Crack­ing the plas­tic habit

The man largely re­spon­si­ble for our sin­gle-use plas­tic bag ban wants peo­ple to look closely at more of their plas­tic habits. En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Stephen Daw­son tells reporter LISA THOMAS what he is do­ing to re­duce his im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, and what

Guardian Express - - SPECIAL REPORT -

EVEN as a school-aged child in Ire­land, Stephen Daw­son found in­ter­est in the en­vi­ron­ment and joined groups to make a dif­fer­ence.

Sev­eral decades on, Mr Daw­son is now WA’s En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter and one of the most in­flu­en­tial voices for the en­vi­ron­ment in WA.

His an­nounce­ment last Septem­ber to fol­low South Aus­tralia, Tas­ma­nia, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory and bring in a leg­isla­tive ban against sin­gle-use plas­tic bags di­vided many across the state, but as the ban rolled out last week he main­tained it was the right thing to do.

He said tak­ing on the role as min­is­ter had opened his eyes to his own use of plas­tic and the per­sonal role he could take in pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

“I’m re­ally alive to pack­ag­ing, but I am par­tic­u­larly scan­dalised by plas­tic on fruits and veg­eta­bles,” Mr Daw­son said. “It’s not nec­es­sary.” He also said he avoided buy­ing plas­tic bot­tles, plas­plas­tic tic bags and plas­tic straws, in­stead opt­ing for pa­per straws for his three-and-ahalf-year-old, and wants oth­ers to re­alise how rel­a­tively eas­ily they can re­duce their plas­tic foot­print.

On top of chang­ing his plas­tic habits at home and im­ple­ment­ing the bag ban, Mr Daw­son said his next fron­tier was cut­ting plas­tic use by all gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats.

“I am work­ing with the De­part­ment of Fi­nance and the State Gov­ern­ment to see how we can re­duce the State Gov­ern­ment’s use of things like plas­tic cups, plas­tic plates and knives and forks,” he said.

“Some of the dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment de­part­ments use sub­stan­tial amounts of things like plas­tic plates, so we’re look­ing at how we might re­duce that num­ber and how we might pro­vide al­ter­na­tives so gov­ern­ment agen­cies can re­duce their use as well.”

For the rest of us, Mr Daw­son is al­ready look­ing be­yond the bag ban to­wards the next big change WA could make to re­duce sin­gle-use plas­tic use.

“Par­ents have come to me and said they want to do bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment and their kids’ fu­ture,” he said.

“The Euro­pean Union a cou­ple of weeks ago put out a draft doc­u­ment that was based on 10 pieces of plas­tic most found on their coast­line and in­cluded things like straws, stir­rers, plates, cups and glass and they’re look­ing at bring­ing in a ban for those.

“We’re look­ing at that and what else we can do to re­duce our sin­gle-use plas­tic use, so the Pre­mier is keen and I’m do­ing this body of work right now.”

He said the big­gest com­plaint abut the bag ban had come from peo­ple who ‘reused’ sin­gle-use plas­tic bags as bin lin­ers.

“Use news­pa­per in your bin or don’t use any­thing,” Mr Daw­son said.

“The sad re­al­ity is that at least seven mil­lion of those sin­gle-use plas­tic bags end up be­ing lit­tered and on our streets, parks and in our wa­ter­ways and end up killing our an­i­mals.”

With con­tro­versy con­tin­u­ing over the rights of su­per­mar­kets to sell plas­tic bags af­ter July 1, Mr Daw­son re­it­er­ated the bag ban ap­plied only to sin­gle-use bags less than 35 mi­crons.

He called on all West Aus­tralians to em­brace Plas­tic Free July.

Stephen Daw­son: “Plas­tic isn’t all bad, plas­tic has changed the world. It’s sin­gle-use plas­tic that’s we need to move away from.”

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