Australia’s Plastic Problem: What, why & how?
25 September 2017
There are many complex, nuanced issues in today’s world – banning single-use plastic products isn’t one of them.
In order to curb the exorbitant amount of plastic pollution in Australia, we need to stop relying on plastic products with such a short life-span. Consider this: Recent Greenpeace analysis found that Australians alone use over 9.7 billion single-use plastic bags annually.
If we continue on this path, the amount of plastic waste littering our earth will almost be unimaginable. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances calculated that if our plastic production continues on this level, there will be 12 million kilograms, of waste in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050. That’s equivalent to 1.8 billion African elephants!
Why is there so much? Examining plastic use in Australia
An alarming amount of lightweight plastic comes from supermarkets across Australia; a 2016 report from NSW EPA estimates the figure stands at around 75 percent.
But they aren’t the only culprit contributing to plastic waste. The remaining 25 percent of lightweight plastic comes from fast food restaurants, liquor outlets, convenience stores and other retailers. These figures don’t even include the heavier plastic waste from things like water bottles, takeout containers and plastic cutlery.
While bans on plastic bags across Australia are currently gaining traction, we are yet to see any real commitment from government leaders. For example, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian claims she is taking no action on plastic bag use because the supermarket ban will eliminate 80 percent of the problem. Yet, we know that supermarkets aren’t the only offenders.
In order to truly make a dent in our plastic waste issue on a national scale, we need 100 percent commitment from our government – as well as our businesses.
How? Living by the three Rs: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
We need to make a conscious effort to work on our plastic use if we want to keep our lands, our oceans and our communities healthy. Making this kind of positive contribution to our world is more accessible than you might think. In fact, we are strong advocates of calling upon the old schoolyard mantra of: Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce: We can cut down on the amount of plastic waste in the world by simply reducing the amount of single-use plastic we use in our everyday lives. Opt for a reusable water bottle over a 24-pack of plastic bottles from your local grocery store. Bring canvas bags to the supermarket instead of using the cashier-provided plastic. These little actions can have a big effect.
Reuse: Single-use plastic items can be repurposed with a little creativity. If you do purchase these plastic products try and extend their lifespan by reusing them for DIY projects. Craft sites are full of ideas, like building a bird feeder out of an old ketchup bottle!
Recycle: Can you believe that only 9 percent of all plastic is recycled? Such a small percentage for an activity that can have an important impact on the pollution of our planet. Whether it’s investing in a household recycling bin or research local recycling facilities – doing our part to dispose of our plastic properly can cut down on the current plastic problem across Australia.
Together, Australians can take a stand against the outrageous amount of plastic use, and resulting waste, across our country. To learn more about Greenpeace campaigns that target this issue.