Prompted by home-grown campaigns, Straw No More & The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef, in April 2018 Council resolved to remove single-use plastics from its operations and transition its functions and events to alternatives.
Council recognises that avoidance of single-use plastics is an effective way to reduce unnecessary landfill and the impacts of litter in the land and sea environment. Businesses and the broader community are encouraged to #choosetoreuse where possible or to opt for environmentally responsible packaging.
Since then Council has:
- Successfully trialed a large scale dishwash and re-use system at the Cairns ECOfiesta which attracted over 13,000 attendees
- Introduced single-use plastic free conditions for stallholders at all Council-run markets (108 outdoor markets per year)
- Commenced education with packaging suppliers in the region
- Reviewed the items it stocks, amended catering practices and is updating venue hire conditions
- Successfully called on Local Government Association Queensland to produce a state-wide program to phase out single-use plastics from council operations and events and to help support local communities and industry to transition away from these items.
Council provides information to support food and beverage businesses, local event managers and packaging suppliers to remove common single-use plastics. See the Plastic Free Cairns Guide for more information or contact a Council officer on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to access further support.
Plastic-free July challenge
Individuals, schools and businesses can join Plastic Free July, a global challenge to reduce single-use plastics. Participants choose habits they wish to cultivate in the month and may select some of the top 4 items (plastic bags, straws, bottles and coffee cups) or avoid single-use plastics all together. The challenge provides options to get started and has an extensive guide to living single-use plastic free on their website.
The problem with plastics
Plastics never 'go away' but rather break up into smaller pieces that can remain in the environment for hundreds of years.
Single-use plastic items are generally used for minutes, mostly made from non-renewable fossil fuels and often produced in far away locations. This represents a high amount of energy input for little return to local communities and the environment.
Even after all waste recovery processes, it is estimated that 40% of Cairns’ remnant waste is plastics.
Single-use plastics are also the most littered items found in Cairns and present risks to wildlife including entanglement or ailments from consumption as food. They can also alter on shore environments (such as nesting areas or soil composition) as well as underwater environments (affecting coral health).