Volunteers recorded nearly 1,000 straws among the waste, after a weekend Darwin market. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
All single-use plastic will be banned at Darwin City Council events and from market stalls on council land from January 1 next year — which could see more than 1,000 disposable coffee cups saved from landfill each market day.
The ban, which would extend to helium balloons on council land, was decided at a Darwin City Council meeting last night.
It came as supermarket chain Coles today backed down from a planned plastic bag ban in other states, instead opting to hand out free thicker reusable plastic bags indefinitely.
Alderman Emma Young said a plan providing more detail about the transition would be finalised before the end of the year.
“It’s nationwide, it’s worldwide to actually be looking at how we reduce our impact, particularly in the oceans and to do with our marine life, which is heavily impacted across the world,” she said.
“At this point in time … there’s a lot more opportunities to purchase environmentally friendly products which used to be cost prohibitive but aren’t any more.
“[Stall holders] will still have plates, they’ll still have knives and forks — they just won’t be plastic.”
A spokesperson went on to cite the benefits of phasing out single use plastic — a reduction in plastics going to landfill or ending up as litter, improved environment and human health outcomes, and better support for retailers already utilising alternatives.
An unenviable task — a team of volunteers spent hours sifting through market waste. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Piles and piles of waste
It counted more than 1,029 coffee cups and 33.34 kilograms of food containers among the waste.
“Making a really big change like this is not easy, we’re dealing with an ingrained mentality around how we use products,” Michelle Harle from Waste Free NT said.
“Like any major issue, education is the key.”
However, plastic alternatives — including organic material or bioplastics — require a commercial composting facility to be processed: something Darwin currently does not have.
“In the short-term, [the alternatives] may go to landfill. What we are discussing and looking at is the long-term benefit,” Ms Harle said.
“Part of the solution needs to be a commercial composting facility.
“Obviously the best solution is having reusables and a wash station.”
Darwin does not currently have a commercial composting facility, meaning plastics alternatives may still go to landfill. (ABC Newcastle: Robert Virtue)
‘Hopefully supermarkets will follow’
The move drew a generally positive response on social media, although some were sceptical.
“I used to work in a Chinese restaurant way back in the early 70s and it was common practice for people ordering takeaway to bring their own saucepans or Tupperware containers. Well done DCC!” — Janet Podsiadly
“Great initiative. Hopefully supermarkets will follow and stop selling more and more fruit and veg wrapped in plastic!” — Patricia Puig
“Territory as per usual … leading the way and setting an example for the states that will hopefully follow!” — Dianne Brown
“As a visitor to your beautiful city only a few weeks ago I could not believe how much plastic waste was on your beautiful beaches and in your parks after cracker night” — Kylie Ammerlaan
“Great idea, setting an example for the safe zone princesses down south that can not let go of their single use plastic bags … might raise the prices a bit but worth it for the enviroment.” — Graham Ruthenburg
“I think there are other issues they should put their resources into.” — Sally Barlee
“I think that plastic cutlery becomes insignificant when the economy has fallen on its face, and people are scared in their own homes due to escalating crime rates!” — Jason Todd