Roundup: Local council plastic action, Coles Sustainability week and preference for Aussie products

Duncan Murray

Hills council
In the picture, from left to right we have: Senior Research Consultant Simran Talwar from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of technology Sydney, Hills Shire Councillor Alan Haselden, Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Michelle Byrne and Dr. Rachael Wakefield-Rann, also from UTS.

Think global, act local council

The Western Sydney council of Hills Shire is slowly waving goodbye to single use plastics by eliminating them from council buildings and venues.

Already the council has removed disposable coffee cups, plastic plates and serving platters from its Council Administration building, replacing them with reusable crockery.

A collaboration with UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures is helping review the Council’s use of single-use plastics and how to reduce these items within all of its buildings.

“The Australian Government’s National Plastics Plan aims to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling, and at local level, we want to do our part to ensure we help in achieving this goal,” Hills Shire Mayor, Dr Michelle Byrne said.

Born of the 2020 National Plastics Summit, the National Plastics Plan 2021 maps a government-backed path to increasing plastic recycling and phasing out “unnecessary” plastic use through working with industry, and if that fails through regulatory action.

Part of this is phasing out includes working with industry to eliminate polystyrene (EPS) from use in packaging by July 2022, and use in food and beverage containers by December 2022 as well as eliminating PVC packaging labels also by December 2022.

It also involves phasing out plastic packaging products with additive fragmentable technology by July 2022. This covers many products commonly labelled as biodegradable that are actually fossil fuel based and made up of microplastics that don’t break down in the environment.

“Like so many of humanity’s challenges, change can take place in small steps and Council’s actions,” Councillor Alan Haselden, who first initiated council discussions on the issue, said.

“Falling in line with state and federal governments’ directions, are one such step and a signal to the Hills community.”

Coles marks Sustainability Week

Supermarket giant Coles took a moment away from keeping prices down, to celebrate its success in the sustainability realm this week.

Across its more than 2500 stores and sites, which include over 118,000 employees, each day of the week held a new area of sustainability to focus on, under the banner of “Together to Zero”.

Areas included, reducing food and packaging waste, and greenhouse gas emissions, in which the company has partnered with various organisations to achieve sustainable outcomes.

According to Coles, over a 10 year partnership with food rescue organisation SecondBite, it has donated the equivalent of 144 million meals to those in need. In the same period, a partnership with RedCycle helped collect more than 1.5 billion pieces of soft plastic.

Staff were encouraged through videos and posters to get involved in the discussion and help the company achieve its targets of 100 per cent renewable electricity by the end of FY25, net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to reduce combined Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by more than 75 per cent by the end of FY30 (from a FY20 baseline).

Pandemic prompts lift in preference for Aussie products and less for Chinese goods

New research from research house Roy Morgan has shown that Australians’ preference for locally made goods has risen while demand for Chinese made products has dropped considerably — perhaps unsurprisingly considering trade and security issues and the recent “drums of war” media headlines over Chinese affairs.

In the 2020 survey, 93 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to buy locally made products, up from 87 per cent the year before, while just 21 per cent said they were more likely to buy products made in China, down 9 per cent from the year before.

“The closure of international borders and restrictions on travel around the world appears to have helped increase support for Australian-made goods at the expense of overseas products,” Roy Morgan chief executive Michelle Levin explained.

“Unsurprisingly it is Chinese-made goods which have fallen the most in preference. Over the last year relations between Australia and China have deteriorated despite the fact over 30 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade valued at $264 billion in 2019/20 is with China.

As far as goods from other countries were concerned, the most popular all saw a drop in desirability, from our nearest neighbour New Zealand which rated the highest with 55 per cent, to the UK on 51 per cent , USA on 47 per cent, and Germany and Japan both on 46 per cent.

Meanwhile, preference for goods from the Asia Pacific region actually grew, by between 1-2 per cent. Singapore was the most popular on 34 per cent followed by South Korea on 29 per cent, Malaysia on 17 per cent and India on 17 per cent.