Plastic swimming pools are not a great option for the majority of Australian households, according to a new report.
The report by the Australian Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (AISA) found only about three per cent of Australian workplaces were equipped to safely remove and recycle plastic, compared to 25 per cent in Europe.
While the Australian figure is higher than the EU, the US and Canada, the report says there is a significant difference in safety standards between the countries.
“Most countries have a similar level of plastic recycling, but Australia has a very high recycling rate,” the AISA said.
However, the paper found that Australia’s standard is not as high as some other countries in Europe and the US.
Australia’s plastic recycling rate is almost double that of the UK, which has a recycling rate of less than 0.5 per cent.
As well as its relatively high recycling rates, Australia has one of the lowest plastic waste rates in the world, according the AISHA.
More than 50 per cent, or 543 million kilograms, of the total plastic used in Australia is not recycled.
About 70 per cent are disposed of as waste, with the rest being composted or recycled into landfill.
Australian households throw out over 2.2 million tonnes of waste annually, the Aisa said.
The Australian Government is working on a number of initiatives to improve the environment and minimise plastic waste.
In November last year, the Government announced it was increasing the recycling rate in supermarkets to 5 per cent from 3 per cent and in supermarkets, it will increase the recycling of paper from 20 per cent to 50 per per cent by 2019.
But the Government has faced criticism from the Greens, the Greens said it was “unbelievable” that Australia was recycling more than the UK.
Labor leader Mark McGowan said the government’s recycling target for supermarkets was “insane”.
“We are not recycling more plastic than any other country in the developed world.
Why is the recycling target of Australia so much lower?” he said.”
The fact that they are recycling plastic that we put into landfill is unacceptable.
A lot of this plastic comes from landfill and it’s really important we recycle it to help reduce the environmental footprint.”
The AISA report also highlighted the health and environmental impacts of plastic.
It found that the majority (70 per cent) of plastic is either toxic or carcinogenic, and most plastic items are not biodegradable.
Most of the plastic waste comes from the construction industry, where more than 80 per cent is disposed of.
Dr Michael Macdonald, from the Centre for Health and Environmental Research at the University of Queensland, said the plastic that was being put into our oceans was contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals.
“There are now studies suggesting that plastic ingestion, in particular, may contribute to the decline of fish populations,” he said, adding that the marine mammals that were eaten by plastics were smaller and more vulnerable to disease.
Macdonald said that the use of plastic was now contributing to an increase in diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
“What we’re seeing now is a major increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes in the developing world,” he added.
He said the report highlighted that the health impacts of plastics were not being recognised by the community and were causing significant environmental and health problems.
When asked about the future of plastic waste in Australia, the Prime Minister’s Office said the Government was “committed to addressing the challenges that our society is facing from plastic waste and climate change”.
“We have already made progress to increase recycling rates and we will continue to work with the industry to increase our recycling rate to meet the needs of our communities,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the Department of Environment and Water, and the Australian Environment Agency, were working together to increase the use and recycling rates.