Launch of Boomerang Bags and Plastic Free July at Growers Green Farmers Market this Sunday

You are invited to join us for the Launch of Boomerang Bags and Plastic Free July at Growers Green Farmers Market this Sunday, 9.30am, 2 July 2017.

Boomerang Bags is a community movement. The bags are made by volunteers using recycled fabric and are available for shoppers to use when they forget their own shopping bags.  This stops the need to use plastic bags.  The bags are boomeranged around the community via stands which enable you to drop off and borrow again.  This simple idea has given communities the opportunity to think and share sustainable practices, recycle materials and come together to stop the amount of single use plastic.

We hope you can join me along with Plastic Free July founder Rebecca Prince Ruiz, and Minister Simone McGurk at Growers Green Farmers Market and see how we are embracing the phase out of single use plastic  in Freo.

The Campaign to Ban Plastic Bags Goes National on The Project

Following on nicely from the plastic bag local law that we have been debating at Freo Council this month, the Project has teamed up with Clean Up Australia to see single-use non-biodegradable plastic bags banned across Australia. Thanks to existing bans in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, the ACT, and an impending ban in Queensland we just need WA, NSW and Victoria to get on board for an Australia wide ban.

Here are some great snippets from the segment that you can view below:

Support for existing bans is overwhelming. In South Australia, 81% of the consumers strongly support the ban. As do 73% of Territorians, and 70% of Australians living in the ACT.

Currently, Australians use an estimated four to six billion plastic bags each year. That’s 10 million bags every day. Every minute, we send 7,150 plastic bags to landfill. But 80 million plastic bags never make it to landfill, and instead end up in our litter stream, killing 100,000 birds and marine life every year.

On average, it’s estimated we use a single-use plastic bag (like you’d find at Coles and Woolies) for just 12 minutes. And that same bag could take up to 1,000 years to break down. A plastic bag you use today will share this planet with your great great great great great great great great great great great great grandchildren.

Many countries around the world, from China to Italy, Papua New Guinea to France, Taiwan to The Netherlands, have already banned plastic bags. But despite supporting in spirit, the banning of plastic bags, the Premiers of NSW, Victoria, and Western Australia are yet to lead on the issue. We want them to #BanTheBag so that Australia is not left behind as the rest of the world addresses this serious and avoidable environmental disaster.

Check out the very funny segment here:



Plastic Free July: Is your daily coffee killing the earth?

A good article in the West today by Freo resident Rebecca Prince-Ruiz on plastic and the planet. Might be time to reintroduce our local law on banning single use plastic bags 🙂

Grabbing a takeaway coffee on the way to work when dropping off kids or after a workout has become a habit for many West Australians.

The aroma of freshly roasted beans can transport us to another place and prepare us for a busy day.

But after those few moments of bliss, we simply throw the cup away.

Have you ever wondered where “away” is? It’s estimated Australians use one billion disposable coffee cups each year. Besides plastic lids, paper cups are often lined with plastic film.

Little is recycled, most is landfilled and, like many other disposable plastic items, can end up as litter. Either way, what’s not priced into our daily cup is the cost of them remaining on our planet for decades.

Since its invention just over a century ago, plastic has become part of our daily life and is increasingly used for disposable items. Every day we use bags, water bottles, straws and food packaging for a few minutes before discarding them. Almost every piece of plastic ever made still exists on earth.

And our consumption is increasing — in the first 10 years of this century more plastic was produced than in the entire last century.

Having the “recycling symbol” on plastic packaging doesn’t mean that it will be recycled. The number simply identifies what type of plastic the item is made from. Recycling rates depend on where the item is disposed, local waste management facilities and other factors. Australia last year achieved an overall plastics recycling rate of 20 per cent (with WA lagging other mainland States). Even if this was higher, recycling will never be the whole answer. Sometimes it’s cheaper to use virgin plastics rather than recycled plastic.

Plastic pollution in our oceans is an issue of global concern, impacting our environment, our economy and our health. Plastic entangles and is ingested by wildlife as small as plankton to as large as whales.

A recent CSIRO study found plastics will have the greatest impact on wildlife in the Southern Ocean, with scientists recording up to 200 pieces of plastic in the gut of a single seabird.

The Australian Senate this year completed an inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution and recommended it be placed on the Council of Australian Governments’ agenda for urgent consideration.

There is no denying the source of the problem — the majority of plastic has been in someone’s hands and those same hands hold the solutions.

At a personal level, there are a few steps we can all take to reduce our “plastic footprint”. Remembering reusable bags, water bottles and coffee cups and refusing plastic such as straws and buying in bulk can greatly reduce unnecessary packaging and is better for your health, too.

As consumers, we can boycott personal care products containing plastic microbeads such as facewash and toothpaste (avoid polyethylene).

Each item can contain hundreds of thousands of plastic beads too small to be captured by wastewater treatment systems that end up in the ocean for ever, a perfect size to enter the food chain. Ultimately, to address the scale of the problem, solutions need to go beyond the personal. Local governments are leading the way.

The Town of Cottesloe recently voted to ban smoking on beaches because cigarette butts, which are made of plastic, are the most commonly found litter item in beach clean-ups worldwide.

The Senate inquiry contains recommendations for the introduction of legislation for States and Territories as well as nationally. Banning the use of single-use lightweight plastic bags results in increased use of reusables and a decrease in plastic bag litter.

Container deposit schemes exist in the NT, SA and will soon be introduced in NSW and have been shown to increase recycling rates and decrease littering. During the Senate inquiry, the CSIRO reported South Australia’s scheme as “very successful, reducing the number of beverage containers, the dominant plastic item in the environment, by a factor of three”.

Often the cost of introducing these measures is cited as a barrier. However, the cost of plastic pollution itself is rarely accounted for and is borne by clean-up efforts of volunteers, local governments and the environment. What price are we prepared to pay?

Take the first step — sign up for the Plastic Free July challenge at and refuse single-use plastic. Be part of the solution to plastic pollution.

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz is acting sustainability manager, Western Metropolitan Regional Council.


In The West today: Fremantle plastic bag block sets worrying precedent

In the West yesterday journo Gareth Parker wrote a disappointingly one-side opinion piece in the West celebrating the killing off of Freo’s Plastic Bag ban. So it was good to se some strong responses in the paper today in including a letter from Upper House MP Lynn MacLaren (see below) and Conservation Council head Piers Verstegen. They are worth a read.

Parliament must not block local community action to protect the environment – by Piers Verstegen

The move by Peter Katsambanis MLC and his Liberal party colleagues to overturn a Local Government law banning plastic shopping bags in the City of Fremantle shows that something is seriously wrong in our WA State Parliament.

There is no doubt that plastic bags are a major problem. Tens of millions of them end up in litter and landfill, polluting our rivers and oceans and choking our marine life every year.

But this isn’t really about plastic bags. This is about Liberal MP’s acting on behalf of unnamed business interests to block a genuine community-led solution to a serious environmental issue where successive State and Commonwealth governments have refused to take action.

After receiving a community petition with over 1000 signatures calling for the City of Fremantle to take action on plastic bags, the local authority began an exhaustive consultation process to ensure that any solution would be workable for traders and shoppers alike.

This involved a working group comprised of business representatives including the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce as well as plastic bag suppliers. It was this working group which recommended the final law that was passed by the Council after receiving overwhelming support in submissions from businesses and community members.

In addition to strong local support, the City of Fremantle local law also had the backing of a parliamentary committee which investigated the law as well as the Minister who is responsible for waste management, litter and the environment, Hon Albert Jacob MLA.

Despite this, Mr. Katsambanis (who does not represent Fremantle) claimed in Parliament that his blocking motion was in the interests of local retailers who had expressed concerns to him directly. The names of these businesses remain a mystery.

If Mr. Katsambanis and his parliamentary colleagues are acting against the advice of their own Minister, Local Government and the parliament to block community-led environmental reforms then the community has a right to know which businesses are pulling their strings.

Perhaps their concerns could have been allayed if those businesses were more willing to raise their concerns in public through the local Council, the Chamber of Commerce, or the community that is both their host and the source of their profits.

The move to block this local initiative sets an extremely worrying precedent at a time when people are increasingly turning to Local Governments where State and Commonwealth Governments are failing to represent their interests.

In the Midwest, local shires are responding to farming communities fighting to protect their land, water and livelihoods from gas fracking while at the same time the State Government subsidises drilling through their drinking water aquifers.

In the Southwest, Shires have supported local community efforts to protect high-conservation forests from the chip mill while the State continues to subsidise a loss-making logging industry that is exempt from wildlife protection laws.

Whether it is supporting communities to reduce plastic pollution, oppose nuclear activities, protect forests, or prevent pollution from gas fracking, Local Government has a critical role in working with communities to address environment and sustainability challenges.

Where the State Parliament is unwilling or unable to represent the interests of communities and the environment, they should at least get out of the way when others show their own initiative.

An edited version of this opinion piece was printed in the West Australian 16 October 2015

12079485_10153030766727680_968243181728031055_n 12079067_10208430248340188_1003987208607780546_n

City frustrated with blocking of innovative Fremantle plastic bag law

The State Government’s response in the parliamentary debate on the Fremantle Council’s proposed plastic bag ban in parliament was riddled with contradictions. On one hand Liberal MLCs stated that this should be a matter for state government and they should be the ones introducing such a law not the City of Fremantle. And the in the next breath said they had no intention of banning single-use plastic bags! The Freo local law was sent to the Upper Houses committee for delegated legislation for examination. After examination no problems or issues were identified but Liberal MPs still claimed it was outside of local jurisdiction despite having no basis for this. In the end this vote was about ideology not evidence. I am just glad we don’t have this dumbed down party political debate at a local government level where people have no choice as to how they vote.

To the community members that put in hours/days/weeks of work into this. I am sorry for this result but thankful for you amazing work. I honestly believe though that the day that single-use plastic bags are banned in Fremantle and hopefully WA is not that far away.

Here is the ABC reporting on this and the City of Fremantle press release:

Press Release 14 October 2015

The City of Fremantle is bitterly disappointed its innovative local law designed to reduce plastic waste in Fremantle has been blocked by the Legislative Council for the second time in three years.

The City of Fremantle Plastic Bag Local Law would prohibit retailers providing customers with single–use non–biodegradable plastic bags and was amended and resubmitted after a similar law was blocked in 2013. In May 2015, Liberal MLC Hon Peter Katsambanis moved a disallowance motion against the amended submission which was officially moved last night (13 October) in state parliament.

“We’re really disappointed that as a local government, we’ve been unsuccessful in progressing a proactive law that is not only within our jurisdiction under the Local Government Act 1995, but has been instigated by our local businesses and community members,” said Fremantle Mayor, Brad Pettitt.

“It’s unfortunate the state government has blocked such a widely supported law that would have pioneered a sensible approach to waste reduction and environmental protection, especially after all the community consultation and amendments we’ve undertaken over the last three years. There are several other local government authorities, both in Western Australia and in other parts of the country that will also be disappointed and discouraged by this decision.” Dr Pettitt said.

Fremantle Council will now focus its efforts on continuing to provide education and support for the use of sustainable materials by local retailers and the community, in order to reduce the use of plastic bags and maintain its commitment to delivering sustainable outcomes as a One Planet Council.

Sustainability challenges faced by local governments, including plastic bag reduction will be discussed at WA’s first sustainability festival event, One Planet Fest-a-Con Anti-Conference on 23 and 24 October.

For more information and background on the plastic bag law click here.


Freo’s plastic bag ban will be debated in WA Upper House TONIGHT

The disallowance motion on Freo’s plastic bag ban will occur TONIGHT around 8pm.

Below is the letter I have written to the upper house MPs on this. I have had some excellent responses form ALP and Greens MPs already but it is the liberal coalition who control the Legislative Council  so I hope they can let they can let Freo be a leader on this.

Dear Member of the Legislative Council

I am writing to ask that you vote against the disallowance motion on the City of Fremantle plastic bag local law. I understand this will be debated in the Legislative Council this week.
 The Fremantle Council started the process to ban plastic bags over three years ago because the Fremantle community wanted change and submitted a petition to the Fremantle Council, with over 1000 signatures from community members, including local retailers, calling for a ban on single use plastic bags.
 The Joint Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation (JSCDL) reviewed the first iteration of City of Fremantle Plastic Bag Reduction Local Law in 2012 and at the time formed the view that the “(Local Law) is, with exception of clause 6, within power of the Local Government Act 1995, under the Committee’s Terms of Reference 6.6(a)”.
 In response to this advice, the City completely removed the contentious 10 cent charge and there is no charge in clause 6, or in any other clause in its current lawful 2015 local law. It also sought legal advice as to whether there were any other clauses or issues of contention that could render the law unlawful. In essence, there are no legal grounds to give rise to a disallowance motion against this local law in its current form.
Reasons for support
 The City of Fremantle plastic bag local law is consistent with the approach used in many other jurisdictions around Australia including South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania.
 Internationally, there are a growing number of cities and countries restricting the use of plastic bags. For example, from the start of last week, shops in England were required by law to charge customers for single-use plastic bags in a bid to reduce their use.
 Many other WA local governments who have been watching the progress of Fremantle’s local law with interest would like to see it supported so they can consider a similar approach in the absence of the WA State Government legislation on this matter.
 The evidence of the impact of plastic bags on the marine environment continues to grow. For example:
 This government has an opportunity here to enable the legitimate trialling of a local law which could significantly change the conversation around litter, resource use and waste management in Western Australia.
 Every second, 159 single-use plastic bags are used across Australia.
 Mr Katsambanis has stated that there was an 80% increase in the use of bin liner sales. This is incorrect. Recent evidence from the ACT shows that the sale of bin liners have largely fallen to pre-ban levels.
Unintended implications of disallowance
The implications of the Legislative Council disallowing a local law made in accordance with section 3.5 of the Local Government Act 1995, goes beyond the issue of this particular local law and questions the legitimacy of local governments making local laws. It sets what I see as an ill-advised precedent for the Legislative Council to become the local government ‘House of Review’ and the arbiter of local governments’ ability to represent its community on community matters.
The City of Fremantle’s plastic bag local law is strongly supported by the Fremantle community, retailers and the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. It should be viewed as a trial and data collection exercise that will help inform the merits of a larger state-wide plastic bag ban. It should not set a problematic precedent that sees the Legislative Council involve itself in local government matters in a manner and extent that is has not previously.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Brad Pettitt

Freo plastic bag ban due for debate in October

It was pleasing to hear Environment Minister Albert Jacobs stating he has no problem with Fremantle’s ban of single use plastic bags. Let’s hope the rest of the Liberal Party can be as sensible as him when it comes to the upper-house for debate in October.

Also this very sweet video about a whale wanting a plastic bag removed from its face is worth a look: