Time for Morrison government to deliver on ocean-plastic promise

Published on Fri 25 February 2022 10:58am

If the Morrison Government was serious and responsible in relation to its claims to international environmental leadership, it would actively support an effective and ambitious framework for tackling the harmful and growing impacts of plastic pollution.

Scott Morrison’s 2019 commitment to make Australia a world leader in tackling the scourge of ocean plastic will be further tested next week when delegates gather for the United National Environment Assembly in Nairobi. 
 
On the agenda are various draft resolutions to formally commence negotiations for an international agreement that will address marine litter and plastic pollution by creating an intergovernmental panel akin to the IPCC. 
 
Australia has yet to show support for the leading resolution that has been put forward by Rwanda/Peru – the most closely aligned with the Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts – and which is supported by nearly 60 countries, including the UK and the entire European Union.
 
Minister Ley has used the upcoming talks as an opportunity to promote the Government’s waste export ban. Yet the Morrison Government only adopted export bans in response to the import bans applied by other countries. 
 
The Coalition’s approach to the Glasgow climate summit was to rest on its very unimpressive laurels. Now it seeks to do the same with respect to ocean plastic.  

Meanwhile, in the absence of wider reforms, plastic waste has increased and recycling rates have fallen. Indeed, it is likely that more plastic has been landfilled and stockpiled in Australia, or lost into the broader environment. At the same time, the Morrison Government has not delivered on its commitment to the Pacific Ocean Litter Project.

Packaging is the largest contributor to plastic waste on our coast and in our waterways, and last year’s update from APCO shows Australia’s 2025 targets are off-track.  Total plastic recycling of packaging has fallen from 18 per cent to 16 per cent, and the re-use of recycled plastic in packaging has fallen from four per cent to three per cent.
 
Australia should be making up ground when it comes to sustainable waste and resource management. 
 
If the Morrison Government was serious and responsible in relation to its claims to international environmental leadership, it would actively support an effective and ambitious framework for tackling the harmful and growing impacts of plastic pollution. 

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