Trash and lost treasure – A plastic nightmare

La Paz

La Paz surrounded by untouched wilderness but where does all its waste go

I lived in Exmouth for a while and there was a no plastic bag policy in the supermarkets, you couldn’t even pay 10 cents like at some places. This was in an effort to reduce the amount of waste and protect the world heritage listed Ningaloo Reef that is the main drawcard of the town. After reading an article on how much plastic is now in the ocean and about Sweden’s aggressive recycling program it got me thinking about how much plastic I use daily and where it goes. Sure I take a reusable bag to the supermarket and have a reusable water bottle but what about the rest of my packaging.

The cling wrap over my meat, the bag my vegetables come in, the packaging on my cheese, milk containers, my toothbrush, straws and on and on. How do I reduce my use dramatically? And since I don’t usually see the impact on the environment how do I remind myself why I should do this?

Australia outback

So much untouched wilderness here in Australia that we need to protect.

You see anyone that’s walked past a landfill or any spot that’s been seriously littered realises that we use too much and spill it out in our environment, but plastic doesn’t just end up in a big pile. Most of it ends up in our oceans, where it breaks down to micro-pieces that we can’t see. Out of sight out of mind. But those pieces end up in our food chain. Yes bigger pieces kill animals, see this shocking short film Midway , but perhaps more importantly and deadly to us is how it ends up in our food. Sounds a little selfish I know, but looking at it from a perspective of how it affects humans may just be a way to get them to think and ACT, not just be saddening by dead wild life. Do you want to be eating fish containing plastic? Tiny, tiny pieces that you can’t see floating around your body.

Humpback in the ocean

Humpback whales were bought back from the brink of extinction.

I went whale watching recently in Broome and was reminded again of the fragility of our ecosystem. In fact I was lucky to be seeing these magnificent creatures at all, they were almost hunted to extinction. Only 400 remained when whaling stopped in Western Australia but the population has made a massive recovery over the past 60 years. Now another industry is being born around these beautiful creatures but if our oceans die they might again be threatened. And our oceans are in danger and plastic is one of the reasons .

When you travel to poorer countries you often see more rubbish around everywhere, this is something that many people comment on. But the truth is here in the first world we make a lot more trash, we just spirit it away in big bins and it still ends up in our oceans. We need a cultural shift not just another recycling bin to put out on the kerb once a week.

How do you reduce your everyday plastic use?

-Take a resuable bag to the supermarket
-Use a refillable water bottle
-Reduce the use of cling wrap in the kitchen by using containers (more plastic yes)
Buy renewable resource toothbrushes
-Don’t put you vegetable in plastic bags, just leave them loose
-Try milk cartons instead of plastic ones
-Don’t buy products that are over packaged
-Don’t use straws when out at a bar

These are the simple actions we can all take but there is also a bigger change needed in our industries and our culture of single use items. This will take time and awareness but needs to start happening soon before many of the deadly consequences for us and our planet are irreversible. I will tackle some of this in another article.

Please comment about how you reduce your plastic use on a day to day basis.

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