Australia & New Zealand People and Leaders Politics & Legislation

Australian PM Calls For Global Plastic Policy at UN

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing for a new commercial model for global recycling in a call at the United Nations that also urges more action to clean up the world's oceans.

Mr Morrison is pursuing the plan after speaking to Pacific Island leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, amid estimates that 100 million tonnes of plastic have ended up in the ocean.

The call, part of the annual Australian statement to the assembly, comes after a year of shocks to the global trade in recycled plastic, metal and paper after China and others halted waste material imports.

“What needs to be done when it comes to plastics recycling, and for that matter, any area of waste management, is it needs to be commercially sustainable as a model,” Mr Morrison told reporters outside the UN on Tuesday.

“We don’t want to see you know, taxes, and large levels of state intervention, and massive summits, and these sorts of things.

“What we want to see is industry leadership, and support for that leadership, and research, and design, and the identification of new products and markets, and how we can facilitate that, so you get a commercially sustainable waste management operation.”

Mr Morrison said his focus would be on Australian policy action on the environment but that this did not only include climate change.

He named the management of the ocean, the impact of plastics on the ocean, waste management and illegal fishing.

The plan has been under way for weeks but is being announced days after Mr Morrison visited a paper recycling plant in Wapakoneta, Ohio, owned by Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt.

The visit appears to have confirmed to Mr Morrison that commercial operations can make recycling profitable and reduce the need for government subsidies.

China stopped accepting waste plastic and other materials last year, while Malaysia announced in May it would send back up to 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

Officials from 187 countries met in Geneva in May at the United Nations Environment Program to consider changes to the Basel Convention that regulates the way plastics and other materials are processed.

One idea was to increase the requirement for consent before countries could send a shipment of mixed or plastic waste that was not ready for recycling.

That could restrict the trade in some plastics and perhaps prevent the US sending plastic waste that was not already sorted and ready for recylcling, Reuters reported.

“We need to take action on climate change, but there are actually issues like plastics in our oceans which present even more immediate threats,” Mr Morrison said.

“Not only to the wellbeing of our oceans from an environmental perspective, but they have quite significant impacts on health, particularly in the Pacific Island communities, particularly when you’re talking about nano plastics.

“I am sure that we can take action on climate change and actually raise the priority and focus on dealing with the world’s waste management and plastics problems and be able to achieve both.”

REFS

Published on smh.com.au

Scott Morrison to call for global plastic policy at UN

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