Ballina Greens councillor Jeff Johnson has the support of his fellow councillors for a plastic bag-free future, but he believes it will only become a reality if the state government steps in and says "enough is enough".
Last week councillors unanimously supported Cr Johnson's motion to write to the NSW Government urging a ban on non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags and for Council to contact major retailers in the shire about a voluntary, staged approach.
"To be honest I think it will take the state government to legislate for Coles and Woolies to stop supplying plastic bags to people... We've spoken to them previously and we now need to reopen those conversations," Cr Johnson said. "We need to get them on side and either get them charging for plastic bags... or have a timeframe to phase them out, but unfortunately they seem reluctant to take the initiative."
He said Council will urge the NSW Government to take the ACT's lead and legislate a ban and believes people will get used to the idea over time with some education. He said a lot of marine animals cared for by Australian Seabird Rescue, which was founded in Ballina, are injured as a result of plastic bags.
"Once people become aware of the negative impacts these plastic bags are having, and that the majority ends up in landfill and our waterways, I'm confident people would be happy to support the ban and make that behavioural shift," Cr Johnson said. "There are alternatives - recycled paper, calico, hemp. It's not like we don't have other options."
Cr Johnson was also successful in getting councillors to support lobbying the NSW Government for a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS). He said both motions will also be voted on at the NSW Shire's Conference in March to increase pressure on the government to implement the changes.
"South Australia and now the Northern Territory have legislated for a CDS and the evidence is quite clear - South Australia has been running theirs for 37 years and it's proven to double the amount that gets recycled. Ballina currently recycles around 35% of beverage containers while South Australia's is over 80%," he said. "There's also a benefit to local councils as, being the main collector of containers, there'll be a net monetary benefit to councils, worth millions of dollars around the state."
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