By Dinali Devasagayam
It is hard to imagine a life without plastics. They are ubiquitous in every aspect of our modern life and are also now littered throughout the planet. Even in the most remote parts of the world, plastic detritus can be found, from the huge gyres of plastic trash found in the pacific ocean to plastic found in the guts of dead birds.
Unfortunately the longevity of plastics, one of the reasons it has become so widely used, is also the reason why it has become such an environmental catastrophe. There are many different types of plastics. Only a few types are recycled in Australia (see Clean Up Australia’s Plastic Recycling Fact Sheet) and the recycling process is more accurately a down-cycling process producing a low grade item that is not itself recyclable.
It is not straight forward to simply ban all plastics. The Boomerang Alliance has done some outstanding work in looking at the effects of plastic waste, particularly on the marine ecosystem, and drawing up a comprehensive set of recommendations for Governments at local, state and federal level to reduce the level of plastic waste entering the environment. Their research identified the following as the most problematic plastics for their impact on the marine environment and thus of greatest importance in banning:
- Plastic bags
- Cigarette Butts
- Microbeads (used in cosmetics, personal care, detergents, synthetic waxes and polishes)
- Plastic Nurdles (resin pellets and flakes used in manufacture of plastic products)
- Polystyrene Food Packaging
Individually we can make simple changes to reduce our use of these plastics. In the case of single use consumer plastics the simple solution is to avoid the product: cover bowls with plates or beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap; take your own coffee cup in place of takeaway coffee cups; use cloth produce bags instead of plastic bags. Use a bit of imagination or ask your Granny what she used to do if you are stick for ideas.
The Adelaide Sustainability Centre will be running a series of events through July to coincide with the Plastic Free July challenge. Take the challenge this July and make sure to check out the Adelaide Sustainability Centre’s workshops for innovative ways in which to reduce our waste.
For a detailed look at the impact plastics has on our personal health and that of our environment plus detailed recommendations for how our Governments can work towards phasing out these damaging items see the Boomerang Alliance’s paper “Threat Abatement Plan: Marine Plastic Pollution”.
(image courtesy of The Boomerang Alliance)