Queensland’s Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Meaghan Scanlon MP, recently shared her insights with the ARA about how the Palaszczuk Government is responding to changing community sentiment around sustainability issues, and how can retailers get on board in supporting these initiatives and policy changes.
Q. It seems that we have now reached a tipping point in terms of community’s desire to address issues like climate change and plastic pollution. How is Queensland Government responding to changing community sentiment around sustainability issues?
A. Queenslanders have made it clear: they want to see action on waste to protect the environment and our great lifestyle. Images of plastic islands in the ocean, animals ingesting straws and other plastic items, as well as tonnes of good food ending up landfill have really put the spotlight on the harm of waste.
That’s why the Palaszczuk Government has set a target for the sunshine state to become zero-waste by 2050. That means swapping out harmful plastics with more sustainable products, finding better ways to recycle and dealing with waste in a way that means it won’t end up in landfill or our oceans.
We’ve since backed that in with a record $1.1 billion Recycling and Jobs Fund, announced late last year. That will supercharge the rollout of resource recovery across the state, so waste from homes, businesses and retailers can be broken down and repurposed for new products while also creating new jobs.
We have also taken action on single-use plastics, many which we have already banned in Queensland, like cutlery, plates, bowls and straws.
The next phase now is to finalise a five year roadmap that we announced just last month to give even more harmful plastics the punt. That roadmap will see us work closely with retailers and the community to see what plastics we can get rid of, while also making sure there are plenty of sustainable alternatives in place.
That’ll begin with getting to work straight away on replacements for coffee cups through an Innovation Challenge – with further details to be announced soon – to get Queensland businesses working on the alternatives we need.
We understand these changes can have an impact on businesses and we will work with them to ensure they are ready.
Q. How can retailers get on board and support these initiatives and policies?
A. There are plenty of ways retailers and businesses can get involved. Even rolling out the simplest of measures can have a huge impact.
We’ve partnered with the Boomerang Alliance to establish Plastic Free Places – an initiative that provides support communities and businesses to reduce single-use plastics and come up with some sustainable, long-term solutions.
It’s already been rolled out in the Far North, Central Queensland and Noosa, and it’s great to see so many retailers on board. As at the end of September 2020, over 6 million single use plastics have been eliminated or replaced during the program.
We’ve also rolled out EcoBiz – a program that is helping businesses implement more environmentally friendly practices that also help reduce their utility bills and costs.
If you’re a retailer wanting to get involved, I encourage you to reach out to programs like Plastic Free Places and EcoBiz, and to your peak bodies like the Australian Retailers Association to get advice and helpful resources.
Q. Which organisations do you see being key partners in implementing these changes?
A. The community push for less plastics and more sustainability will involve partnering with everyone. From customers to retailers, resource recovery businesses, industry and government – we all have a role to play.
Meaghan Scanlon MP is the Palasazczuk Government’s Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs, a portfolio she is well suited to being the state’s youngest Cabinet Minister in history.
Prior to entering politics she worked as a solicitor and was then elected on the Gold Coast in 2017, serving as the Assistant Minister for Tourism Industry Development before being appointed as a Minister in 2020.
Her portfolio oversees the protection of the world’s largest coral reef system as well as more than 1,000 national parks and protected areas – double the size of Tasmania.
She is currently delivering major investments for the environment including the recent announcement of single-largest investment ever to acquire new national parks and protected areas, building on the 1.2 million hectares declared as protected areas since the Palaszczuk Government was formed in 2015.
As Minister for the Environment, she is driving Queensland’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines the state’s economic and environmental blueprint to drive jobs and reach net zero emissions, headlined by a $2 billion renewable energy fund and the $500 million Land Restoration Fund.
The Minister also recognises the importance of supporting young Queenslanders and giving them a voice in parliament, with the government backing young people through record investment in schools, free TAFE for under-25s and jobs through a $50 billion-plus infrastructure guarantee.
As Environment, Science and Youth Affairs Minister, she understands the role her portfolio also plays in creating good jobs and great lifestyles, with environmental initiatives protecting the reef’s $6 billion tourism economy and the $2.6 billion economic impact our national parks support.