You may have heard in the news that one of Australia’s biggest supermarkets, Woolworths, has banned single-use plastic bags from July this year. This is welcome news to many in the community. This decision has been pushed by various organisations that have advocated for a single-use plastic-free Australia. According to Australian Marine Conservation Society, ten million plastic bags are used in Australia every day and the consequences are deadly to the environment and the species that rely on it.
We know that plastic is harmful to the environment for several reasons:
- Plastic doesn’t break down: Plastic is not biodegradable, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.
- Plastics are toxin carriers: This is due to the fact that some plastics are made artificially using toxic chemicals. Continuous exposure to plastics can be harmful to the human body, and also the environment. As plastics break down, they absorb dangerous toxins more easily; they are like a magnet for a range of other poisons and pollutants in the world.
- Plastic is dangerous to aquatic life: There is more than 8 million tonnes of plastic going into the world’s oceans each year. In addition to this, it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish by 2050 and 99 percent of the seabirds on the planet will have consumed some plastic. Not surprisingly, it is thought that the sea now contains 51 trillion microplastic particles. Because of this, it is impossible for aquatic species to escape plastic. Therefore, it is easy for these animals to ingest small plastic materials and die as a result.
- Plastic produces tonnes of waste: Single-use plastic such as shopping bags, bottles and packaging, are thrown away every day and end up as trash in landfills as well as in pristine oceans and forests. Whilst it is true that some items are recycled, the growth of plastic consumption and its disposal rate is outweighing the recycling of plastic.
- Plastic sustains the petroleum industry: When you buy plastic, you contribute to the petroleum industry which pollutes the environment by contaminating the waterways and air.
It is scary to think that we might even end up breathing these plastic particles into our bodies. The health and environmental risks far outweigh the benefits of using single-use plastic. In this consumer-focused world, we need to find ways to reduce plastic use, however difficult that may be.
Here at Worldie, we have compiled a list of ways you can live a single-use plastic-free lifestyle:
- Avoid the worst plastic: Check the plastic container for a number (1 to 7) inside a triangle. The worst plastics are: #3 polyvinyl chloride (found in plastic wrap, some squeeze bottles, peanut butter jars and children’s toys), #6 polystyrene (found in Styrofoam, disposable dishes, take away containers and plastic cutlery), and #7 polycarbonate (found in clear plastic cups, sport drink bottles, juice containers).
- Use non-plastic containers and bags and take them with you wherever you go: For example, use reusable travel mugs and pack your lunch in glass or stainless-steel lunch boxes. Always take your own bags (canvas or cloth bags) when going to the grocery store or even take your own reusable mug when getting coffee.
- Avoid bottled water: Take your own water bottle filled with water from home. If you must use bottled water for whatever reason, remember to always recycle.
Although the whole of Australia will be single use plastic bag-free soon, the next step is to ban bottled water and other single-use plastic items to save the world’s oceans.