WA’s peak environment body the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) and the Plastic Free WA campaign have welcomed Environment Minister Stephen Dawson’s statement that the McGowan Government would introduce a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags by 2019.
The Plastic Free WA campaign calls on the WA Government to ban single use plastic bags, implement a recycling refund scheme for bottles and cans, and take action to tackle microplastic pollution.
The issue was highlighted recently when ‘Tina’, a distressed juvenile green sea turtle, was found in the Perth suburb of Shoalwater. Murdoch University Turtle Researcher Dr Erina Young said, “I was shocked and horrified to discover the turtle’s intestines full of rubbish - from plastic bags, plastic packaging, food wrappers to synthetic ropes and twine. The plastic would have caused immense suffering and ultimately contributed to her death.”
CCWA spokesperson Sarah English said, “The Conservation Council of WA and Plastic Free WA welcome Minister Dawson’s commitment to ban single use plastic bags by 2019. Stories like Tina the Turtle have brought the plastic pollution problem to our doorstep, showing that our unique marine life is being seriously affected, and that we need to act now.
“WA is one of the last states where plastic bags have not been banned, and our environment and marine life is suffering badly. Millions of plastic bags find their way into creeks, rivers, wetlands, and the ocean every year in WA and this pollution has a huge impact on marine life and aquatic ecosystems.
“Where plastic bags have been banned in other states, consumers and the community have strongly supported the move. Several large retailers have even stated that they would not oppose a ban on plastic bags, so the main area of historical opposition in industry appears to be overcome.
“The problem with plastics is that they never break down. The solution is to prevent plastic pollution in the first place, by changing our laws and our habits here in WA. This is why the McGowan Government’s ban on single use plastic bags is a strong step in the right direction.
“We look forward to the Government enforcing its ban on single use plastic bags, and we also urge them to implement a recycling refund scheme for bottles and cans, and tackle microplastic pollution in our wastewater. Communities all over the world are taking similar steps, and we are calling for WA to be next.”
Dr Erina Young’s PhD project aims to establish the health status of sea turtles in Western Australia and is a collaboration between Murdoch University and the Department of Parks and Wildlife. Photo credits: Lisa Jane Hills and Dr Erina Young