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9 July, 2021

Free advice to help businesses phase out single-use plastics

Cairns food and drink businesses are being offered free advice on how to transition away from single-use plastic items that will soon be banned in Queensland.

Polystyrene foam food containers and cups as well as single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates will all be banned from September 1 under legislation passed by Queensland Government in March.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said Council had partnered with Plastic Free Cairns, a program run by the Boomerang Alliance and funded by the Queensland Government, in the fight against plastic pollution.

“Plastic Free July is the perfect time to take advantage of the free service offered by Plastic Free Cairns to restaurants, cafes, food vans, clubs, pubs and takeaway businesses to help them find the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic items,” Cr Manning said.

“Single-use plastic straws, stirrers, plates, bowls, cutlery and polystyrene expanded foam cups and containers will be banned soon in Queensland, a move which Council supports.

“In fact, we made a submission to the State Government last year to include even more items in the ‘banned’ list.”

As part of its commitment to a Plastic Free Cairns, Council has adopted purchasing practices and policies in the past five years that has led to the removal of more than two million single-use plastic items from Council operations, switching to better alternatives.

The ongoing phase-out of plastic bags, utensils, straws and cups has been enshrined in Council’s new Single Use Plastics Management Policy, adopted in April. 

Council has also:

  • Introduced requirements that no single-use plastics be distributed by stallholders at Council-run events, venue hire and markets
  • Successfully trialled large scale dish re-use systems and water cafes at major events like Cairns Ecofiesta and Cairns Children’s Festival
  • Amended catering practices, reviewed stocked items (including switching to commercially compostable dog waste bags) and delivered staff education.

Division 5 Councillor Amy Eden said plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

“We know that plastics don’t simply go away; they break up into smaller pieces that can remain in the environment for hundreds of years,” Cr Eden said.

“It puts wildlife at risk – particularly our marine life, such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles – which can become entangled or consume plastic debris, resulting in sickness or death. It can also alter nesting areas, soils and even corals. As a Reef Guardian Council we are tackling this issue head on.”

Plastic Free Cairns coordinator, Helen Reilly, said 130 member businesses had already received assistance to transition to better alternatives and 19 Cairns businesses had been named Plastic Free Cairns ‘champions’ by removing all of items targeted in the program.

“Through the program, Cairns food and drink businesses have already removed 259,736 items of single-use takeaway plastic and we would love to see more businesses joining” Ms Reilly said.

“There are so many great alternatives and reusable solutions that are available right now in Cairns and it’s easier than ever to make the switch,” she said.

Aqua Café owner Natascha McCorkell said she had been transitioning away from single-use plastics since taking over the business last year.

“Every single one of us needs to do our bit to help the environment,” Ms McCorkell said.

“We need to make better decisions, whether that is by choosing reusable products, recycling or making other cleaner and greener choices.

“I took over this café in February 2020 and bit by bit I have been making conscious decisions to make environmentally friendly choices.”

Plastic Free July is a global challenge that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – by avoiding unnecessary plastic items and choosing to reuse instead.

Will you be part of Plastic Free July for a healthy land and sea environment?

Community groups and events can access information on the single-use plastics ban in a free forum with the Boomerang Alliance:

  • Monday 12 July, 5.30pm – 6.30pm
  • Cairns & District Senior Citizens Association Hall, 271 Gatton Street, Westcourt
  • Food and drink businesses can book a free session from Plastic Free Cairns to receive tailored support and unique promotional benefits at:

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