The South Australian Government is considering banning single-use plastic products such as coffee cups with plastic lining, straws, and cutlery. According to an Australian Senate inquiry, single-use plastics could be banned by 2023.
The state’s Environment Minister, David Speirs, released a discussion paper on the issue 13 January 2019 on the possible single-use plastic ban. The paper seeks community and business input on what they consider problems associated with plastic products and whether there is a need for government intervention. The goal would be to reduce the environmental impact from litter, improve recycling rates and reduce oil dependence.
We need to address how we handle waste in Australia since offshore recycling processing facilities have stopped accepting our waste. An investment in high-tech recycling systems or a nationwide composting infrastructure is needed to allow us to manage our own waste and reuse our resources appropriately. If we were to eliminate separate waste streams by switching to a single compost stream in addition to the landfill stream, we could save on costs and improve recycling rates by 25%.
Recycling doesn’t change the amount of waste created. Instead, it minimises resources lost by diverting material from landfill and transforming it into a new material. Sounds good in theory, but two basic questions about recycling persist: is it really good for the environment and does it make economic sense?
Recycling is generally desirable, but it’s not automatically good and efficient and cheap. It takes a significant upfront capital investment to implement a state-of-the-art single-stream recycling program, and the success of the program depends on a real market for the recycled materials. It’s a total economic system.
With this single-use plastic ban, South Australians could stop pollution at the source. With a limit on the input of single-use plastic in the supply chain, there will be a significant reduction of it in the waste stream. By switching from plastic to sustainable alternatives such as sugarcane pulp, paper, and plant-based bioplastic, we could simplify the waste streams by combining the separate recycling streams to one compost stream. Compostable packaging is the proven solution as we break our plastic addiction and stem the flow of plastics into the ocean.