PLASTIC PACKAGING FACES TAX IN AUSTRALIA

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Australia's plastics industry is fighting calls for a new tax on plastic packaging, following the release of a report that claims plastic litter poses a serious threat to Australia's coastline.

The new report by the Sydney-based Surfrider Foundation Australia Inc. says plastic is the biggest contributor to litter on Australia's coastline and is putting the future of Australia's beaches and marine life at risk.

The Surfrider Foundation is a community-funded organization for the protection and enhancement of Australia's coastline.

Peter Garrett, Surfrider spokesman, Australian environmental campaigner, and singer with the rock group Midnight Oil, said plastic litter levels on beaches and in stormwater drains that run to the ocean must be reduced. He proposed the introduction of a new tax on plastic packaging.

But Chris Baker, environment manager of Australia's Melbourne-based Plastics & Chemicals Industries Association, said making plastic packaging more expensive will not address the fundamental problem of careless littering.

``It is a community problem and pointing the finger at one industry will not solve the problem,'' he said.

The latest research by Keep Australia Beautiful, a Canberra-based, government-funded body, shows plastic accounts for 38 percent of total litter in Australia. Paper accounts for 40 percent, glass 3 percent, metal 3 percent, and others 16 percent.

Baker said neither the Surfrider nor Keep Australia Beautiful studies addressed the sources of plastic litter. PACIA is working with government and community organizations to identify specific sources of plastic litter.

``It is important to find out the sources and types of litter to be able to develop appropriate strategies to minimize it,'' Baker said.

PACIA is the sole Australian packaging industry representative on the Australian New Zealand Environment & Conservation Council marine-debris task force.

Baker said PACIA is investigating the effectiveness of different types of coastal litter traps, such as filters at the end of stormwater drains.