Good riddance to bad rubbish: tough new crackdowns on plastic pollution

The jig is up, plastic! We’re done with your trashy plague on our existence – floating around in our oceans, murdering marine species, like some kind of sociopathic sea monster. Polluting this fine planet at every stage of your filthy, endless lifespan … We’ve got alternatives now, like bamboo, stainless steel and glass. You just don’t add value anymore, so we’re letting you go …

In April of 2019, I wrote an article titled, ‘Can we ban single use plastics already?’, calling on consumers, corporations and legislators to shun single use.  I was angry and exasperated – if the popularity of Coles Little Shop “collectibles” was a yardstick for Aussies’ handle on the plastic crisis, I feared we were in serious trouble. The piece might have come across a little too harsh because at least one of you took exception.

To quote Bayard Rustin, ‘we need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers’ – people unafraid to stir the pot and use their voices as a vehicle for change, making others just so uncomfortable that they sit up and take notice. If my article caused even one person to take a good, hard look at their very literal plastic consumption (we have little flecks in our bodies now, did ya hear?) and feel a smidge defensive, I’m not sad about that.

And I’m heartened to say that I was wrong. More and more Aussies are standing up for the planet, pressuring legislators and big brands to take action and gently educating at every opportunity. It was looking a little bleak there for a while, but it’s hard not to feel hopeful, when corporations and government alike are getting the message, loud and clear, that we don’t want any more plastic shite! Not even two years later, we are seeing a barrage of policy and legislation that will help root out plastic’s chokehold on the environment:

  • Aldi began phasing out single-use plastics, like straws, tableware and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, at the close of 2020.
  • Woolworths and Coles quickly followed suit, with Coles announcing that plastic tableware will be ousted from their stores by 1 July this year, and Woolworths committing to phase out unnecessary plastics, promising that all Woolworths brand products, nationwide, will be completely recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023. (We’ll be watching, Woolies!)
  • Coles’ latest round of collectibles came in the form of plastic-free Treehouse mini books.
  • In September of last year, South Australia became the first state in Australia to legislate against the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastic products, like straws and cutlery – a law that came into effect on the first of this month. (Heaps good, SA!) The law will expand to include more items in early 2020, including polystyrene products.
  • Victoria and Queensland have announced similar bans on plastic tableware and other unnecessary single-use items, with Queensland’s coming into effect on 1 September 2021 and Victoria earmarking 2023 for its ban to commence. Other states and territories have similar bills in development.
  • A National Plastics Plan to combat plastic waste encompasses the phasing out of polystyrene foam and PVC packaging labels by mid 2022, as well as targets to reduce plastic pollution from cigarette butts and washing machine outflows.
Every single time you talk up a cool reusable alternative, sign and share an environmental petition, write an informative blog or caption, march at a climate rally or leave a scathing remark about Coles’ Little Shop minis, you’re having an impact. Take a victory sip from your KeepCup, my fellow firebrands, because these wins belong to all of us!

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