Whitsundays ready to embrace a plastic-free future
SINGLE-USE plastics will soon be a thing of the past in a move welcomed by Whitsunday conservation groups and business owners, who say it will go a long way in preserving our Barrier Reef backyard.
Under legislation introduced on Wednesday, the Queensland Government is set to ban single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers, cutlery, plates and bowls.
Polystyrene products, coffee cups, takeaway food containers and heavyweight plastic bags were also slated to be banned at a later stage.
The laws are set to come into play in July 2021, however Fat Frog Beach Cafe owner Naomi McKinnon has endeavoured to keep the beachfront venue plastic free for years.
“We pretty much phased out as much as we could probably about three years ago, so we went to paper straws, bamboo cutlery (and) cardboard takeaway containers,” she said.
“There’s still a couple of items that we haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for but as much as we can, we have.
“There was a little bit of resistance to start with, particularly with paper straws, but they’ve improved the quality of them so much now that they can sit in a glass of water all day and be fine.
“I would say it definitely costs more to go down that path but it was just an expense that I was prepared to wear.”
Ms McKinnon said the cafe also sold all juices and soft drinks in glass bottles while takeaway drinks were handed out in biodegradable cups.
With azure blue waters on its doorstep, Ms McKinnon said the move away from plastic was a no-brainer she hoped the rest of the Whitsunday community would embrace.
“There’ll definitely be people that won’t be happy about it but I think it’s like anything, once it becomes a norm that’s what it is and so it really can’t be a bad thing,” she said.
“It would be great for the town to lead the way and move away from all of that sort of stuff as a community.
“I think it is just good to recognise that there is definitely an environmental benefit and a knowledge benefit out of moving away from single-use plastic.”
The move away from plastic is pegged to have a big impact the region’s marine environment with recent statistics released by Tangaroa Blue’s ReefClean Project revealing that in 2019, 24 tonnes of marine debris was cleared from the Great Barrier Reef alone.
On a regional level, more than 200,000kg of marine debris and litter has been picked up in the region since 2009 by one of the community’s leading conservation groups Eco Barge Clean Seas.
Founding chairperson of the organisation Libby Edge welcomed the single-use plastic ban, saying plastic often topped the list of items collected during their clean-ups.
“Around 80 to 90 per cent of what we’re collecting is actual plastic,” she said.
“Most of it is single-use plastic … it’s bottle tops, it’s also soft plastics (and) it’s plastic food packaging.”
Public consultation of nearly 20,000 Queenslanders and businesses found that 94 per cent supported banning single-use plastic straws, plates, cutlery and stirrers.
Ms Edge believed the Whitsunday community would be equally as supportive of living single-use plastic free.
“We have around 1600 local volunteers just on our register so I know our community is extremely passionate about protecting our islands and removing the marine debris that we find out there,” she said.
“I believe our community is going to fully welcome this change.”