Better Building Partnership Sustainable Destination Partnership and CitySwitch and their allies packed into the Marconi Room at Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday morning to launch a new program to reduce single use plastics in the city’s destinations hot spots, organised by the City of Sydney.

There were many stories of innovative carrot and stick ideas to spur on anyone still on the sidelines. Among them lease clauses for food retailers at the University of Technology Sydney to provide more than a gentle nudge. And YHA Australia, which audaciously replaced plastic drink bottles with chilled water fountains and re-usable bottles. The result? A massive 40,000 fewer single-use water bottles.

Clover Moore

Lord mayor Clover Moore was delighted with the turnout and noted the lack of chairs and standing room only meant there was great enthusiasm for action, something especially pleasing to note “after reading the papers this morning and seeing it’s business as usual from [coal supporting, energy and emissions reduction minister] Angus Taylor”.

Danielle McCartney, UTS

Ms Moore said 32 organisations had taken the pledge, including the Sydney Opera House, Atlassian, Fox Studios and Star Entertainment Group.

Targets were plastic bottles, straws, throwaway cups and food utensils at hotels, entertainment venues, markets, festivals, major events and outdoor spaces.

Among presenters were Lucy Sharman from Lendlease, who said the aspirational targets at Barangaroo to divert 80 per cent of operational waste from landfill at the massive $7 billion precinct with 80 retailers and around 1800 residents plus commercial tenants seemed impossible at the time.

L-R: Caroline Grandjean-Thomsen, Emma Bombonato, Madeline Combe from Sydney Opera House

When the precinct kicked off with its huge sustainability ambitions, she recalls, neither she nor colleague Anita Mitchell who like Chalmers came from a waste background had any idea of how to achieve the target. But today it’s being achieved thanks to a team effort, especially the cleaners, she said, who were particularly attuned to the ambitions for the precinct.

Her advice to the room?

“Set a really strong target. One that you don’t think you are going to achieve.”

At UTS, Danielle McCartney, head of sustainability, said the university’s new food court due to be opened in August will be plastic free, an achievement won through a strong procurement program and lease clauses

that bans plastic straws, plates, bags and plastic lined cups.

She later told The Fifth Estate that there was significant pushback from leasing agents to the clauses, but that a firm line from the university proved successful.

In fact, surveys of existing retailers revealed all to be well along the journey towards plastic free. By the time all their leases are renewed McCartney expects the university will be 100 per cent plastic free.

Cr Moore said, “Studies show that up to 1 million plastic drink bottles are purchased globally every minute, but less than 50 per cent are collected for recycling. 

“Plastic straws can last up to 600 years and many end up in our beautiful harbour and waterways. It is shameful that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

“While recycling plays an important role in managing our waste, we need to refocus on reduction and avoidance.

“The city has set bold targets to reach zero waste by 2030. We must reduce the amount of waste we produce, recycle as much as possible and treat what’s left over in the most sustainable way.

“I congratulate the businesses who have signed up to this pledge, and I urge others to get on board and commit to phasing out single-use plastic because it’s better for business and better for the environment.”

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