18/05/2021 - 10:30

Australia awash in plastics crisis

18/05/2021 - 10:30

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More than half of the world’s single-use plastic is produced by fewer than two-dozen companies, according to new research published by the Minderoo Foundation.

Australia awash in plastics crisis
Andrew Forrest says now is the time to start using recycled plastic waste. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

More than half of the world’s single-use plastic is produced by fewer than two-dozen companies, according to new research published by the Minderoo Foundation.

That comes as Coles and Woolworths Group, two of Australia’s biggest grocers and retailers, today joined dozens of other Australian businesses in singing the ANZPAC Plastics Pact, an in-principal agreement to transition to entirely recyclable plastics by 2025.

Australia’s federal and state governments have already agreed to phase out plastic bags utensils and straws by the middle of this decade with Western Australia planning to ban most single-use plastic within the next two years.

While most attention has so far focused on retailers and packaged good brands, new research from the Minderoo Foundation suggests petrochemical companies bare far greater responsibility for increasing plastic waste, with ExxonMobile pegged as contributing close to 6 million tonnes of the world’s plastic waste.

The report also highlights commercial finance support for these companies as being derived from a select few institutions, such as Barclays, HSBC and Bank of America.

Of the countries generating single-use plastic waste, Australia was thought to be the biggest waste generator per capita in 2019, ahead of the US, South Korea and the UK.

Conversely, it was one of the smallest by raw use, compared to the US and China.

“The plastification [sic] of our oceans and the warming of our planet are amongst the greatest threats humanity and nature have ever confronted,” said Minderoo Foundation chair Andrew Forrest.

“Global efforts will not be enough to reverse this crisis unless government, business and financial leaders act in our children's and grandchildren's interests.”

Dr Forrest said now was the time to start using recycled plastic waste.

“Because while we bicker, the oceans are getting trashed with plastic and the environment is getting destroyed by global warming,” he said.

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