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Senate Inquiry report calls on state and federal government(s) to act on scourge of marine plastics

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 20 Apr 2016

Today the Senate Environment and Communications Committee has released a landmark report into the causes and impacts of marine plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans.

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who initiated the Inquiry, said, “Today, we have seen Senators from Labor, the Liberals and the Greens standing together calling for urgent and immediate action on marine plastic pollution.

“As a lifelong surfer I have watched this worsen over time yet even I was shocked at some of the evidence we were presented with.

“The most frightening evidence was that every item of plastic that enters the ocean breaks into a million tiny pieces and that these micro-plastics get taken up by lifeforms as small as plankton and then accumulate up the food chain. While the impacts on seabirds and marine mammals are starting to become clearer, the potential impacts on human health of eating seafood with these micro-plastics are alarmingly unstudied.

“Governments have largely failed to make a dent in the volume of plastics entering the ocean and the problem is getting worse every year. This report has recommended a suite of urgent and immediate actions to turn this around.

“States can play a lead role in addressing some of the key sources of plastics. The Committee heard extensive evidence and has recommended in favour of introducing container deposit schemes and banning single-use plastic bags.

“It’s time for all the states to get on board with single-use plastic bag bans and container deposit schemes because quite simply, they work. If the states don’t act then the Federal government will have to step in.

“The Committee also resolved that microbeads, the tiny plastics used in cosmetics and laundry products, have to go. A voluntary phase out is not fast enough for a product ingredient that is unnecessary and not at all proven to be safe for our environment.

“I thank my fellow Senators for the way they have constructively engaged with this issue. I also sincerely thank the community and environmental groups who made submissions to this Inquiry and have spent decades working towards cleaner oceans,” he concluded.

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