Melville cuts plastic

A MELVILLE councillor is pushing to ban all single-use plastic bags, straws, coffee cup lids and water bottles from events on council-managed land by July.

Cr Karen Wheatland says the throw-aways, which make up half of all plastics used in WA, are the biggest source of the 8-12 tonnes of plastic entering the ocean from land sources annually and need to be stamped out.

She has raised a motion for the council’s February 16 meeting calling on the CEO to develop a policy for the phase-out, which could be extended to schools within the city’s borders if it gets WA government support.

Having fished on trawling and pearling boats, Cr Wheatland says she is passionate about protecting the oceans.  

“Nearly every bit of plastic ever manufactured still lives today. As our city is along some of the most pristine waterways, we need to be mindful of what plastic pollutants are entering it,” she told the Herald.

The policy comes just two years after Fremantle council passed its own sustainable events policy which also banned single-use plastics at council managed or sponsored events.

“Melville’s policy will be mostly the same as what Freo has. I believe this will put the Council of Melville at the forefront of being serious about reducing plastic pollution,” Cr Wheatland said. 

The McGowan government has already announced it’s working towards banning single-use plastic within three years, and introduced the Containers for Change initiative last year to encourage more recycling. Fremantle’s just passed the million mark for containers returned to its station where each earns a 10 cent refund.

But Cr Wheatland says Melville can pick up the pace.

“The state government have a plan in place already to phase out single use plastic, but it’s from now until 2023. Why not Melville to get a head start    one of the first councils to completely phase out single use plastic?” 

Cr Wheatland told the Herald a “nurdle hunt” at Pt Walter last March opened her eyes to the extent of the problem. 

“I sat on the beach with tweezers and a sieve and filled up half a jar of micro plastic. Because people can’t see micro plastic every day, they go into denial about the effects it’s having on our oceans,” Cr Wheatland said. 

Micro plastics can be unknowingly ingested by marine life such as sea birds, turtles and whales, resulting in the puncturing of internal organs. Even more disturbing, because it’s so small it can get embedded in the flesh of bottom-feeders, then moves up the food chain until it ends up on our plates.

“When you think of plastic in our oceans you think of huge, moving islands of rubbish that you can see, not the micro plastics that are destroying our oceans,” Cr Wheatland said.

In addition to swapping out single use plastic at Melville run events, promotional materials must be reusable or recyclable and bins must be clearly labelled as waste or recycling.

Businesses will be encouraged to swap single-use plastic items for more biodegradable items such as bamboo cutlery and plates. 

Paper straws instead of plastic and keep cups to replace plastic coffee lids will also continue to be encouraged.   

“We’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal to accelerate our way back to stop destroying our environments from plastic.”

by PIP WALLER

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