In case you haven’t seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that giant island of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, the world has a single-use plastic problem.
It was Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday, the country’s largest community-based environmental event. It began in 1990 after an avid sailor, Ian Kiernan, returned from a solo round-the-world adventure and decided something had to be down about the volume of rubbish he saw in the water.
The organisation now is as much focused on preventing rubbish entering our environment as it is removing what has already accumulated there. So, to do our bit, we’ve rounded up a few simple ways everyone can reduce their waste and do your bit to help clean up Australia.
5 ways you can reduce your waste
According to Clean Up Australia, we generated 5.5 million tonnes of packaging waste in the year to June 2018, and 44% of this went to landfill.
While some packaging is necessary for distribution and to extend freshness, consider refusing or avoiding unnecessary packaging. For example, the pre-peeled and cut fresh vegetables then wrapped in plastic, when you could buy them fresh and spend an extra few minutes peeling and cutting them yourself. This tip is about encouraging you to make more mindful purchasing decisions.
2. Plastic bags
Plastic bags contribute to landfill, harm our wildlife and contaminate our waterways. In 2018, Australia’s major supermarkets banned light-weight single-use plastic bags from checkouts, and some state governments, for example Queensland, have taken action to #banthebag.
We’ve had a few years to get used to this one, so hopefully you have your own reusable shopping bag to reduce this unnecessary waste. Another thing you could try is to choose paper bags or cardboard boxes over plastic where available.
One of the tactics Clean Up Australia suggest is to aim to reduce the amount of rubbish we bag and send to refill with the weekly rubbish collection. One way to do this could be with composting.
Composting is the natural process of recycling organic material, such as your dead flowers and vegetable scraps, into nutrient rich food for your soil. Check if your local area has a community garden or compost scheme, or, explore setting up your own garden compost system. The more you can send back to the earth, the fewer bags you’ll need to use for disposal.
4. Plastic straws
Australians use about 10 million straws every day, or 3.5 billion a year. Decline taking a plastic straw when you’re out, and if you use straws at home, look for a reusable alternative. Stainless steel straws could end up costing you less in the long run!
5. BYO container
Why receive your consumable food and drinks in a single use container when you could bring your own (BYO)?
OK, so this point mostly relates to reusable glass or ceramic coffee cups because we are a nation of coffee-lovers, but there’s a growing movement for BYO containers for take away food. Trashless Takeaway encourages restaurants/cafes and customers to ditch the plastic and enjoy the financial (businesses save on stock and consumers are rewarded with discounts), environmental and health benefits.
For more tips on living greener and making a conscious, individual effort to keep Australia beautiful, you can check out Clean Up Australia’s website for a full range of resources.