25 February 2017

Plastic Bag Free Victoria - The end of the beginning (Update 3)

After posting my last update, the Plastic Bag Free Victoria campaign moved quickly. 

Our Plastic Free July movie and panel discussion was a success. We showed the film Bag It, followed by a rousing conversation on who should take responsibility on plastic pollution; individuals, government or businesses with our panel. The panel included Sea Shepard's Bia Figueiredo, Nicko Lunardi of Scab Duty, Sustainable Table's founder Cassie Duncan, Tammy Logan from Gippsland Unwrapped and special guest Rebecca Prince-Ruiz founder of Plastic Free July. My lovely husband went above and beyond to get food, cutlery, cups and napkins for the event to keep it plastic free. It was a packed event and our community group raised $1000. Thank you to everyone who came along.
Not long after our event, we were told of an opportunity to submit our petition with a Bill that was to be put forward by Greens MP Nina Springle.

Part of the protocol with petitions, is that an MP must submit the petition on our behalf. We couldn't just walk in during sitting week, throw it on the table and start chanting to a chorus of state ministers. Though it did sound appealing. For it to gain any type of traction and keep to a professional standard we had set out to achieve, we had to do things correctly.

Combining the tabling of the petition with the proposed Bill (to ban plastic bags, packaging and microbeads) added strength to Plastic Bag Free Victoria's petition. With the date of the Bill submission less than two months away, we began calling in the petition pages from any businesses, individuals and groups that were collecting signatures.

Our petition was the largest one to be submitted to the Victorian State Government in a decade. 11,600 signatures were collected in less than a year! For anyone that has been following along, we needed to hand over 10,000 for the State Government to take our request seriously.

The big day


On the 17th August, 60 members of Plastic Bag Free Victoria, marched from Federation Square, along Swanston Street and up Bourke St to the Victorian State Parliament carrying signs and a plastic bag chain. The 440 plastic bag chain was to show how many bags Victorian households use on average each year. We met Green's MP's Nina Springle and Ellen Sandell, speeches were made, interviews with local media and the petition was handed over. 
It was an emotional, high intensity moment, for those that have been working on the campaign. Sadly, the response we received when the petition and Bill were tabled, brought us all crashing down to earth very quickly; the current Labor government declared a plan to ban bags to be too difficult. Boom.

Naturally we felt angry and frustrated, especially when South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory have all put so called “difficult” 10c levy's in place and kept them. What was even more annoying, was that the same political party that is in government now (Labor), pledged way back in 2006 to do something on plastic bags, yet nothing was done.

While the current government declared that they would not put the Bill in place immediately, our petition helped prompt the Environment and Planning Committee to hold an Inquiry into Plastic Pollution in Victoria. Public submissions were invited on legislation to restrict the supply and sale of plastic bags in Victoria. We saw a glimmer of hope!

We rallied the 40 community plastic bag free groups from across Victoria that Plastic Bag Free Victoria represent. From Mallacoota in the east, to Moama in the north, Phillip Island and Torquay in the south to Apollo Bay in the West, everyone begun sending in their submissions to the inquiry.

It didn't stop at the inquiry submissions, we also encouraged everyone to write letters, emails and call state MPs too. Local councils jumped on board sharing their views, pledging their support for a plastic bag ban. Business also added their voice.

Soon Plastic Bag Free Victoria and other local environment groups were asked to a hearing, to share their views face to face. I could not make the hearing due to morning sickness, but I remember sitting there all day feeling like it was our teams last run into battle.

As the cut off for the public submissions came, we asked the Environment and Planning Committee when the final report would be released, thinking it would be weeks away. Turns out they had received more submissions than anticipated and that we would be advised at a later date on it's release. This left me feeling optimistic, and that our efforts during the past year were not in vain.

The reporting date for this inquiry is 25 May 2017. 

We will share it on Facebook, so make sure you like us over there to keep up to date: www.facebook.com/PlasticBagFreeVictoria/

What is happening now?


Community groups are growing and continue to spread the message. We are seeing more and more local action groups and Boomerang Bag initiatives start up across the State.

There has also been movement in other areas of the country with Queensland announcing they would introduce a plastic bag ban in 2018 to coincide with the implementation of its container deposit scheme. NSW and WA is seeing little movement on the bag front presently. But like Victoria, more and more community driven action groups are doing their part to call on policy makers to listen and make a change.

While we wait for the findings to be released in May, Plastic Bag Free Victoria will continue to drive conversation, write letters and encourage change as much as possible.

Getting involved with Plastic Bag Free Victoria has opened my eyes to how much power we have as individuals. I shared recently on an instagram post that blogging won't change the world. It will encourage change and get conversations started, but does not hold the same weight that writing letters, organising petitions and talking with government of all levels has. The handing in of our petition was an end to a year long campaign, but hopefully it brings about a new beginning.

To stay up to date with Plastic Bag Free Victoria you can visit our Facebook page and website.
  1. It's very nice to see we actually can change the world. As you say individuals have power!

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    1. We can!!! Each of us has power to bring about change, if we want.

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  2. Anonymous3/01/2017

    Hi Erin. I just saw this awesome TED Talk about Litterati - https://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_kirschner_this_app_makes_it_fun_to_pick_up_litter ... collecting data about litter to inform governments and companies about the source of letter problems to inform action - perhaps this could be used to build more evidence for plastic free Victoria. Thanks for all your great work. And good luck for the arrival of bubs (From one mum to another - can I recommend reading the book: Hypnobirthing - The Mongan Method ... basically a belief that we experience pain in childbirth because we have been conditioned to fear it and the fear creates a physiological response which results in the process being painful - if we can dispense with the fear we dispense with the pain- I did little more than take this belief on board and had the most amazing pain free labour - and want all women everywhere to have the same experience of childbirth. Good luck. Claire

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    1. Hi Claire, thanks for passing on Litterati. It would be a great tool in our arsenal to have. We celebrated had Clean Up Australia Day recently, and that will help provide some data for us to use too. Just waiting on the results! You will be glad to know that I have read a book on hypnobirthing and listen to my hypnobirthing tracks before I go to sleep. My body and mind feel prepared for the experience. Hopefully I get to experience all that you did :)

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