Australia Climate action and sustainable development

Phasing out single use plastic in council operations: Lessons from the City of Launceston

Background

In 2019 Councillor Andrea Dawkins (pictured) tabled a motion at the City of Launceston Council to investigate the phasing out of single use plastics in council business and sponsored events by 2022.

Within this, the first focus of Council is to phase out single use plastic in food and beverage packaging and replace this with either compostable or reusable alternatives.

Councillor Dawkins’ motion was unanimously accepted by the council and a policy was developed in conjunction with the relevant impacted stakeholders. In 2020 this policy was accepted unanimously by Council.

The City of Launceston has shown considerable vision and invested in establishing an Organics Processing Facility (OPF) that can process Food Organics & Garden Organics (FOGO) collected from residential kerbside collections and also commercial collections.

The city is also in an enviable position as the council has capacity to manage regional organics and convert this material into valuable compost which can be reused allowing for these nutrients to be circulated throughout the community.

Principles, objectives and policy

It is estimated there will be more plastics than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. Single use plastics are a staple at many events and activities within the municipality due to their cheap cost and ease of disposal.

A core principle of Launceston’s policy is therefore to minimise the impact of single use plastics on marine environments, especially the area’s iconic Kanamaluka/River Tamar and Cataract Gorge through reduction of their use in council activities.

Key objectives of the policy are to:

  • Minimise the negative impacts of plastic litter on river, estuarine and marine environments, and to reduce the incidence of litter on land.
  • Support sustainable procurement, along with economic, environmental and social initiatives within Launceston.
  • Help Council take a leadership role through using only compostable or reusable packaging in all its occupied buildings, including when ordering catering.
  • Ensure all Council leases where the lessee provides take away food/beverages include a clause prohibiting the use of single use plastic packaging on council controlled land.
  • Ensure all events, markets and other activities on council controlled land, whether sponsored or not, are prohibited from using single use plastic packaging.

Some of the policy’s measures to ensure the council meets these objectives are:

  • The Council will cease purchasing single use plastics by 1 July 2022 at all Council operated buildings as listed in the scope.
  • The council will stipulate to caterers that all catering brought onto council occupied premises must be in reusable or compostable packaging by 1 January 2022.
  • The Council will, as leases expire, update leases where the lessee offers take away food/beverages to include the following clause: “single use plastics are not to be used on the premises and are to be substituted with approved compostable or reusable packaging alternatives“.
  • The Council will mandate that no single use plastics are used at both sponsored and non-sponsored events from 1 January 2022 onwards.  Approved single use compostable packaging or reusable packaging will be permitted.
  • All sponsorship agreements from 1 January 2022 will include the following clause: “single use plastics are not to be used during the event and are to be substituted with approved compostable or reusable packaging alternatives“.
  • The Council will, after 2022, work with event holders to transition to more sustainable event management, specifically facilitating the move away from compostable single use packaging to reusable packaging.
  • The Council will encourage food vans operating on council land to move away from using single use plastics.  The council will ask all food van operators to join into a memorandum of understanding which will ask that, when operating on council land or public roads, single use plastics not be used and are instead substituted with compostable or reusable packaging alternatives.
  • All general managers and senior leaders will support and implement appropriate processes to ensure operation and compliance to this policy and associated procedures.

As work begins on rolling out the policy, significant Council facilities like the Princess Theatre and bars at the UTAS Stadium will also move away from single-use plastics, either through the introduction of compostable packaging or through re-useable packaging.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten commented:

“Plastic pollution is an enormous environmental problem with dire consequences for marine ecosystems but it doesn’t need to be this way because we now have a range of options available to us to replace single-use plastic packaging, whether it’s cups, plates or cutlery. Here in Launceston, thanks to our FOGO collection service and our purpose-built Organics Processing Facility at the Launceston Waste Centre, we are uniquely placed to leverage the benefits of single-use plastic alternatives, like compostable packaging… this policy will have benefits right here in Launceston, but also in places far away from us where our plastic waste might otherwise end up”

 

This blog post is part of a series celebrating and sharing the successes of councillor-led initiatives. If there’s a project or policy in your council that you’d like to contribute for us to feature, please get in touch.

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