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Discarded Coles plastic bag © Dr Kathy Townsend

Discarded Coles plastic bag © Dr Kathy Townsend

If bags last this long, & kill species … are the plastics commitments in this election enough?

13 May 2019

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It’s a shocking discovery – a well preserved plastic bag, possibly 30 years old, found in mangroves in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Wynnum.

The obsolete Coles logo, which fandom dates as 1987 – 1991, is still as clear as day and shows how long plastic bags last in the environment.

 

World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia) congratulates Coles for voluntarily banning single-use plastic bags last year.

But the decades-old bag has focussed attention on the plastics commitments of the major parties in this election.

The bag was photographed during a survey conducted by marine scientist Dr Kathy Townsend, who knows firsthand how deadly plastic can be to wildlife.

Dr Townsend removed the plastic bags seen below from a dead green turtle in Moreton Bay and has performed similar operations dozens of times.

About 30% of sea turtles dying off the Queensland coast are killed by plastic bags.

 

Plastic bag removed from dead turtle © Dr Kathy Townsend

 

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said only two parties had committed to legally ban some single use plastics.

The Greens policy is to ban plastic bags (with medical and security exemptions) and ban a range of single use plastics including drinking straws, fresh produce packaging, and drink stirrers.

The ALP has committed to ban single-use plastic bags and microbeads from 2021.

However, while the Coalition has policies to encourage plastics recycling, it has made no commitment to ban any single-use plastics.

“WWF is urgently calling for the Coalition to toughen up its plastics policy with a legislated ban on select single-use plastics,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“Current projections indicate that by 2050 there is likely to be more individual pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish.

“Whilst recycling is important, we will need regulatory interventions to help transition society beyond our single-use plastic reliance and towards more innovative and sustainable solutions.

“The next Australian Government should follow the EU’s lead and commit to targeting the top 10 worst single-use plastics,” he said.

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