Friday, August 26, 2022

Synthetic turf and microplastics under investigation by NSW Chief Scientist

The Office of the Chief Scientist in New South Wales is currently investigating the use of synthetic turf and its environmental impacts, including the generation of microplastics. 

Professor HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE, Commissioner, Natural Resources Commission, and NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer answered questions at the NSW Budget estimates on Tuesday 23 August, 2022.

Durrant-Whyte explained: "It is about suitability for purpose in general, and the Office of the Chief Scientist, in general, doesn't make policy recommendations; it will make science recommendations. There is a lot to do with, as you say, not just microplastics but a whole range of other things, like local temperatures and things like that which impact significantly, but also there is a useability element which is important, so communities actually having access to playing fields and things like that. A lot of things have to be balanced out. Our role in this is to collect the evidence, collect the views, and to genuinely provide the scientific recommendation on which Government can make a policy decision."

The collection of information has been ocurring since the start of 2022 explained Durrant-Whyte. This has included involvement of a number of university groups plus collection of international data.


The office of the Chief Scientist are working very closely with EPA in the investigation. Durrant-Whyte explained that it is the NSW EPA which will ultimately have to implement any recommendations that come from the report. 

Questioning by The Hon. PENNY SHARPE then turned to Mr TONY CHAPPEL, Chief Executive Officer, NSW Environment Protection Authority who asked about issues in relation to micro and nano plastics in the environment and regulation on microplastics.

Tony Chappel highlighted the need to shift to sustainable alternatives to products that use plastics and microplastics. "we need to really engage very deeply with the community in terms of helping people understand the need to shift to sustainable alternatives and then helping industry understand the imperative for them to look at their own products and shift to more sustainable alternatives.

Chappel elaborated "It's important to understand that this is fundamentally about taking plastic out of the environment because it accumulates. People say that it takes 100 years to break down. That is not true. It might take that time to get small enough that you can't see it, but ultimately it can be absorbed into the food chain and then impact human health and environmental health very significantly, so it really is part of a much broader need to shift to a circular economy and much less use of these plastics in society and in the environment."

It will be intersting to read the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist report and its implications for use of synthetic turf.

NSW Planning Department commissioned a consultants report: Synthetic Turf Study in Public Open Space, during 2021 which highlighted many issues.

NSW Single Use plastics and microplastic beads ban

NSW is introducing regulatory bans on various plastic items and products that use microplastic beads. The Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 from 1 November 2022 bans the supply of: single-use plastic straws, stirrers and swizzle sticks; cutlery, including forks, spoons, knives, sporks, splayds, chopsticks, and food picks; Single-use plastic bowls and plates; EPS takeaway food service items, such as clamshells, cups, plates and bowls; Single-use plastic cotton buds. The ban applies even if these items are made from biodegradable, compostable, or bio-plastics. This includes those made from Australian certified compostable plastic. (https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/our-work/environment-energy-and-science/plastics-action-plan/phasing-out-single-use-plastics-in-nsw ) 

The ban also applies to rinse-off personal care products containing microbeads, including persional care products that contain micro-beads, including shampoo and conditioner; face masks and face wash, including exfoliants; hair dye, whether permanent, semi-permanent or otherwise; toothpaste; body wash products, including exfoliants. Other items that fall under the design standard may also be banned.  

(See NSW EPA Microbeads page  )

Single use plastic ban in Victoria

Victoria is following NSW with a plastics ban coming into force from 1 February 2023. 

This includes Single-use plastic drinking straws, cutlery, plates, drink-stirrers, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, and cotton bud sticks will be banned from sale or supply in Victoria from 1 February 2023. (Reference: Single Use Plastics )

--------------------

Transcript relating to Synthetic Turf and microplastics (pages 63-64)

NSW Budget Estimates, PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE NO. 7 - PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT, Tuesday, 23 August 2022 Legislative Council - UNCORRECTED


The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: That's good to know. I think this is EPA—synthetic turf. Is that you, Mr Chappel?

TONY CHAPPEL: I understand the Chief Scientist is conducting a review based on a referral from Government.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Yes, I wanted to find out where all of that was up to.

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: I am not sure how much I can say because it is in process, but there has been an awful lot of consultation that has gone on and still is going on up and down the coast. We have certainly got a draft of what we want to do going forward and my expectation is it will be complete certainly before the end of the year, and hopefully some way before then. It is, as I'm sure you know, a much more complicated thing than I think anyone originally anticipated.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: I think that is the concern of the community, that it has been rolled out very quickly with, all of a sudden, all of these problems with microplastic and those kinds of things. There has been a review, so can you just give me an outline? Will you be making recommendations about the way that these are planned, or are you just looking at evidence of the concerns around microplastic and that sort of thing?

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: It is more than that. It is about suitability for purpose in general, and the Office of the Chief Scientist, in general, doesn't make policy recommendations; it will make science recommendations. There is a lot to do with, as you say, not just microplastics but a whole range of other things, like local temperatures and things like that which impact significantly, but also there is a useability element which is important, so communities actually having access to playing fields and things like that. A lot of things have to be balanced out. Our role in this is to collect the evidence, collect the views, and to genuinely provide the scientific recommendation on which Government can make a policy decision.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Has there been very much work done on actually collecting the evidence? I'm aware there are a lot of assertions around the pros and cons of synthetic turf, but what evidence have you been able to collect around microplastics going into waterways and that sort of thing?

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: We have gathered quite a lot of information. This has been running now since at least the beginning of the year. We've had a number of university groups assisting with the process. We often get external advisers like that. We have also looked a lot at international data in this area as well. So there is quite a corpus of information now.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: So once you make your recommendation—I am looking forward to this report—

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: Yes, so am I.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: It will then go to the EPA. What is the process from there? You make a recommendation to Government? Tell me what happens.

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: We were actually originally commissioned by DPE, or DPIE as it was at the time, to undertake this as part of a planning exercise.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: It was Minister Stokes, wasn't it?

HUGH DURRANT-WHYTE: Yes, so it was part of the whole planning exercise. However, we are clearly working very closely with EPA because EPA will ultimately have to implement any recommendations that come from it.

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: Mr Chappel, as the EPA, obviously you're waiting for this report, but the issues that are raised in relation to micro and nano plastics in that environment—where are you up to with regard to the regulation on that?

TONY CHAPPEL: This is really a multidimensional challenge and we are looking across a number of different waste streams, including tyres, where we are convening industry groups and other stakeholders to collaborate and look at both the latest science and beneficial reuse opportunities and their appropriateness. In terms of microplastics, there are a number of regulatory bans coming in in November in personal care and then there is a much broader review of the next stage of that legislative agenda that the EPA will kick off the following year. It is really, I think, something that touches almost every aspect of modern life, so we need to really engage very deeply with the community in terms of helping people understand the need to shift to sustainable alternatives and then helping industry understand the imperative for them to look at their own products and shift to more sustainable alternatives.

The Hon. MARK PEARSON: Will the regulations or conditions that will come in November also apply to imported products?

TONY CHAPPEL: Yes, this is about prohibitions on sale in New South Wales, but I think they are very important—they are quite groundbreaking. It's important to understand that this is fundamentally about taking plastic out of the environment because it accumulates. People say that it takes 100 years to break down. That is not true. It might take that time to get small enough that you can't see it, but ultimately it can be absorbed into the food chain and then impact human health and environmental health very significantly, so it really is part of a much broader need to shift to a circular economy and much less use of these plastics in society and in the environment.

---------------------------------

Related Articles:


References:

No comments:

Post a Comment