OPINION

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Let's not bottle our anger at plastic pollution

Plastic is the epitome of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's a miracle material of modernity. Lightweight, durable and cheap to produce, these handy polymers have enabled unparalleled advances across countless industries.

On the other hand - and not to put too fine a point on it - plastic is the stuff of ecological nightmares.

Floating plastic islands, turtles choked in shopping bags, dead seabirds with debris-clogged stomachs - these images aren't part of some exaggerated scare campaign; they represent the devastating, global reality of plastic misuse. With millions of tonnes of single-use plastic waste escaping into the environment every year, the crisis will only worsen unless we urgently re-think the way we consume plastic and take immediate action in our communities.

The NSW Government supports the national target of ensuring 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. As part of that target, 70 per cent of all plastic packaging will be recycled or composted (compare that to the woeful result of 16 per cent in 2017-18).

In addition, the state government's discussion paper has proposed an ambitious agenda to redirect the future of plastic, which includes:

phasing out key single-use plastics; tripling the proportion of plastic recycled in NSW across all sectors and streams by 2030; reducing plastic litter items by 25 per cent by 2025; and making NSW a leader in national and international research on plastics.

Pleasingly, we've already made considerable progress to date. The NSW container deposit scheme (Return and Earn), legislated when I was Environment Minister (and implemented afterwards), has helped to recover and recycle more than five billion drink containers, which has dramatically reduced their number in local litter streams.

But the responsibility for creating a zero plastic pollution future belongs to all of us. So my message to Shire residents is #StepUpToCleanUp. This Sunday 7 March I'll be joining other Shire residents for Clean Up Australia Day - the nation's largest community-based environmental event. I encourage everyone to get involved by participating on the day, or making a pledge and sharing it on social media. Go to https://www.cleanup.org.au for more information.

How will you step up?