How will South Australia’s single use plastic ban impact you?

Just stop and count how much plastic is in your immediate vicinity right now.

It’s in our phones, our clothes, the seats we sit on – plastic is everywhere. 

Plastic is so useful that we produced an estimated 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic between 1950 and 2015 – that’s more than 1 tonne of plastic for every person on the planet today.

But there is a difference between ‘useful’ and ‘convenient’ and the line has become increasingly blurred. 

In 2015 alone, we produced 381 million tonnes of plastic and 146 million tonnes of that was used for packaging. 

That’s around 38.5% of total plastic production going into packaging – the stuff we use once and throw away.

You can read more about global plastic production, uses and disposal at ourworldindata.org

South Australia has consistently punched above its weight when it comes to recycling and reducing consumer waste – we developed a container deposit scheme 40 years before the rest of Australia and introduced a ban on plastic shopping bags nearly a decade before the other states even noticed they were a problem.

It seems like every South Australian has a story about crossing our borders and noticing the cans and bottles littering the roadsides.

So it’s no surprise that South Australians are leading the way again.

Earlier this year the SA Government released a discussion paper and subsequent stakeholder engagement found overwhelming public support for government action to reduce single use plastic consumption.

Recognising that businesses will need a transition period, the government will act on single use plastic in three phases;

Phase 1 – banning plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers – starting as soon as they can get legislation through parliament in early 2020 and the minister has assured us that valid concerns from disability and aged groups have been heard.

Phase 2 – banning polystyrene cups and polystyrene takeaway containers as well as ‘oxo’ degradable plastic bags (the ones that are degradable over a longer period of time but aren’t compostable or biodegradable)

I suspect there are many who would like to see Phase 2 brought forward but the government has wisely chosen to flag these changes up to a year in advance to give businesses time to transition to alternatives.

Phase 3 – Will see more consultation and research into banning or further recycling options for other items such as takeaway coffee cups, thicker (non compostable) plastic bags and other takeaway containers.

South Australians will do what they’ve always done – we will adapt our behaviour and lead the rest of the world.

You can download and read more about the government’s consultation process and subsequent plan at greenindustries.sa.gov.au

What keeps the world’s business leaders up at night?

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Each year the World Economic Forum asks business leaders and other experts which major threats they believe countries are most likely to face in the coming decade. In the latest report, the top three global risks concern the environment and climate change—with destructive weather leading the pack for the third year in a row. For Americans, it seems, that threat is already here. Last year there were 14 weather disasters in the U.S. with losses topping $1 billion each—from Hurricanes Florence and Michael to the devastating California wildfires. That’s more than twice the annual average from 1980 to 2018.

A version of this article appears in the March 2019 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline, “What Scares the World.”

CHART SOURCE: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

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