With Australia facing a knife-edge federal poll on May 18, plastic pollution has become an election issue.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is preparing a scorecard of major political parties' responses to its campaign objectives, including a call to ban all single-use plastics.
James Cordwell, marine and plastics campaigner for Brisbane-based AMCS, told Plastics News the society has asked all parties to commit to an Australia-wide ban on single-use plastics by 2023 and a target to cut the amount of plastic entering waterways and oceans by 70 percent, as soon as possible.
Cordwell said the scorecard will be compiled next week, after the month-long deadline for parties to respond expires.
The federal opposition party, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), has delivered what Cordwell describes as a "welcome commitment to start tackling the tsunami of plastic pollution" in a program called Create a Cleaner Australia.
He said the governing Liberal-National coalition parties have not yet responded, nor have minor parties, except the Greens. Cordwell is still reviewing the Greens' response and will include it in the scorecard.
Cordwell said AMCS asked "all parties to step up, by committing to action that stops this crazy, needless use of plastics for things we'll only use once but will hang around forever, like a straw for sipping a drink or a wrapping for fruit.
"We have known for years about this tsunami of plastics entering our waterways and oceans. What we now need is a tsunami of policies to match. If we don't do anything about it, by 2050 plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish."
ALP's program includes a national ban on microbeads and single-use plastic bags by 2021 and A$15 million to help "Pacific Ocean neighbors" prevent plastic waste going into the ocean.
Cordwell said a mandatory ban on microbeads is needed now because the voluntary phase-out time frame had been extended and the target is not yet met.
In a pre-election publicity stunt, AMCS and Boomerang Alliance, a Sydney-based network of 48 environmental groups, have delivered metal drinking straws to all 226 federal members of parliament and senators to boost awareness of their plastic waste priorities.
Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel said in a joint statement: "Trying to get elected is thirsty work. Sending all MPs a metal straw shows there's a way for them to suck in a good way. We want them to stop the environment sucking up plastic pollution."
Cordwell said: "The next Australian government needs to show leadership on tackling plastic pollution. Australia has a huge vested interest in getting this right. We have a marine tourism industry that's worth A$31 billion a year."
Polls are putting the ALP slightly ahead of the governing Liberal-National parties but the election result is predicted to be very close.