Ocean plastic research should be an alarm for the Morrison Government’s inaction

Published on Fri 24 July 2020 11:56am

When it comes to ocean plastic, Australia should be taking the lead in our region and globally. If we can’t eliminate harmful single-use plastic and do better than recycling 10 per cent of our plastic waste, how can we expect countries in South Asia and the Pacific to do better?

Labor notes with concern the findings of an expert study which shows that plastic in the world’s oceans is expected to triple by 2040. The research issued by the Pew Trust in partnership with a series of global experts should be seen as the latest alarm siren in relation to a looming global disaster. Australia has an important role to play in showing urgent and substantial leadership on this issue, but we are still waiting to see that from the Morrison government.

It has been estimated for some time that the weight of plastic in the ocean will exceed the weight of fish by 2050. We know that 8 million tonnes of plastic go into our oceans each year, and that microplastic is appearing in 50% of some fish and marine birds. It is expected that global production of plastic could easily double by 2030, and yet even in a country like Australia we struggle to recycle more than 10 per cent. Indeed our plastic recycling capacity is lower now than it was in 2005.

Much more is needed in terms of policy, investment, regulation, and global cooperation if we’re to stem this awful tide and protect the wellbeing of our blue planet and its marine lifeblood.

When it comes to ocean protection the Coalition’s time in office is notable only for the largest conservation reversal in history through the dismantling of Labor’s comprehensive national marine park network. This comes in addition to actively defunding essential research, unpicking critical measures aimed to prevent further damage to our ocean ecosystems, and neglecting to act on climate change. The science is clear that marine protected areas work to stop the loss of biodiversity and to improve overall ocean health. And if we don’t act to prevent further warming of our oceans the impact will be catastrophic.

When it comes to ocean plastic, Australia should be taking the lead in our region and globally. If we can’t eliminate harmful single-use plastic and do better than recycling 10 per cent of our plastic waste, how can we expect countries in South Asia and the Pacific to do better?

The Morrison Government must change direction in order to stop ocean pollution, strengthen marine protection, and contribute to global action on climate change.

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