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Single Use Plastics

31 July 2019

Ms TAMARA SMITH (Ballina) (15:26): My question is directed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Given the Minister's recent remarks in the media about developing a comprehensive plastics policy and the fact that New South Wales is the second-highest waste producer per capita in the world, what is his timeline for delivering this policy and how can communities contribute to that policy?

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:27): Isn't it good to get a sensible question in this place? That is a great question from a great member. It is such a great question it might as well be a Dorothy Dixer. As the member for Ballina knows, no government in the history of this State has done more to reduce the impact of plastic litter than the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government. I am just getting so excited about the impact we are having on plastic reduction in this State. Members should not take my word that we are doing a great job in reducing litter in New South Wales; they should take the word of one of the country's greatest environmentalists—Jeff Angel from the Boomerang Alliance. Conveniently, I have a press release here from Jeff Angel relevant to this question. Mr Angel states:

… NSW has got it right with a world class scheme that will continue to deliver environmental, social and economic gains for years to come. While the Labor Party virtue-signals about reducing plastic waste in our environment, the Coalition delivers with the most comprehensive litter reduction scheme in the nation's history. What can I say? The proof is in the pudding. We have seen a 37 per cent reduction in the volume of plastic litter since we introduced the scheme 19 months ago. That is a huge win for our environment: Over 2 billion cans, bottles and plastic containers have been collected that are not going into our lakes, waterways, bushland or parkland. It is a huge win for our environment. It is a win not just for our environment but also for groups around New South Wales—schools, church groups and community organisations. More than $44,000 has been raised to do important community work in New South Wales, so this is a great result for our environment and for our community. I remind the member for Ballina that it is also a great result for our economy.

The Government is having a huge impact on the environment but Government members know that there is more to do. The Government is developing a comprehensive plastics strategy to deal with the issue of plastic waste in New South Wales—not just plastic containers but other plastics as well. Plastic is having a devastating effect on our environment. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. That is clearly unacceptable. A recent study by the University of Newcastle found that people were ingesting over 2,000 bits of plastic every week—the equivalent of a credit card going into our systems every single week.

In addition, research predicts that plastic ingestion will affect 99 per cent of the world's seabird species by 2050 and it is estimated that plastic kills more than 100 million marine animals every year. The member for Ballina and everyone on this side of the House know that this is clearly unacceptable. That is why the Government will be developing a comprehensive plastics plan to deal with this issue in New South Wales. For the member for Ballina's benefit, I remind the House that work on that plan is underway. It is a big body of work. I welcome the member for Ballina's interest in this topic and ask her to participate in the community consultation, which I hope will begin this year. Those working on the plan will consult broadly with affected stakeholders and the whole community. The Government wants to make sure that we get this right, not just for the environment but for future generations.

I thank the member for Ballina for her interest in this important topic. This topic needs to be addressed for the benefit of our environment so that we can ensure that the planet we hand over to our kids is in a better state than when we found it. Addressing the issue of plastics—whether they be single-use plastics or other forms of plastic—is one way to do that. As I said, the work of developing this strategy is currently underway. My hope is that we will be able to begin consultation this year. I welcome the input of members of all electorates, including those in the electorate of the member for Ballina. It is great to see a member of The Greens who is actually interested in the environment. I have been looking at the threatened species list of New South Wales and I note that environmentalists in The Greens are on that list. I look forward to working with the member for Ballina and reading her press release supporting the Government's direction immediately after question time.