Plastic Free Finish Line
31 July 2020
We laughed, drank coffees out of keep cups, got stuck wanting to go grocery shopping with no bags on hand, faced personal dilemmas of whether or not to buy our regular shampoo bottle and shook our heads at our higher than usual monthly grocery bill in an effort to commit to the cause. Please raise your right hand, move it across to your left and give yourself a pat on the back.
Although the goal of Plastic Free July is to go the entire month without using plastic, reduce plastic use and raise awareness about the plastic problem, there is the hope that these changes will continue past the 31st. We have talked a lot about breaking certain plastic habits and creating sustainable new ones as well as educating ourselves on the plastic problem. Last year I learned that doing laundry is the greatest contaminant of microplastics into the ocean as synthetic clothes can release about 70,000 microplastics per load of laundry. In turn I educated myself on what my clothes are made of, making better purchasing choices and looked at filters to catch the microplastics. Polyester, nylon and acrylic = bad & bamboo, linen, wool, organic cotton and silk = better. Committing to a few of these types of changes in the long run can have a huge impact on plastic reduction efforts.
To celebrate the impact Plastic Free July can have let’s have a look at that neighbour I’m sure we all have. Bronte likes to get a coffee four days a week when she goes for her morning walk. That’s 4 takeaway coffees a week, averaging 208 coffee cups a year. Bronte’s neighbour notices this habit and tells her all about Plastic Free July. Bronte had not given the issue much thought up to now and decides to take the challenge, gets herself a keepcup and occasionally sitting in and enjoying her coffee. During July, Bronte saves herself about 20 disposable cups and will happily continue this habit moving forward. Apply this pattern to millions of people across the world using different products and you can imagine how quickly change can actually occur. In 2019, 825 million kilos of plastic waste was avoided thanks to the challenge!
We’ve talked about the big 4 of plastics – cups, bags, bottles and straws. They are well known and typically easier to cut out. Many of us learned a new trick or two this month so let’s take a look at some less obvious changes:
- Glass milk and yoghurt pots
- Fruit and veggie bags
- Shampoo & conditioner bars
- Product refills rather than repurchase
- Bamboo cotton buds
- Bamboo toothbrushes
- Plastic free cleaning products
- Plastic free dishwashing cloths/pads
- Plastic free makeup and skincare products
- Plastic free clothing
- Filters that catch microplastics from your washing machine
- Kids toys
- Gifting experiences rather than products
Together, let’s continue the plastic free conversation and keep making changes that better the world. Congratulations on taking the challenge this month, it was very fulfilling and educational for us and we hope everyone else who participated has had a similar experience.
Plastic Free July Check In
20 July 2020
Plastic Free July Challenge
2 July 2020
COVID-19 Calls for Green Recovery
18 June 2020
Today’s COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that we rely on plastic now more than ever. Individual packaging, protective masks and gloves, takeout containers and cleaning products are amongst the items we have seen skyrocket these last 4 months. Plastic (packaging) has been able to offer us an element of protection, hygiene, convenience and security in this testing time. The environmentally conscious have been swept with ethical dilemmas of having to choose between supporting local business and enjoying a small sense of normalcy during isolation by being able to order a takeout meal. This weighed against the guilt of plastic pollution that comes as a side to these decisions. As the world binges on toilet paper, hand sanitiser and cleaning products, we hear the term ‘COVID waste’ emerge.
Globally, 360 million tonnes of plastic is produced annually, 60% of which is packaging (Our World in Data). Only 14% of that total is recycled and this percentage is sadly on the decline. According to the World Economic Forum, a truckload worth of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute and this number is set to increase to two by 2050. The Minderoo Foundation speaks at lengths about the cost of producing new plastic being cheaper than the cost of recycling plastics. This tells us that the entire plastic industry is currently mismanaged. Plastic waste is left to accumulate on our earth, seeping into ecosystems, without a proper waste management plan.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 89 million masks and 79 million pairs of gloves are being used globally during the pandemic every month. CNN released an article stating there will soon be more face masks in the ocean than jellyfish. The material that these masks and gloves are made of are almost entirely not recyclable, yet take up to hundreds of years to breakdown. Where is the waste management plan for this exponentially increased amount of waste?
At a national level, Coronavirus has put pressure on Australia’s recycling industry. Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) said that the recycling industry faces many challenges in itself and the pandemic has exacerbated these pressures. Households have been going through a much higher amount of soft plastic such as snack wrappers, produce packaging, plastic shopping bags and toilet paper packaging. Soft plastic is not able to be recycled in Australia, a fact that many people are not currently aware of. The contamination of this ‘kerbside recycling’ that is put out by households has hugely increased mostly due to the presence of soft plastics. As a result, much of the contaminated bin is unable to be recycled.
In addition, the recycling industry relies heavily on content from business sites in order for their operations to be viable. Given the closures associated with COVID 19,this stream has decreased by over 20%. One of the largest challenges of recycling in general is accumulating enough content to operate one plant alone. The effects of the pandemic put the feasibility of recycling targets and even basic plant operation at jeopardy.
It is time to leave unsustainable household, business and government practices in the past and work toward a ‘green recovery’ plan. Victoria and South Australia’s government will be rolling out a campaign in the next few weeks to educate the public on recycling. Ensure you continue to educate yourself on plastic pollution as the world starts to heal from the pandemic and implements strategies moving forward. By educating ourselves and spreading the word about the plastic crisis, we pave a path towards a sustainable future for generations to come.
Carapac 101 - Prawn Plastic Explained
4 June 2020
Blue Oceans, Green Plastics
22 May 2020
We hear of islands of trash the size of France, whales trapped in fishing nets, fish ingesting so much plastic they aren’t able to survive and plastic acting as a vessel of disease across coral reef systems. Yet, for many of us, our coast lines portray crystal clear clean blue waters, seemingly unharmed. Ocean plastic horror stories are familiar to us all, although many of us are so far removed as we do not see the direct effects of the damage.
Where is our waste going and how does it end up in our oceans?
According to an annual report Blue Environment put together for the Australian Government, Australia exported just under 4.5 million tonnes of waste in the 2018-2019 financial year valued at just over 3 billion dollars. Much of the recycled content makes its way to China where they have an economy supporting the recycling of this waste. Most of the remaining 3.5 million tonnes is shipped off to countries in South East Asia, that are being inundated by the amount of waste they are receiving from developed countries. As a result, the garbage is either being burned or literally dumped into the ocean. One garbage truck worth of rubbish is dumped into the ocean per minute according to the World Economic Forum (this is a global statistic, not Australian waste).
Late 2019, the Australian Government came together and announced it was time to take on the responsibility of the country’s waste management and significantly reduce its waste export. There has to be some type of opportunity in a 3 billion dollar waste valuation – environmental and economic? Early this year NSW Government announced their program ‘Cleaning Up Our Act: Redirecting the Future of Plastic in NSW’, a discussion paper to be presented to the government around plastic reduction and the management thereof. NSW is aiming to become a world leader in its plastic waste management and we are certainly looking forward to the efforts and environmental benefits that the plan will encompass. This cannot come soon enough!
A study by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation shows that we are currently at a 1:5 plastic to marine animal weight ratio. The expectation is that this will increase to 1:1 by 2050. Plastic reduction actions are taking place at a regional and even national level, often meaning phasing out items such as plastic bags and creating local and controlled recycling initiatives. ‘Turning off the plastic tap’ is a lingering phrase in the current climate and addresses the urgency of stopping the issue rather than only reacting to it as it’s an unsustainable measure.
There are so many incredible initiatives on a local and global scale that are dedicated to cleaning up our oceans. A sample of these fantastic programs are (in no particular order):
The concept of ‘turning off the plastic tap’ is so vital to what these organisations do and necessary to support their missions. Understanding the effects of our waste and being knowledgeable on Australian waste life cycles allows us to make greener choices and drive the conversation around ocean plastics.
The louder the conversation, the harder it becomes to ignore.
International Compost Awareness Week 2020
7 May 2020
It’s International Compost Awareness Week #ICAW2020!
What’s not to love about this vitamin and mineral rich soil? We’re coming together to celebrate why we love compost, examine what exactly it is, examine its limitations and introduce what we can do!
If you were inspired and are interested in knowing more about composting, here are some great links to learn more:
https://compostrevolution.com.au/ https://www.biome.com.au/bokashi/105-bokashi-compost-bin.htm https://www.biopak.com.au/compost-service https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/live/waste-and-recycling/food-scraps-recycling https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/participation/community-gardens/community-composting
Unpacking Consumer Decisions
24 April 2020
Many of us city dwellers have gotten into the habit of eating out and ordering delivery numerous times a week. A study by Uber showed that only 50% of those surveyed said they cook at home on a daily basis, with over 20,000 restaurants participating in the service throughout Australia. We are putting the purchasing decisions and waste disposal in the hands of these businesses. We can only trust that their ethos aligns with our personal belief system and they are making responsible decisions.
Given the current circumstances this is not the case and many of us are getting to know our kitchens a lot better. Some of us have become expert bread bakers producing fluffy focaccias and crusty sourdough loaves and others are hand-rolling raviolis filled with basil from their gardens. With all this time spent at home and in the kitchen, there is opportunity to hone in our fruit and veg buying decisions.
You may be noticing that you produce much more waste than you imagined or you may be pleasantly surprised by the lack thereof. Although an outing to the grocery store needs to be PROMPT, this slower pace of living is giving us one thing… TIME. Time to plan our meals, time to learn new recipes, time to think about that trash bin being less full than imagined and why this may be.
What are ways you can reduce this waste through mindfulness in your purchases?
1. Markets – budget dependent, markets are a wonderful place to buy your fruits and veggies as there is a great focus on seasonality, locality and typically a lot less packaging involved as the produce is typically going from B2C or in this case farm to consumer.
2. Buy fresh produce – stay away from the frozen aisle whilst you have that luxury. Yes, convenience is everything in the modern world and it is wonderful to have frozen veg in the freezer in case you decide to eat out a few times unexpectedly. Right now, however, most of us are stuck at home each night so those fresh veggies aren’t going to waste.
3. Flexibility – purchasing loose tomatoes opposed to those in punnets, large cucumbers instead of plastic wrapped baby cucumbers. Are you tempted to buy the three-pack of zucchinis rather than three loose ones? Mindfulness during grocery shopping can really add up.
We are working hard to provide consumers with guilt free packaging that takes away the worry of making the right choices. Until we get these items to you, making small changes during quarantine can be a fun challenge! Many of you may already be doing the above mentioned tips.