Do we have a problem with plastic and litter in Hobart?
Plastic pollution is one of the most common forms of marine debris and the waters around Hobart are not immune. Whether it ends up as litter or into landfill, there is considerable public momentum to reduce availability of non-compostable products as a means to reduce environmental impact.
Will compostable packaging fix the takeaway litter issue?
Data from the Environment Protection Authority Tasmania indicates that up to 50% of litter is comprised of takeaway rubbish. Compostable packaging is not considered to be a complete solution to litter because not all compostable packaging breaks down quickly in the environment. Solutions to litter lie in effective campaigns that lead to behavioural change which emphasise an overall reduction in packaging distribution and consumption, increased use of reusable packaging and as a final choice, utilising certified compostable packaging.
Will all businesses be affected by the single-use plastic by-law?
The by-law only applies to businesses that provide or sell food in packaging that can be taken from the premises and consumed. The by-law will encourage retailers to replace current single-use plastic containers which are smaller than one litre (1L) in volume or an area equivalent to A4 (210 mm by 297 mm) in size. All packaging larger than these dimensions is not affected.
The implementation of the by-law will facilitate the replacement of plastics and may encourage innovation and new business opportunities.
The by-law does not apply where a retailer provides or sells food when packaging is supplied by the customer (e.g. coffee cups or Tupperware containers); or the customer was not provided food packaging by the retailer (e.g. a bottle of soft drink).
Will there be a cost?
The costs to each individual business will vary depending on the number and types of packaging products, packing supplier and the size of business operations. The overall cost to the DKHAC pool café for example was less than 1% of annual turnover and they were required to switch or substitute a wide range of items.
Current Tasmanian packaging suppliers include compostable products among their range, so compliant products can be sourced locally.
What are the next steps?
- Council will publish a public notice and seek comment for a period of at least 21 days. Council will undertake any additional public consultation as considered necessary during this time.
- Any public submissions must be considered by the Council.
- Council will formally make the by-law.
Are there alternatives to single-use plastics?
Is compostable packaging more expensive than plastic packaging?
How will the City enforce the new by-law
Implementation of this by-law will be staged in order to maximise stakeholder engagement and understanding and strongly root the culture change required to make the by-law effective.
It is envisaged that businesses will have six months to a year after the enactment of the by-law to comply with new packaging requirements.
Hard copy information packs or ‘toolkits’ will be provided to all Hobart food businesses – inclusive of replacement product lists. Additionally, educational information sessions for proprietors will be held and one-on-one advice will be available.
Were Hobart residents consulted about the proposed by-law?
During the course of 2018, officers from legal and governance, environmental health and cleansing and solid waste teams took the opportunity to undertake wide ranging consultation on the proposed by-law and conducted a range of complimentary activities.
Consultation indicates consumers would welcome a reduction in single-use plastic and support businesses in moving away from non-compostable takeaway items.
A community Your Say Hobart survey conducted between February and March 2018 returned a significant response in favour of reducing the use of single-use plastic.
- Of the 2,962 responses, 96% disagreed when asked “do you think it is appropriate to use single-use plastics?”
- An overwhelming 90% said they were willing to pay more for food and drinks if it meant that sustainable packaging was used.
- Survey responses indicated a sensitivity to how much more consumers would be willing to pay, with around two-thirds willing to pay up to 5% extra.
- While a state government ban was perceived more favourably, 75% of surveyed participants felt that a local government ban would be an effective or highly effective way of getting more takeaway food businesses to use less single-use packaging.
- A ban was perceived to be significantly more effective than the use of support and education.
Were Hobart businesses consulted?
A face-to-face business survey was completed by a University of Tasmania master’s degree student. The survey examined current knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of takeaway food business operators in Hobart and the reasons why they chose certain types of packaging products.
- The majority of respondents agreed that single-use packaging is unsustainable and has a negative impact on the environment.
- Businesses explained that they choose products predominantly based on functionality rather than affordability.
- Most businesses indicated that they would prefer to see a statewide ban over a local by-law to reduce single-use plastics.
A third of the City of Hobart’s approximately 300 food and beverage businesses already supply some form of compostable packaging. In surveys to date, businesses have indicated a favourable response to banning single-use plastic packaging, with a strong understanding of the reasons behind it.
Did Hobart communicate with other local councils about the single-use plastics by-law?
The City consulted with other councils through the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) to gauge members’ support of a statewide approach to ban single-use plastics.
A total of 10 councils responded to the survey conducted by LGAT and all indicated they would support a statewide approach to this issue. Five councils indicated they were not likely to consider their own by-law, while two said they might.
The local government sector then voted unanimously in July 2018 in favour of a City of Hobart motion asking for LGAT to lobby the State Government to commit to legislating to phase out single-use plastics across the state.
What about straws?
There are some instances when a person with a disability may require a single use plastic straw. A retailer will not be penalised for supplying a straw under these circumstances.
Why is there an infringement associated with non-compliance of the by-law?
Penalties are an essential part of any by-law, however they are a last resort.
The current penalty unit amount is $163 and is set by the State Government. The two penalty units is applicable for an infringement notice which can be issued by a council officer. An eight penalty unit and infringement of up $1300 is assessed if the matter is prosecuted.