Plastic pollution

Plastic Pollution: 5 Tips to Become “Plastic Free”

Have a deep look at this picture. Can you see that is a mermaid swimming in a plastic ocean made of 10.000 plastic bottles?

The Canadian photographer and artist Benjamin Von Wong launched a campaign called “Mermaids Hate Plastic” with a series of images to get awareness and action on a very urgent problem: plastic pollution in our oceans. Von Wong knew plastic pollution was a boring topic and he had to find a way to make it more interesting and bring awareness to this problem. With his creative skills, a bunch of volunteers, 10.000 plastic bottles borrowed from a waste management center, a mermaid and a single wish he made this project happened.

“Change happens when individuals come together to fight for something they believe in.” Join Von Wong’s Pledge.

 

Plastic Pollution: How it Affects Our Oceans, the Marine Wildlife and Us.

plastic pollution

By the year 2050 there will be more plastic rubbish floating in our oceans than fish [2]. When I think about it I get terrified. And I bet you too. Specially plastic bags escape and float easily in air and water, travelling long distances and end up in our oceans.

According to National Geographic “there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea”. We all know that the plastic in the oceans is eaten by animals. Over 200 species are directly affected by marine plastic pollution [7]. Fish are unknowingly ingesting tiny plastic microparticles, turtles are biting plastic bags when they think it’s a yummy jellyfish, “90% of seabirds around the world have ingested plastic” and even plankton (the basis of the marine food chain) has been observed ingesting plastic [5]. According to the latest statistics, 30% of all large ocean fish will be found with plastic remnants in their stomachs [4]. It means every time you eat seafood you are potentially ingesting plastic particles into your own body.

 

 

Plastic in Australia

Australians consume over 3 million tonnes of plastic products and packaging each year and recycle less than 10% of it.

 

Disposable Coffee Cups

Australian’s take away coffee habit could be doing more damage to the environment than we think. It is estimated that Australians use 1 billion take away coffee cups each year. The disposable coffee cups look like they are made of paper, but actually they have a plastic lining and also a plastic lead. Even if the paper degrade when in the landfill, the plastic will stick around for a very long time. Coffee cups are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waste after plastic bottles.[8]

Don’t forget to take your own reusable coffee cup tomorrow morning!

 

Plastic Bags

Did you know that worldwide 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year? I said 1 trillion!

In Australia 3.92 billion plastic bags are used a year, that’s over 10 million new bags being used every day. An estimated 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout the country every year. “It is estimated that around 50 million bags enter the Australian litter stream every year. Unless they are collected, they remain in the environment and accumulate at a staggering rate”. If you can’t imagine how much plastic that is just think if the 50 million plastic bags were made into a single plastic sheet, it would be big enough to cover the Melbourne CBD [3].

Next time you go shopping take your own bag. #banthebag

 

How You Can Help to Spread the Word and Make the Difference

Researchers say that humans will produce as much plastic between 2015 and 2026 as had been produced in all previous years combined [6].

Despite the urgency surrounding this issue, many people seem not be as worried as they should about plastic pollution. To change this scenario the international community has come together with campaigns and projects to educate and inform people in how to reduce plastic consumptions and minimize our footprint on our planet.

Find your local organisation and start being #plasticfree!

 

Plastic Free Byron

It’s a collaborative project of people and organisations within the Byron Shire. The project aim to inspire changes to the way we view, use and accumulate plastic in our lives and community to reduce plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and our landfill.

 

Plastic Free July

It’s a campaign developed in Western Australia in 2011 from the idea of refusing single-use plastic during July. It’s mission is to “to raise awareness of the amount of plastic in our lives by encouraging people to eliminate the use of single-use plastic during July each year. It’s focus is on creating awareness of the issues surrounding plastic, particularly single-use, providing alternatives and solutions, and encouraging new habits”.

 

Clean Up Australia

The organisation was created by an Australian in 1989 in Sydney with the idea to make the difference in this world. This idea is now become Australia’s largest community-based environmental event, Clean Up Australia Day. Over the past years Australians have collected more than 331 thousand tonnes of rubbish around the country.

In 1993 the organisation launched “Clean Up The World” which involved an estimated amount of 40 million people from 130 countries. Clean Up the World demonstrates that people across the planet are willing to do something themselves to help protect and care for their environment.

 

 

5 Tips for a Plastic Free Living

Many people get very inspired and motivated to start a plastic free living. But how to start to bring it to our daily lives? Dianne McGrath is a sustainability expert and is currently doing a year long experiment called #53sundays in which she quit single-use plastic. Check her 5 quick tips to get started:

 

1. Do a Stock Take and Start Small

Next time you do the shopping, take a quick stock take of all your purchases afterwards. Pick just one purchase that may have a plastic-free alternative and start there: commit to buying or making a plastic-free version next shop. Once that’s well established, move onto the next item on your shopping list. The point is to slowly accumulate plastic-free practices, rather than set yourself unrealistic goals of never seeing plastic again.

 

2. BYO Cup

For many, a starting point in reducing single-use plastic and waste to landfill reduction in general is the takeaway coffee cup. Using your own cup instead of getting the disposable cups can make a huge difference. It may be worth buying two to begin with so that washing and remembering your cup doesn’t meet a hurdle. You might want to keep one in the office, and one in the car.
reusable coffee cup
Photo by Karen Cantú Q on Unsplash

 

3. BYO Plastic Container

This has seen the largest reduction of single-use plastic in Dianne’s life. When she visits the butchers, delicatessen, seafood store or local green grocer, she packs reusable containers for her purchases. Providers simply tare the scales to zero with the container on it and then add the meat/cheese/fish directly into the container. No plastic cover to protect the scales or wrapping for the travel home. And the containers can go straight into the fridge with no need to repackage, and simply get washed for reuse once the food is consumed.

 

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

You are going to highlight the habitual behaviour for many other’s everyday business practices when you use your own cups, containers or bags. It may feel like you’re inconveniencing the store, or being a ‘difficult customer’ in making the request. However, in Dianne’s experience the positive response has been overwhelming, with many people being aware of the War on Waste and Plastic Free July.

 

4. Plan Ahead

Taking the steps above means you are becoming super organised with only a little effort to begin with. A simple way to start good planning is to attach it to when you write your shopping list. By sitting down and planning what will be eaten during the week you will know what containers you will need to pack in your fabric bags. And you will also more likely only buy what you need, saving more money and reducing food waste as a by-product.

calendar-plan

 

When July ends…

The war against plastic pollution has to continue. Take a moment to think about what you have learned and what habits you have changed in your life in July to avoid single use plastic. Make an effort and pretend July is all year long. Every little bit counts. Be the change, make the difference!

 

 


Sources:

[1] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/01/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

[2] http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/conservation/artist-benjamin-von-wong-using-mermaids-in-plastic-to-highlight-ocean-pollution/news-story/72c64d5d6456b87349472d3bc009184a

[3] http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Campaigns/plastic-bag-facts.html

[4] http://oceancrusaders.org/plasticfish/

[5] http://www.boomerangalliance.org.au/microplastics

[6] http://time.com/4020046/birds-plastic-ingestion/

[7] http://www.boomerangalliance.org.au/sources

[8] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-03/takeaway-coffee-cups-piling-up-in-landfill/7136926