KeepCup’s Abigail Forsyth: It’s time Australia voted for a government that will take real action on climate

Abigail Forsyth keepcup

Abigail Forsyth, co-founder and managing director of KeepCup. Source: supplied

It’s difficult for us to ask politicians to hold themselves to a higher standard of account, if we vote for ourselves and not for the country.

Are you voting for next week, next year, next decade? Are you voting for yourself, your family, or your grandchildren?

Since 2009 we have driven a campaign to ensure the world neither needs, wants or uses disposable cups. Together with hundreds of organisations we have drawn attention to the non-recyclability of single use products, the devastating impact of convenience culture and called on individuals to change their behaviour.

The action is now obvious and there is global cultural consensus on the urgent need to remove single-use plastic and transition to renewables. The finite resources of the planet mean the move to a circular economy to recover and reuse is inevitable, it’s just a question of how much more of the last wild places we destroy before this happens. Good things take strategy, vision and planning. We require systemic change and clear vision, and a federal budget that supports the strategy.

Australia uses 3.5 million tonnes of plastic every year, only 9% of which has been recycled to date. The government’s latest investment towards the recycling sector and the access to new and innovative waste technology will no doubt see some change in the way we recycle plastics, but cleaning the mess is not enough.

The budget needed to lay the foundation for transition to circular economy and accelerate the transition to renewables. We need to change how and where products are designed and manufactured in the first place.

No glass or steel consumer products are made in Australia. Some big corporations own supply chains that could easily create reuse and refill programs — so the budget could be a tool to incentivise industry change. For example, in parts of Canada the average beer bottle is washed and refilled 15 times before being recycled.

Australia is already set to fail on our goal of achieving 70% plastic packaging waste by 2025 and many have labelled Australia’s plan of net-zero emissions by 2050 a “fraud”. We need to hold the relevant parties accountable and it’s time for the government to step up with concrete action to achieve real and tangible results.

The IPCC’s most recent report shows that many of the effects of global warming are now irreversible, and more than 40% of the world’s population are highly vulnerable to the threats of climate change.

It is galling to watch the PR and celebration given to climate pledges that are never eventuate. Last month’s New Climate Institute and Carbon Market Watch report revealed the climate pledges of most multinational firms cannot be taken at face value and has highlighted the severity of the greenwashing issue we have on our hands.

Everyday Australians have shown their willingness to act over and over again, switching to reusables and achieving the highest rates of domestic solar in the world — the budget ought to have more incentive for businesses to move to circular economy, and penalties for those who are falling behind.

So when you vote next month, vote for people who have a long term vision, vote for the country. If we stand for nothing, we fall for anything.

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