Greens in Parliament: War on Waste

In response to last night's airing of the ABCs War on Waste we asked the government when it will commit to ban single-use plastic bags in NSW as well as other measures it could introduce to reduce unnecessary waste. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:39 :27 ): In a single generation we have gone from a low-waste culture where everyday objects were valued and repaired to a culture where 50 billion plastic bags are used and thrown away every year. War On Waste, currently screening on the ABC, has stirred a lot of community debate about our wasteful ways. People in the Newtown electorate have long been concerned about this issue. Today I bring their message to the Premier and the New South Wales Government to act in the war on waste. Unfortunately, we are not allowed props in the Chamber so I am not able to bring in the giant plastic bag that Craig Reucassel rolls around during the series, but I give all credit to him for doing so.

Our community would like to know from the Premier why we have not yet banned the single‑use plastic bag. It takes thousands of years for plastic bags to degrade, which means that every piece of plastic manufactured exists to this day. It is time for the New South Wales Government to ban the bag. While we are waiting, Newtown locals are encouraging people to use cardboard boxes to carry their shopping, knowing that the so-called green bags need to be used more than 100 times to make them worthwhile because they too are made of plastic. These ideas are hardly revolutionary. Our grandparents were doing it. People can take their own shopping bags to the supermarket until this Government acts to ban the bag.

In the electorate of Newtown we love coffee but we despair at the sheer number of takeaway coffee cups used and thrown away each day. When I was elected, my team and I made a commitment to each other that we would ban takeaway coffee cups from our office. On a rough calculation, and factoring in a few slip-ups, we have saved in the order of 2,500 takeaway coffee cups in the two years since I was elected as the member for Newtown. I encourage all members in this place to think about committing to that small act in their electorate offices. I send a big shout-out to the cafes across Sydney and New South Wales that give a discount to people who bring their own cup. It is a great way to encourage people to do that.

The people of Newtown would like the Premier to stamp out fake recycling. When we asked our constituents about this, one of them told me a disturbing story. In the centre of a food court there were twin bins—red for general waste and yellow for recycling. However, the constituent noticed that when emptying the bins the staff combined their contents into the same disposable vessel. When asked about this, an employee told my constituent that the waste goes into the same compactor. As seen from War On Waste, there is a need to expose fake recycling and crack down on big businesses and companies that are doing it. While we are at it, we must take action to ensure that supermarkets do not engage in the ludicrous practice of packaging individual vegetables and fruits in plastic.

That is a simple action, but I do not think we can wait for Coles and Woolworths to become environmentally conscious on their own. This is something the New South Wales Government can act on. Until then, it is great that Newtown locals are served by local food co-ops and bulk food stores such as Alfalfa House. I give a special shout-out to Foodbank, which I have had the pleasure of working with in the Newtown electorate to ensure that locals in public housing in Surry Hills, Redfern and Marrickville have access to the benefits of that great initiative. We must also address the problem of plastic food containers. TakeOut Without is a global campaign aimed at reducing plastic pollution from takeaway food by encouraging people to bring their own containers. Last year the French Parliament adopted an amendment that by 2020 it will ban the use of plastic takeaway containers and cutlery in shops and food outlets. Many good people in this world are trying to assist in the war on waste but we need the Government to act to make sure the changes happen.

Fast fashion is another serious emerging issue that needs to be addressed. We have gone from having four seasons each year to several micro-seasons with many changes towards the production of short-use, badly made clothes from synthetic fibres. That has not only a huge environmental impact but also social implications on those who make fast fashion items. I am glad to say that I support the fashion revolution and I always try to know who made my clothes. We need to stop being the wasteful, single-use society we have become. Communities across this State are calling on the Government to step up and take action in the war on waste.


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