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Protecting the planet from plastic

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This month is Plastic Free July so in the spirit of reducing our environmental impact, we’ve put together some ways you can reduce your plastic use and see how you can change your day-to-day actions for a better impact on our environment.

Assessing your plastic consumption habits can reduce the amount of unnecessary waste you generate and help preserve resources. Simply by cutting down on plastic bags, you’re helping to reduce the amount of plastic that enters our oceans and landfill and pose a danger to our fauna!

Sound good? It does to us, too! Here are some ways you can help keep our planet beautiful by reusing, repurposing and up-cycling in a bid to help sustain our planet.

1. Sturdy shopping bags

In July last year, the supply of single-use plastic bags was banned in Western Australia and Queensland, bringing the states in line with the ACT, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. It’s taken a bit of adjusting but this ban has led to an 80% reduction in single-use plastic bag consumption nationwide and a reduction of 1.5 billion bags from entering the environment from the two biggest supermarkets. For those in Victoria, the good news is you’re set to follow in these states footsteps at the end of the year. Once you have your re-usable 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!

2. Reusable coffee cups

A scheduled coffee run is a part of most people’s morning routine but did you know that most coffee cups aren’t recycled? 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 making these cups not recyclable in most locations. Even the ‘compostable’ cups are rarely composted as they call for specific facilities and conditions to be correctly composted.

While reusable coffee cups are made of plastic, the concept is to use less plastic – 20 times less plastic to be precise. By using reusable coffee cups you start saving water, trees and energy after just 15 cups of coffee! So choose a reusable coffee cup that is socially and environmentally-friendly and made of ceramic, glass, plastic or stainless steel. You can also check out the cafes near you that reward you with a discount for refusing the unreusable!

3. Swap out plastic straws

While we’re on the topic of beverages, you may have noticed that local cafes and restaurants are starting to swap out plastic straws for paper or metal 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!

Straws may be small, but 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, in the last year the number of Aussie venues that have phased out single-use straws in partnership with The Last Straw campaign has increased from 100 to over 630!

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. If you prefer, for just a few dollars you can rock up with your own reusable alternative made of stainless steel, bamboo or foldable straws in hand thanks to local companies such as Suck Differently, Zoku and One Straw.

4. Unwrap fruit and veg and meat

While buying fruit and vegetables at the supermarket keep your eyes peeled for plastic free alternatives. Opt to grab the produce that isn’t wrapped in plastic or pre-packaged and bring your own reusable produce bags or use paper bags so you don’t reach for the roll of plastic bags to package up your fresh food.

The next time you pop to the butcher, you may even like to take your own container for your purchase. To cut down your usage even more, opt to bulk buy what you can or visit a local unpackaged bulk groceries and pantry store that utilises glass jars and removes the packaging. Simply BYO your jars or home storage containers, weigh the jar and fill up the contents. Click here to find one near you.

5. Quali-tea drinks

You may be surprised to hear that a number of tea-bag brands use plastic. You can find a list of some brands that use plastic here – have a look to see where your go-to brand falls. Alternatively, you may opt to swap out tea bags for reusable ‘Tea Swags’ or loose leaf tea to have with a stainless steel or mesh tea infuser.

6. Long-life cartons

The cartons used to package milk, juice, stock, etc. are made with a combination of cardboard, plastic and foil, which can be difficult to recycle. Opt for glass where possible or swap out buying products such as stock, juice and nut milk for making your own.

7. 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, beeswax wraps, reusable containers, or glass jars.

You can even apply this to your takeaway orders. While some places are swapping out plastic for cardboard and bamboo where possible, the convenience of takeaway can still call for a lot of single-use plastics. If you’re going to be getting takeaway and eating it on the go, pack a set of reusable cutlery to take with you or for deliveries add a note saying you don’t require cutlery.

 8. 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.

 9. Don’t bottle it up

When it comes to hydration having a water bottle is super handy, but let’s swap them over to re-usable bottles. 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.

10. Looking after your pearly whites

Did you know that most toothbrushes are made of plastic and can take over 500 years to degrade? In Australia, over 100,000,000 plastic toothbrushes are consumed every year. Simply switching from a conventional plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush such as Bamkiki or Brush Better is one of the easiest things you can do to immediately reduce the plastic waste in your bathroom. 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.

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 it’s time to swap to mints?

 11. Clean up your 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.

The alternative? Cellulose cloths or ‘real’ sponges can be disposed of in the compost, or you can consider coco fibre kitchen scrubbers, 100% biodegradable dish scrubbers, or reusable dishcloths.

12. Nappies

There are a lot of options on the market for nappies, whether you make the full switch to reusable nappies or still lean towards the disposable kind, there are sustainable options out there. By making the switch to reusable nappies, you can save approximately 6,000 disposable nappies per baby. Believe it or not there are actually Nappy Libraries such as Clean Cloth Nappy Hire, which allow you to try various types of cloth nappies to find which one works for you and bub (and your budget!). When it comes to cleaning them, you can even hire a cloth nappy laundry service so you can leave the cleanup to the pros!

For those who prefer disposable nappies, there are compostable and biodegradable options out there, just be sure to look into these to decipher if they need industrial composting. Lastly, why not do both! If you can’t quite make the full switch to reusable, try limiting your usage by using reusable at home and disposable while out and about.

13. Bin bags

While not buying plastic bin bags can lead us to reuse other plastic bags, these are still contributing to landfill once they leave the home. While we think we’re doing the right thing by choosing biodegradable or degradable plastic, these plastics disintegrate into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastic. They don’t actually completely break down. Check out more about the difference between degradable, biodegradable and compostable options here to find a solution that works best for you.

When walking your furry loved one, try to use compostable bags to pick up their dog poo and use a shovel or pooper-scooper at home.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

First things first, think about what you’re purchasing and before you lock in the sale, ask yourself if you need the item or can repurpose what you already have. Secondly, consider more sustainable options and options with less packaging.

When it comes to recycling, 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 and plastic rings 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 out 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.

We may not be able to change the world alone but every bit helps and together we can inspire more action and consideration. When it comes to beating plastic pollution, remind yourself – If you can’t reuse it, refuse it! Let’s all help one another – what’s your top tip for reducing single-use plastic in your home?

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