Media Releases

10
Oct
2019

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AMENDMENT BILL 2019

SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (15:33:42): I rise to comment on the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019, and I am pleased that the coalition will be supporting the banning of the use of single-use plastic bags, those bags with a thickness of 35 microns or less whether or not they are made from degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastic. This is a really important move and certainly it is something that I know a number of my constituents in Caulfield feel very strongly about. In fact just on 12 months ago we started a bit of a campaign of giving out bags that could be re-used at supermarkets, knowing that the supermarkets themselves would be following an initiative of banning plastic bags. I think is really important to point out that we did have two of the major supermarkets lead very strongly in banning these bags. That is where I think it is very important to have individuals take up the action in protecting the environment and businesses also getting involved when they know it makes sense. And this does make sense. We saw the survey that was done: over 90 per cent of people supported banning of the plastic bag. There are certainly better ways of doing this. Rather than waste, there is nothing better than getting into the habit of re-using bags, taking them with you to the supermarket and ensuring that they are not thrown out after one or two uses. And that is the change that has happened. We have seen, through the National Retail Association and the work they have done, an 80 per cent reduction in these bags since the campaign was implemented, which shows that these things work. Certainly other speakers around the chamber today have said that it can become difficult to get used to. When you are used to one type of behaviour, it is very hard to adjust that, but once you get used to it then it certainly does become part of your daily life and ultimately it protects the environment, which is absolutely crucial. In the past we have seen Australians use up to 10 million plastic bags each and every year, That is 4 billion a year, and of these approximately 150 million end up in the oceans and waterways, contributing to an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans every year. And this is something we want to avoid. A number of years ago when I had a business we worked very closely with the Dolphin Research Institute in Port Phillip Bay. Jeff Weir has been a very strong advocate for protecting the bay for probably 20-plus years. And Jeff would be the first person to tell you what the harmful effects are of having plastic ending up in the ocean. And that is why we need to protect our marine life, we need to protect our oceans, we need to protect tourism and, ultimately, we need to protect our planet. And that can be done with these very proactive steps that people can take that do not necessarily require a huge cost but are just a change of habit. And that is why we need to be looking at this in a whole range of different ways. We have heard people talk about the circular economy and there are things like product stewardship. I note from working with an organisation called Close the Loop, which recycles toner cartridges and mobile phones and what have you, where you take a product at end of life and turn that product into a park bench or some other type of material. Ultimately the manufacturer has actually paid for that as part of initially creating it, and that is part of that product stewardship that Close the Loop have been very, very successful at developing out in Broadmeadows. I was very proud to be involved in helping them in the very, very early days and seeing an organisation like that absolutely grow. That is where we need to be. We need to be focused on where we can help individuals take responsibility for ensuring our planet is clean by the actions that they take themselves. There are, in many cases, little things that people do whether it be using a keep cup or whether it be a different straw that you use. There are little things that people can do in terms of changing their behaviour that can make a huge change to benefit our planet. We often hear of grand schemes and certainly young people being focused on the bigger issues. But one of the things that I would really like to see young people work on and certainly that I would like to work with young people on, which we are doing in our electorate, is the things that they can affect today—not tomorrow or in 10 years, but what they can do today. Whether it be recycling programs in their schools, whether it be solar programs and looking at the way they use energy in their schools and in their homes, these are things that young people can affect today and these are what young people should be involved in—whether it be kitchen gardens that they could be operating also in their schools or whether it be composting, which is something that young people should be involved in. I quite often give Glen Eira City Council a hard time, and I know, Acting Speaker Dimopoulos, this is one of your councils as well. Glen Eira council initiated the kitchen caddy program where food scraps can be dumped into your green bin—a great initiative. Rather than ending up in the waste bin, they can be put in the green bin and be recycled appropriately. This was a very, very simple initiative and I know the mayor, Jamie Hyams, worked very hard in educating the community to ensure that this was happening. But there are a number of issues at the moment that the government has on its hands, issues that unfortunately they are not managing well when it comes to recycling. We have seen the recycling crisis hit our state in a big way. Certainly Scott Morrison has got involved in this, but ultimately the state should be responsible, when it comes to collection of the landfill levy, the bin tax, to invest it in recycling programs to ensure that waste can be properly recycled and managed and not end up in landfill. The recycling crisis hit earlier this year, with one of my councils—the City of Port Phillip—being at the back end of that where their recycled material ended up in landfill. Twenty-two thousand tonnes of material that should have been recycled ending up in landfill is the equivalent of 11 MCGs—11 MCGs that should have been recycled but were not—ultimately because the Andrews Labor government failed in their due diligence in managing this issue. This should be something that all Victorians should be really upset about. We have been doing some surveys in Caulfield and it has been a huge issue—probably one of the largest issues that we are facing right now. My constituents in Caulfield are telling me that they are unhappy with the Andrews Labor government in that they have not managed recycling and waste management in our state appropriately when our constituents, the people of Caulfield, put their stuff in the yellow bin, thinking that they are doing their bit for the environment, and that ends up in landfill and is not recycled. That ultimately is a failure, and that is why many of my constituents are telling me that they are very, very unhappy at the moment with what is going on. I would like to give a bit of a shout-out to a number of people who are doing some great work. Love Our Street 3162 is a campaign that meets one hour a month to clean up the streets, and they have collected tonnes and tonnes of product and are certainly doing their bit for the environment. I want to thank those people—Gretchen, Julie, Ruth and Sophie—who do a fantastic job with Love Our Street. Also in Elwood we have the Plogging Group, which is jogging and also picking up rubbish. It is a great initiative that also keeps you fit. I understand that they have collected 658 kilograms of rubbish in the year that they have been set up. I also want to shout out to the World Mission Society Church of God, the youth and adult worker volunteer program. I met with them on the St Kilda Road foreshore only a few months ago and they ended up with over 150 volunteers, all there to clean up their beach. They run active, ongoing recycling programs and environment clean-up programs all around Victoria. They are very, very strong in this. They have pledged to try and save our planet with these really strong initiatives and I commend them. It all starts with people’s individual actions in taking the initiative and doing their bit. This is part of it in terms of thinking about waste rather than just throwing something away and grabbing something else. Plastic bags being banned is the start of a very important thing. There are a number of other things that we should be doing in terms of supporting the circular economy, as I said today. This is very, very important, but I believe that it is really up to the individual being incentivised in any way by government with the right programs to ensure we do not have a recycling crisis like the one that unfortunately we have at the moment that is being led by the Andrews Labor government.

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