Tuesday, 7 March 2023


Single-use plastics are increasingly being seen as a major problem.  Over the years Australia has done very poorly in disposing of used plastic with various failed exporting programs and limited local recycling programs.  The continuing problem has recently been highlighted by the collapse of REDcycle, the company contracted to around 2000 supermarkets to collect soft plastic returned by consumers for recycling.

Filmmaker Craig Leeson, who attended COP27 in Egypt where plastic pollution was discussed, left there wondering if humanity could address this problem.  In a recent article in “The Saturday Paper” he pointed out that humans are still manufacturing and throwing away more single-use plastics than ever before because of convenience, habit and a lack of government regulation.

Leeson said, “We have been sold the lie that we can keep using plastics as long as we consumers recycle them.  But recycling doesn’t work.  It never did and wasn’t designed to. It’s a con.”  We have been conned by big companies and governments.

Currently more than 12% of oil goes towards making plastics and over the next 20 years the oil industry is planning to build more plastic production plants globally. According to Carbon Tracker, BP expects plastics to represent 95% of the net growth in demand for oil from 2020 to 2040.

Leeson says the obvious solution is a global ban on single use plastics.  Some bans on specific items have been introduced in Australia and elsewhere by governments and by organisations in their operations.   Importantly, there is considerable community support for a global ban.  However, any ban will be strongly opposed and likely undermined by the plastic-producing companies.  These are the same companies who have extensive experience in cozying up to politicians and publicly undermining action on climate change.

Urgent change is needed to stop further pollution of our oceans and land and the growth of microplastics in our food chains which is having a growing impact on the health of humans and other life forms.  And then there’s the problem of cleaning up the existing mess.

-        Leonie Blain

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , February 22nd,  2023.


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