Sophie Chiew and Sophia Li (top L-R) and Rino Suwa (bottom) participated in the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament program this year.
Sophie Chiew, 17, Sophia Li, 16, and Rino Suwa, 16, are participants in the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament program, where young people (aged 16-25) have a chance to develop a bill on an issue they are passionate about.
The students’ Bill aims to discourage the use of SUP, in favour of reusable alternatives, by taxing registered Victorian manufacturers of SUP per tonne produced.
The Bill defines SUP products as “products (or components of products) made of plastic that are intended to be used only once before disposal or recycling”.
“These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery,” the Bill reads.
A decision was made not to tax vendors of SUP due to the logistical difficulties.
“Imagine if [vendors] had to keep track of every single straw that [consumers] use, or every single plastic bag given out,” Ms Li said.
“We just considered it would be a lot easier to just tax the manufacturers and that way, in turn, impacting vendors as well.”
The tax revenue will then be deposited into the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Sustainability Fund, which supports “businesses, local governments and communities through a range of waste management, recycling, resource efficiency and climate change programs”.
The Bill states Australia “generates more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year and this figure is expected to double by 2030”.
Ms Chiew emphasised how SUP in Australia are produced with predominantly non-renewable energy, and then will “end up in landfills and waterways” before breaking down to microplastics.
“There’s like a lot of problems associated with it, and it’s not really worth all the energy and all the risks, for just a single-use product,” Ms Chiew said.
In September, the South Australia Parliament passed a bill “[prohibiting] the sale, supply and distribution of certain SUP products”.
State MP John Kennedy’s Hawthorn electorate overlaps the City of Boroondara. Whether a SUP tax would be preferred to a ban in Victoria would involve asking “which is better and cheaper”, he said.
Mr Kennedy said he did not know whether the students’ Bill had the potential to become state legislation, but conceded passing a Bill of this kind was a “matter of timing”, especially considering the increased reliance on SUP due to COVID-19.
On the Victoria Youth Parliament program, Mr Kennedy said it was a “great confidence booster” for young people who “should be heard”.
“It [encourages] people in a non-threatening way to be confident, to speak up,” he said.
The students’ Bill was handed to the Minister for Youth Ros Spence for consideration on September 29.
“The reality is that we need to look after our environment and our planet because we’re the ones who are going to grow up to inherit it,” Ms Chiew said.
Ms Suwa echoed Ms Chiew’s sentiments and said “if we don’t do something right now, it’s going to be too late”.
In Victorian Youth Parliament’s 35-year history, more than 30 bills have become state legislation, including roadside drug testing for drivers and over the counter availability of the morning after pill.
This article was originally published by MOJO News.