Imagine if you only wore each item of clothing once, and then threw it away. That sounds absurd, but it’s exactly what we do with thousands of everyday items made of plastic. Many bags, takeaway containers and straws are designed to be useful for a few minutes and then be discarded.
Although plastic is lightweight and low cost, it doesn’t go away; it ends up in landfill or as litter and can harm wildlife.
Globally, around 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since 1950, which is when plastic production really started to boom. Approximately 6.9 billion tonnes of that has become waste, and 91% of that plastic has never been recycled. (National Geographic magazine, June 2018)
We can all do our bit to cut down on plastic we use every day.
Here are a few simple ways to get started.
1. Keep reuseable bags in handy places
Get organised and keep a stash of reusable shopping bags in places they'll be useful like at work, in the car or in the hallway at home. Foldable bags as big as a wallet can fit in a handbag or pocket. Get into the habit of returning them to each spot as you unpack groceries.
2. BYO cups, straws and bottles
This one is easy.
A Canadian study from the University of Victoria compared the energy needed to produce disposable paper cups and plastic reusable cups – and it found that using a reusable cup just 17 times will offset the energy required to produce it, compared to a disposable paper cup.
3. Take your own containers grocery shopping
Go to the butcher or fish monger or deli where they use less packaging. Try bulk-buy shops where you can use your own containers for pantry staples like flour, rice and spices. Split a shop with a friend so you can buy large packages and hopefully save money at the same time.
4. Choose to refuse
First step in reducing plastic is to refuse plastic. At restaurants, bars and venues, say no to a straw as you order your drink. Choose products with less packaging while out shopping. Every little ‘no’ adds up.
5. Order takeaway in reuseable containers
Visit the Trashless Takeaway website to find cafes and restaurants that are happy to use your clean, reuseable containers. You might even save same money.
6. Get the kids on board
Use that pester power for good! Kids love a challenge so educate them about better plastic choices, then have them be the responsible ones to keep you on track.
For example, recruit their help to make tissue paper pom poms when you need an alternative to balloons, which can be a real problem to wildlife – especially when they are used outdoors. Blowing bubbles, hanging bunting or fairy lights are other great substitutes for balloons.
7. Spread the word
Tell others about what you are doing and encourage them to reduce plastic use as well. Don’t be afraid to guilt trip them if you spot them using unnecessary plastic! Share this page and use the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly.
Let’s face it, you won’t get to zero waste immediately, so recycling plastic is a great idea. You might be surprised how many different plastic items can go into council kerbside recycling that can be processed for further manufacturing and kept out of landfill.
It's just as important to keep the wrong plastics OUT of your kerbside recycling bin. Soft plastics are the number one contaminant of recycling, so make sure you don’t put your paper or other recycling into plastic bags.
Instead, gather your soft plastics, including food bags (think rice and pasta packaging) and return it to the supermarket for collection. The rule of thumb is that if it’s soft plastic and can be scrunched up into a ball, then it can be recycled at a supermarket near you.
Recycling requirements vary across Victoria, so check your local council to make sure you recycle right.