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A case for change

Opinion

A case for change

We can no longer be contained in our quest to use less plastic, writes Jane Stephens, who believes we can all do better.

There is a certain buzz that comes with being first. It’s a heady feeling of breaking new ground, setting the pace and guiding others into pristine, uncharted territory.

When that first brings about a positive social change and might even make the world a little better (or at least not quite so bad) the result is an extra-positive high.

So it feels a bit sad for Queensland to yet again be a bit behind.

This month, the Queensland government announced it would ban lots of fiddly little plasticky items like cotton buds, disposable coffee cups, microbeads in beauty products and the mass release of lighter-than-air balloons.

Goodness knows it has been a long time coming, but the clamp will not be applied until next year to allow businesses to find alternatives. That’s all very good, but others are doing better.

Making Queensland looking like a scruffy laggard, South Australia this week removed liability from shops that let their customers bring their own plastic containers. They won’t make it compulsory, and vendors are still responsible for their food’s safety, but they have cleared the way.

We have known we had to change our plastic-dependent ways for years. We have learnt that for all its handiness, plastic is a long-lasting disaster for our world and we need to stop making more.

So it strikes me as strange that so many of us don’t act until we are made to, particularly with government data showing 90 per cent of us support more limits.

We have come a long way in a short time in adjusting our attitude. Remember the kerfuffle over phasing out plastic shopping bags? But we adapted. Last year, we said goodbye to straws, stirrers and expanded polystyrene and we’re doing okay.

The attitude with passing on plastic, and on changing our consumer behaviour generally, used to be ‘what difference can one person make?’

We now know the answer is lots when there are lots of ones. Communities have the power of transformation. So let’s get ahead of the government and encourage our local butchers, supermarkets, delis and food outlets to let us use our own containers.

Our community and environment need us not to wait for instructions to go that extra mile.

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Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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