Ban single use plastics in Australia
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80% of marine pollution is plastic. More than half of this comes from single use items.
Single use plastics threaten our environment, cause harm to human health and create economic burden.
Please sign this letter, endorsed by Doctor's for the Environment Australia, urging our MPs to help ban single use plastics in Australia.
By banning single use plastics, our government will be eliminating single use plastic at the source, encouraging more sustainable options, and helping Australia meet its global environmental responsibility.
The Hon Speaker of the House of Representative and Members of the House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Hon. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives,
Thank you for accepting our letter urging our government to eliminate single use plastics (1) throughout Australia.
Plastic pollution is a serious threat to our environment and to the future of our magnificent country, creating harm to human health and economic burden.
Single use plastics have recently been banned in several countries including the European Union, our hope is that Australia will follow suit.
Plastic ban in the European Union
The European Parliament recently voted on a total ban on a variety of single use plastics such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons (2). The EU have also introduced new rules around increasing recycling collection targets to 90% in member states, holding plastic producers responsible for waste management and clean up of their products, and using labels to raise awareness about the negative environmental impact of purchases.
Plastic is destroying our environment.
Currently, 80% of marine litter is plastic. More than 50% of this is comprised of single use plastic, and 27% is plastic associated with discarded fishing waste (2). Plastics are ingested by marine animals and seabirds. They can also entrap marine animals, causing serious damage and death.
Plastic harms human health.
Plastic has a significant impact on human health. Micro and nanoplastics in the environment directly affect our food chain having leached into soil, freshwater and the stomachs of fish (2).
A recent international study tested the stools of eight different human participants from geographically distinct environments around the world. It found that ALL samples contained on average 20 different plastic particles (3). This confronting research could have significant implications for human health including an altered gut microbiome, toxic bioaccumulation and cancer.
Plastic is an economic burden.
The economic burden of plastic is substantial. The direct cost of cleaning up, processing and disposing of plastic which has leached into our environment is in the millions of dollars; this cost is borne almost exclusively by our government and hence our people (5).
Australians prefer sustainable options.
Australians as individuals work hard to protect our environment. We recycle, compost, and our retailers “green” their businesses in an attempt to curb plastic pollution. Many of us would prefer sustainable alternatives to single use plastics. Despite this, we consume these plastics due their convenience, price and lack of suitable alternatives.
A change in legislation will help prevent plastic pollution from occurring at the source. Restrictions on single use plastics will encourage research and development into sustainable alternatives. This will lead to new innovations and create jobs.
While we understand the complexities around banning single use plastics, we implore you to prioritise this issue as a matter of urgency.
As a proud Australian, I along with millions of others would like to see our country take the lead on eliminating plastic pollution. Furthermore, we would like to meet our global environmental responsibility and promote Australia as the greenest continent and country on the planet.
Dr Esra Sanli
1. Single use plastics considered: Straws, plastic cups, plastic stirrers, plastic plates, plastic bags, cotton buds, takeaway food containers, cling wrap, drink bottles and their lids, cigarette filters, food packets and wrappers.
We ask that the legislation be enforceable and address any loopholes which may be used to replace current single use plastics with thicker plastic alternatives under the guise of being “re-usable”.
2. European Commission 2018 ‘Commission staff working document. Impact assessment. Reducing marine litter: Action on single use plastics and fishing gear’ Brussels.
3. Schwabl P, Liebmann B, Köppel S, Königshofer P, Bucsics T, Trauner M & Reiberger T. 2018 ‘Assessment of microplastic concentrations in human stool – preliminary results of a prospective study’ Presented at United European Gastroenterology Week October 20-24, Vienna.
4. Doctors for the Environment Australia. 2016. Climate change and health in Australia.
5. Parliament of Australia. 2016. Toxic tide: the threat of marine plastic. Available: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Marine_plastics/Report
6. Photo credit thedharmatrails.com
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