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Pages tagged "Waste and Recycling"

Environmental Protection (Cigarette Butt Waste) Amendment Bill

8 February 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Environment Protection Act 1993. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise to speak on the Environment Protection (Cigarette Butt Waste) Amendment Bill of 2023. It is good to be back, Mr President. This bill seeks to reduce the amount of cigarette butts waste that is littered in South Australia. Cigarette butts are consistently the most littered item found in our state.

Of the 17.75 billion cigarettes—17.75 billion cigarettes—consumed in Australia each year, up to 8.9 billion end up as litter. That is litter on our streets, on our beaches, on our public spaces. They comprise 20 per cent of total waste items found during Clean Up Australia Day and 34 per cent of total litter counted by KESAB in its 2016-17 Litter Index.

Littered butts pose a range of hazards and problems in natural environments. Discarded butts are made of cellulose acetate, a synthetic material that is made up of cellulose, acetic acid and plasticisers, and that is photodegradable but has a low degradation rate. Exposure to sun will eventually break the filter down, taking up to 15 years for it to decompose, but the source material remains diluted when it is exposed to water or soil. In salt water, it can take up to 400 years for a cigarette butt to degrade—400 years.

Once littered, butts accumulate on soil or in the marine environment and they leach out toxic materials. A single cigarette butt can pollute 40 litres of groundwater. While toxicity is highest immediately after smoking, recent research has revealed a second toxicity peak at two to five years underlying the long-term hazards of cigarette butts disposed of in our environment. The cigarette filter leaches may affect drinking water quality and result in bioaccumulation in the food chain that could pose a threat to human health. There is also emerging evidence that nanoplastics are absorbed and dispersed by cigarette butts.

As the cigarette butts break up slowly, they shed microfibres and leach over 7,000 chemicals, including toxins and carcinogens. Many of these chemicals are acutely or chronically toxic to aquatic species. Just one cigarette butt per litre of water is highly toxic to fish. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of birds, turtles, whales and fish, where they affect digestion and lead to poisoning or starvation.

While the total number of chemicals in these littered cigarette butts is unknown, remaining tobacco in discarded filters contains a range of dangerous materials. Arsenic, cadmium and lead are on the World Health Organization's list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—do not say that in a hurry—are carcinogenic, and the US Environment Protection Agency has designated sixteen as priority pollutants, all of which are found in cigarette butts.

Further environmental devastation is caused by the fires attributed to cigarettes each year. More than 4,500 fires across Australia are caused by cigarettes, and at least 77 people lost their lives in fires that were started by cigarettes between 2000 and 2005. As well as diminishing the enjoyment and value of our natural landscape, substantial financial costs are incurred in managing cigarette butt pollution. The cost of tobacco-related litter removal has been estimated to be about $73 million per year to the Australian taxpayer. This cost is met primarily by state, territory and local governments, which manage litter prevention and removal at a local level.

Ultimately, it is taxpayers who foot the bill for managing tobacco product waste. The shifting of the financial accountability towards producers that this bill seeks to achieve is long overdue. This year, Spain introduced regulations to require tobacco companies to pay for the clean-up of cigarettes. It is expected the cost will then be passed on to consumers that could create a disincentive to smoking.

Additionally, it would be in the best interests of these companies to educate consumers to effectively dispose of their waste and to reduce clean-up costs. This bill is modelled on a scheme that will be familiar to South Australians, that is, the container deposit scheme that has been in place here since 1977. The container deposit scheme was one of the first pieces of product stewardship legislation in which industry is obliged to take greater responsibility for its packaging after it has been sold.

In the case of the container deposit scheme, beverage suppliers must ensure that a system is in place for the recovery and recycling of their empty beverage containers. As a litter control measure, the container deposit scheme has been highly successful. South Australia indeed leads the nation in recovery, recycling and litter reduction of beverage containers with a current overall return of 76 per cent, and beverage containers now make up just 2.8 per cent of litter in our state.

Fortunately, cigarette butts can now also be recycled. I was really surprised to discover when researching this bill the myriad uses for cigarette butts. Indeed, they can be used in a diverse range of products including bricks, benches and home insulation. Businesses such as TerraCycle in Canada are collecting cigarette waste, cleaning it and separating it by material types. The materials are then recycled into raw formats that manufacturers can use to make new products. The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a specialised process.

With momentum of stewardship programs being implemented around the world, it is time for cigarette deposit schemes to be established in South Australia to ensure that tobacco companies are minimising the harm their products have on our environment. It is not acceptable for big tobacco companies to wash their hands of the obligation they owe to South Australians to clean up their waste. It is not acceptable for cigarette butts to litter our public space and for these companies to be able to sell these products without taking any responsibility for the waste they produce.

Under this bill, cigarette manufacturers will be required to put deposit schemes in place for cigarette butts, with the product then disposed of thoughtfully and ideally recycled, as is the case in Canada. Under this bill, the cigarette manufacturers will be able to apply to the Environment Protection Authority for the approval of a collection scheme, and the bill would allow the government to prescribe the requirements of the scheme under regulations.

Retailers would then be required to ensure information about the deposit scheme is made available to their consumers. Under mutual obligation requirements, the bill would only apply to cigarettes sold in South Australia; however, I would argue that if the government were to put in place such a scheme as this, it could be an area in which South Australia could lead the nation and, indeed, the bill could have more widespread application.

I note that the Hon. Mr Frank Pangallo is present in the chamber. He and I have discussed this matter before and I know it is an issue that he is also interested in. I note also the Hon. Heidi Girolamo and her interest in matters relating to waste reduction, so hopefully this is an issue where we can work together in the parliament.

Our natural environment is essential to the existence of life on earth. As members of parliament, it is our duty to ensure we defend our planet from the threats posed by excessive pollution, including cigarette butt wastage, and embrace the solutions that can resolve current challenges. It is in that spirit that this bill is being advanced today.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.

Planned Obsolescence

30 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In the 1920s, the makers of light bulbs wanted to find a competitive edge. They worked in Geneva in January 1925 to create an alliance to work together to find solutions. They were called the Phoebus Cartel, and they discovered that, if you reduce the life span of your product, you can sell more of them. They reduced the life expectancy of light bulbs from 2,500 hours to 1,000 hours to generate higher sales. By creating an inferior bulb, they could save on manufacturing costs and force customers to buy more. It worked: the cartel increased their sales by more than one million units in four years.

This become known as planned obsolescence; marketeers soon realised that shortening life spans was a way to activate commerce. During the Great Depression planned obsolescence was seen as a way of stimulating the economy, so in the United States there was even a push by citizens to legislate for limited life spans so that products were reproduced.

The idea of limiting life spans was quickly picked up by other industries, and in 2022 we now see it employed in cars, in smartphones, in batteries, in ink cartridges, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances and more. I have often experienced this in my own home in my quest to find a vacuum cleaner that seems to go the distance. Planned obsolescence is often blamed for the increased waste in electric goods, and in 2016 Australia generated 23.6 kilograms of e-waste per inhabitant—that is a lot of material ending up in landfill, 65 per cent, in fact.

By reducing the life span of products, manufacturers are contributing to the throwaway economy, where consumers are encouraged to simply throw away products and buy a new one earlier than is necessary. It is unfair to consumers to expect them to continually purchase items that could have been built with longevity in mind. This bill, which provides for an advertised life span of electrical products, has been introduced at this time to coincide with the Christmas sales, because I know during this economic crisis a lot of South Australians will be considering how they can get bang for their buck, and many will be concerned about purchasing items that may have a much shorter life span than intended.

In recent years, there have been several legal cases against manufacturers who are intentionally shortening the life span of their products. In 2018, for instance, Apple had to pay $27 million under the European Parliament for intentionally shortening the life span of their products after it was discovered that software updates were being used to slow down their phones. Cases have also been brought in other jurisdictions against printer companies for building ink cartridges with smart chips that disable the device when the ink is low.

Any item with a non-removable lithium ion battery in rechargeable devices is naturally going to have a shorter life span as the battery degrades over time. Of course, we accept that—that is covered by the bill. We see it in many items we use daily, such as battery-operated headphones, handheld blenders, handheld vacuum cleaners and children's toys.

Other jurisdictions have begun to stop this wasteful practice. In 2014, France passed legislation making it an offence to deliberately reduce the life span to increase replacement rates. The bill I am introducing today takes a consumer awareness approach. The Fair Trading (Lifespan of Electrical Products) Amendment Bill requires that the shortest life span of an electrical product is advertised at the point of sale. Retailers would provide a label with that information made available to the consumer. This would allow consumers to make an informed choice in terms of the products they select, reducing the cost for the consumer and reducing the material that ends up in landfill.

A report tabled in the European Parliament states that 92 per cent of consumers would prefer for their products to be labelled with their life span or useful life. People feel cheated, understandably so, when they find out that a product they have bought was meant to only last for a few years. When purchasing a dishwasher, consumers should know if the components will last for five years or if they will last for 15 years. Most would rather pay a little bit more at the point of initial sale rather than having to continually replace a product, generating more waste and, of course, more cost for the consumer.

The bill ensures that consumers will have accurate information about the durability of their product at the time of purchase, measured in years, months, days, cycles or kilometres. Further, it ensures that the product is treated as a whole, with the component with the shortest life span being the one that is disclosed. These measures would ensure that consumers are given the most accurate information available about the life span of their product.

Next time, Mr President, when you are considering an electrical item, I urge you to consider whether you would know how long it is going to last before you buy it, and would you still buy it if you knew that it was only going to last for one year or maybe two, or would you choose a different product? By ensuring that we are giving consumers choice we can solve two problems in one: we can halt the unreasonable practice of planned obsolescence and reduce the enormous amounts of e-waste generated.

Question: Lead Pollution in Port Pirie

01 June 2022


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of lead pollution at Port Pirie.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: InDaily reported yesterday that 42 public houses are located in areas of risk to children under the age of five because they are prone to lead dust. In the article it was stated that all of those 42 homes are currently occupied by at least one child aged under five. It is understood that there is a tender open for a maintenance contractor to facilitate the planning and completion of lead abatement related works in Port Pirie.

My question to the minister is:

Does the Malinauskas government intend to carry out the previous government's pledge to cut lead pollution at the Port Pirie smelter, and will the government rehouse affected families while the lead abatement project is taking place?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries):

I thank the honourable member for his question. I am happy to take that on notice and refer it to my colleagues in the other place who have direct responsibility for those matters.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: when can I expect a response?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): That will be as soon as possible.


In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (1 June 2022).


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

Port Pirie has been segmented into lead-risk areas: high, medium and low. A lead-risk map reflecting these areas was updated in April 2020 and provided to the Port Pirie Housing SA office. The current practice is to not allocate families with children under five within the currently defined high-risk area. Existing tenants with children under five residing in the high-risk area, who were allocated prior to the provision of the updated lead-risk map, were given the opportunity to relocate to another medium-risk or low-risk area within Port Pirie.

Families who reside in current medium-risk and low-risk areas will not be relocated during the lead abatement works as these works will focus on the exterior of the house. Work will include covering existing exposed soil and increasing dust suppression to avoid potentially contaminated soil from blowing into homes. The soil will be tested on site prior to commencement of works, and soil with greater than 300 parts per million of lead will be removed from the yard and replaced with clean fill.

Greens BYO Container Bill Passes Upper House!

19 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I would like to thank all members for their thoughtful contributions and for their support of this bill. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the former ministers with whom I engaged on this bill: Ms Vickie Chapman in her capacity then as Attorney-General, the Hon. Stephen Wade in his capacity then as health minister, Mr David Speirs in his capacity then as environment minister, and of course the now Deputy Premier and environment minister, the Hon. Susan Close, with whom I also engaged and who is also supportive of this bill.

I am a big believer in the Pantene effect in progressive politics—it does not happen overnight, but it does happen—and this bill is a good example of that because my predecessor, Mark Parnell, first introduced this back in 2018 and put it on the agenda then. I took it up with a few tweaks when I came into the parliament and so it is back again. I am hoping that this time it will progress swiftly through this house and then be quickly passed in the lower house so that it can become law. I hope that the government will make it a priority there for that to happen.

I want to flag for members' benefit that when this was introduced in the previous parliament, the then Liberal government had some sensible amendments that were supported by all parties, and I will be moving those amendments. They are the same amendments that were supported by the previous parliament and have been circulated to members previously.

Motion: Civil Liability (BYO Containers) Amendment Bill

22 September 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill is a simple measure that is consistent with the Marshall government's phasing out of single-use plastics, an initiative supported by the Greens and I think everybody here in this place. My former colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell first introduced a similar bill in 2018, around the time there was a debate around the use of single-use plastics. While there was opposition to the bill by some in the business community, I think this, a new version, addresses many of these concerns, and it is in a revised form that the bill appears before the parliament today.

We already know that eight million tonnes of plastics leak into our oceans each year, with estimates suggesting that, if this trend continues, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish—more plastics in our oceans than fish. That is a frightening prospect and one that we should all be looking to reverse as quickly as we possibly can.

While we have already seen single-use straws, cutlery and stirrers prohibited from being sold in South Australia, from next year there will be a ban extended to the sale, supply and distribution of polystyrene cups, bowls, plates, clamshell containers and oxo-degradable plastic products. We welcome that. This bill is a logical extension of the measures that the government has already set in train.

Essentially, what this bill does is allow a consumer to bring in their own reusable container to buy food. For example, you could go to your local supermarket deli section and, instead of having your gourmet and continental goods wrapped in plastic and then butcher's paper, you hand over your container and, instead, you have the goods packaged up in that. In effect, you can bring in your own container, fill it up and take it away with you.

The reason we are amending the Civil Liability Act instead of the Food Act is that this is due to a liability issue. Businesses could at the moment allow customers to bring in their own containers if they wish, but they would then assume responsibility if something goes wrong. If I bring in a container that is not suitable, or I have not properly sterilised it, or I do not store it, there is a concern that the business could be liable for that. This bill makes it very clear that it is not the business that assumes the liability; rather, the responsibility rests with the consumer for the container that they own and have bought into a store. I think that makes sense.

There is of course an exception provided in this bill in terms of general immunity, and that would be if the person who is selling the food did so knowing that the food was unsafe for consumption or that it was subject to a food recall order. In other words, if a food provider knew that the food was not fit for human consumption and they sold it to the consumer in their own container, of course this bill would not provide them with immunity. It is certainly no protection against negligent conduct. I also want to make the point that there is no mandatory requirement in this bill that requires businesses to adopt this practice. If a business decides they do not wish to allow customers to bring in their own containers, they are free to make that choice, and no-one is going to be penalising them.

What I will say, however, is that there is an overwhelming movement towards reducing single-use plastics and wastage here in our state. We know that South Australia has been leading the way in this regard over many, many years, so I think consumers will be excited by this reform and I think businesses will too. There is the possibility here, too, for businesses to say that they are going to offer a discount to consumers who bring in their own container. I think many businesses would jump at that chance. I commend the bill to the Legislative Council, and I hope that all parties will get behind this commonsense reform.