What does 30 June 2018 mean to you? End of financial year? Impending tax return? For the two largest supermarket retailers in Australia, it represents the end of handing out free single-use plastic bags. This is brilliant news for our environment. Right now, Woolworths is currently dishing out 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags every year! In a world where plastic is slowly but surely eating up the planet, we need to focus on reducing our use of this potentially hazardous material.
Why is plastic so bad? Where do we start… you might think plastic is recyclable, reducing the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill, waterways and our precious ecosystems, but it’s worth remembering not all plastic is made equal, and therefore recyclable. The small amount of plastic that does get recycled requires energy and water to reach a form that’s reusable. And considering many of these items such as drink bottles, yogurt containers and shopping bags are all single use, that’s a huge amount of energy wasted for a very small purpose in our daily lives.
Then there’s all the plastic that doesn’t end up in recycling plants; instead it makes its way into oceans and other landfill estates, taking hundreds of years to degrade and possibly leaching out toxins into our environment. When plastic is heated or pressurised, toxic chemicals such as BPA (BisPhenol A), styrene and vinyl chloride can seep out and negatively impact the quality of the air we breathe.
So what we know for sure is that our use of plastic is getting out of hand, and it’s not great for our bodies or the planet. But we depend on it so much. The tricky part is how do we break up with this long depended-upon material? Here are a few tips to make the transition to a plastic-free life:
1. Say no to plastic shopping bags
This is step number one. But sometimes it’s the hardest. As consumers we are so conditioned to walk into a supermarket or retail space and be handed our purchases in a ready-made bag. Up until now, it’s been the responsibly of the retailer. We need to shift that focus from the retailer to us, the consumer. It’s now our job to ensure we have a bag or a vessel to bring home our goods. Try Australian brand Ever Eco Cotton Bags – the four-pack includes two muslin and two cotton net-style bags for $19.95. Keep one or two in your handbag and you’ll never reach the checkout and curse yourself for forgetting them again.
2. Say no to plastic straws
This plastic swap-out is super easy. You’d be surprised how many plastic straws are used in everyday life. Any time we purchase a drink, a milkshake for the kids with a cute little marshmallow on top, when we whack one into a homemade smoothie – they’re everywhere. But next time you reach for a plastic straw at a café or from your stash at home, replace it with a stainless steel straw! They’re ingenious. Bare & Co. Stainless Steel Straws are 100% recyclable, reusable and BPA free. With a wide diameter they’ll fit into any style of drink and they come with a bonus cleaning brush. They also look super stylish.
3. Say no to single-use coffee cups
We’ve all seen ABC’s War on Waste series (if you haven’t jump over to iView and check it out). The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel enlightens us about the waste that’s filling up our hallowed Australian land girt by sea. One of the most terrifying statistics was the fact that Aussies throw away an estimated one billion single-use coffee cups every year. And they’re not recyclable! Craig managed to jam 50,000 of those cups in a Melbourne tram for dramatic effect and the theatre of that moment impelled many coffee drinkers into action. If you haven’t already invested in a reusable coffee cup, now is the time. Glass cups deliver one of the best coffee drinking experiences, as even though plastic reusable cups are better than disposables, they’re still plastic and their flavour can leach into the taste of the coffee. Australia has hatched a few small companies producing their own very cool reusable cups but we love Joco Cups for their beautiful hand-blown high-grade borosilicate glass that’s shock resistant and, unlike soda glass, will not be etched by coffee’s acids.
4. Say no to plastic drink bottles
This swap-out is another no brainer but involves some effort on the part of the drinker. Plastic beverage bottles are up there with disposable coffee cups. So many of them end up where they shouldn’t be – in oceans, on beaches, in parks, in landfill. The good news is there are so many cool bottle options out there. We love Cheeki’s range of premium food-grade stainless steel bottles with leak-proof bamboo lids and stainless steel lids. They’re lightweight and insulated so keeping your precious water chilled is a given. The Eco Bud Little Penguin Glass Bottles are also fantastic – they even come with an in-built filtration system, bringing your water to alkalise at a healthy pH range of 8.0-8.5.
5. Say no to plastic wrap
“Wrapped in plastic” – remember that line from Twin Peaks? We’ve gone through the ‘90s and the Noughties zealously wrapping everything in plastic wrap, from uneaten salads and roast dinners to school lunches, half-eaten mangoes and avocadoes. But all that single-use plastic is sitting in landfill, taking years to degrade. The easiest and cheapest way to keep our food crisp with a longer shelf life is to invest in reusable wraps. Agreena 3-in-1 Wraps are vegan silicone that are heat resistant, can be used in the microwave to cover dishes and in the fridge and freezer. Silicone is a stable compound that won’t leech nasty flavours or smells into your food. Agreena wraps can be used again and again, after being washed in warm soapy water. Bee Green Wraps are also a fantastic option, made from cotton in quirky prints and infused with a blend of Aussie beeswax, tree resin and organic jojoba oil, all culminating in an antibacterial product that keeps your food fresher for longer.
So there you have it. Five ways to remove plastic from your everyday life. These ideas are just the tip of a very large eco-iceberg. Stay tuned as we research and publish more ways to break up with plastic and make your life and the lives of your loved ones as green and healthy as they can be without making too many sacrifices.