruit and vegetable barrier bags would be exempt from the ban,’ Mr Foley said.
Director of the Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel, founder of Clean Up Australia Ian Kiernan and co-founder of Take 3 Tim Silverwood joined Mr Foley and his shadow environment minister Penny Sharpe for the announcement at Maroubra Beach yesterday morning.
Statistics reveal that In NSW alone up to 61 million lightweight plastic bags are littered each year. CSIRO estimate that there are 124 billion individual pieces of visible plastic littering the Australian coastline and that by 2050, 99 per cent of all sea birds will have plastic in their gut.
Mr Foley said that ‘with more than 2,100 kilometres of coastline and tens of thousands of kilometres of waterways, NSW should take a leading role in this important environmental protection measure’.
‘More than 70 per cent of the rubbish entering our oceans is plastic, impacting on dozens of varieties of sea birds, sea mammals, turtles and fish,’ he said.
‘We have an obligation to take reasonable and sensible steps to protect the environment for future generations.’