Did you know that global usage of disposable plastic bags is now at 5 trillion and up to 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute? In fact, half of the worlds plastic goes towards single use items!
On top of this, one third of plastic packaging used doesn’t even make it into our collection systems and is instead polluting our environment. The plastic that ends up in our oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year and can continue to do so for 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates! With 13 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year, this represents an alarming threat to our marine life.
This month, the 5th of June was World Environment Day and the 8th of June was World Oceans Day. This year’s theme was focused around beating plastic pollution and generating awareness of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics. So in the spirit of reducing our environmental impact, we encourage you to think about the impact your day-to-day actions have on our earth and how you can reduce your single-use plastic consumption.
Following World Environment Day, there were some amazing pledges and achievements from around the globe. Here are some impressive ones:
Now it’s your turn! Here are 10 ways you can turn the tide by re-using, re-purposing and up-cycling in a bid to help sustain our beautiful planet.
1. Sturdy shopping bags
From the 1st of July this year, the supply of single-use plastic bags will be banned in Western Australia and Queensland, bringing the states into line with the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania. For those in Victoria, the good news is you’re set to follow in these states footsteps. Once you have your reusable shopping bags, all that’s left to do is ensure you leave them in a place where you won’t forget them when it comes time to shop!
With the world coming on board with the reusable bag trend, you can now also get reusable produce bags to eliminate the use of plastic bags for your fruit and veg.
2. Re-think food storage
It’s time to become plastic aware in the kitchen! Plastic ziplock sandwich bags, cling wrap, and disposable plastic storage containers add a lot to your daily plastic consumption. Instead of single-use plastic, switch them up for reusable sandwich wraps and ziplock bags, reusable containers, or glass jars.
3. Call in the worms
All those food scraps – compost it and nourish your garden! Reduce the amount of garbage bags you use by creating compost with your food scraps and biodegradable materials. There is a whole heap of things around the home that I bet you didn’t know you could throw in the compost such as lint from the dryer, matches and unwaxed pizza boxes! For 97 more things you can throw in the compost click here or if this has inspired you to make your own compost bin, check out this easy how to video.
4. Recycle right
Most households have a separate recycling bin for items such as cardboard, paper, aluminium and glass. Some households have a two-bin collection system, others will have a three-bin collection system. While it may seem as easy as throwing the milk cartons in the yellow bin, are you recycling right? The green-topped bin is for organic materials, the yellow-topped bin is for recyclable materials, and the green bin is for household waste. You may think you have the recycling system down pat but did you know that you have to take the lids off bottles before putting them in the yellow bin or that you can recycle aerosol cans? That’s right! There may be some sneaky tips you didn’t know about so be sure to check this A-Z guide out and your council’s recycling guidelines so you get it right for each bin.
But wait, there’s more! If you have a huge stack of plastic shopping bags in the cupboard, did you know that these are recyclable? Not only are these recyclable but so are old green bags, cereal box liners, bread bags, rice and pasta bags, and more. Keep in mind these can’t go in your household recycling bins though so you’ll have to take them to a nominated drop off point. Check out REDcycle for a bin location near you.
5. Don’t bottle it up
Okay, using bottles is fine but let’s make them reusable. Pre-packaged water bottles take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and they produce toxic fumes if they’re incinerated. So rather than use a water bottle for a few hours (if that), switch to refillable BPA-free water bottles. If tap water doesn’t make the cut for you, consider a filter tap or water-filter jug to to prevent using excess disposable plastic bottles.
The morning coffee run is a part of most people’s morning routine. This results in 1 million disposable cups being added to landfill every minute and here they will stay for up to 50 years. While the cups appear to be made of paper they are lined with polyethylene and have polystyrene lids. By using reusable coffee cups you start saving water, trees and energy after just 15 cups of coffee!
While reusable coffee cups are made of plastic, the concept is to use less plastic – 20 times less plastic to be precise. So grab a reusable coffee cup and check out the cafes near you that reward you with a discount for refusing the non-reusable!
7. Looking after those pearly whites
Are you a chewing gum person? It may shock you to know that your gum is actually made of plastic. In fact, approximately 100,000 tonnes of plastic pollution is generated each year from gum. Maybe its time to swap to mints.
While we’re getting teethy, swap out your toothbrushes for biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes or recyclable plastic toothbrushes. Biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes allow you to cut off the bristle head and pop the bamboo handle in the recycle bin so it’s super easy. If you prefer plastic, you can opt for the recyclable plastic toothbrushes and send them back to the store for recycling.
Alternatively, Colgate and TerraCycle have a partnership that allows you to recycle your oral care product packaging for free.
8. Ditch the short-life sponges
Sponges are bacteria magnets and we generally throw away multiple sponges each month. But throwing so many of these items away is actually adding to the problem because sponges are commonly (but not always) made from plastic.
9. Say NO to plastic straws
Straws often don’t make it to the recycling bin and with half a million straws used every day, that’s a lot of waste! While straws are small, their size makes them extremely dangerous to our marine life. You may remember the viral video of the straw that became stuck in a sea turtles nostril.
With straws posing such a danger to our marine life and contributing to pollution, there’s a lot of talk around banning plastic straws. In fact, nearly 100 venues Australia-wide have already phased out single-use straws in partnership with The Last Straw campaign. Straws are included with your beverage at a number of food and beverage outlets so get ahead and request your drink without a straw if you’re not going to use it.
10. Choose toilet paper that isn’t wrapped in plastic
Our trees should be free to produce oxygen and create shelter and homes for our wildlife but instead 9 million trees perish every year just so we can wipe our bums. Who Gives A Crap is made out of 100% recycled paper without inks, dyes or scents plus the company donates 50% of profits to help build toilets and sanitation facilities for those in need. In addition, your order will be shipped in a cardboard box and individually wrapped in paper. Likewise, Pure Planet create 100% tree-friendly and plastic-free toilet paper made of renewable bamboo and sugar cane waste.
We may not be able to change the world but we can start in the space of our very own home. When it comes to beating plastic pollution, remind yourself- If you can’t reuse it, refuse it! Share your tips on how you reduce single use plastic in your home below so we can all help one another.