The federal government is being urged to phase-out single-use plastics and roll out a national container deposit scheme.
Plastic bags, takeaway containers, plastic-lined coffee cups and chip-packets could be banned across the country and a nation-wide container deposit scheme also introduced, if the recommendations from a Senate report into recycling are adopted.
A new report into waste and recycling is urging the government to make drastic changes to the nation’s waste management system.
It’s made a number of recommendations including phasing out single-use plastics for sustainable products by 2023.
The chairman of the committee which released the report, Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, said while it's unlikely to happen straight away, Australia should commit and put a plan in place to enforce a ban on single-use plastics.
“This is to bring us into line with what the rest of the world are talking about doing - removing single-use plastics,” he told the Senate.
A new research centre would look at how to replace single-use plastics.
“We can look at all sorts of different kinds of single-use plastics, like straws and balloons," he added.
“This is happening all around the world now because we realise what damage these plastics are doing when they make their way into our waterways and ultimately our oceans.”
Response to China's ban
The report also addressed the nation’s recycling crisis prompted by China’s ban on Australian recycling goods due to its contamination levels.
A number of councils across the country have been forced to send recycling material to landfill due to China’s importation ban, while others have increased rates to homeowners as a result.
The Victorian government has announced lightweight plastic bags will be banned by the end of next year.
It comes after supermarket giant Woolworths banned plastic bags on June 20. Coles is also set to follow.
The report says a combined effort from federal and state government could work to address the issue so that waste can be repurposed or made into feedstock for domestic manufacturing.
That would involve ensuring less contamination in recycling waste, better sorting at facilities and urging manufacturers to use more recycled material.
“Without incentivising domestic markets for the end-use of these waste streams it will keep piling up at rubbish tips around the country,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
The report also urges the development of a national container deposit scheme. NSW, the Northern Territory and South Australia already have such schemes in place.
“This brings all states into line and allows them to follow the success of South Australia in being able to better generate high-value markets from their waste streams,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.