Living without waste

It’s hardly news that here in Australia we’re producing huge amounts of waste every day, with 20 million tonnes of waste being sent to landfill each year. As if this isn’t enough, it’s also estimated that Australians produce 565 kg of household waste every year.

Luckily, across the globe, governments are actively pursuing measures toreduce plastic pollution. Here in Australia, a new ban on single-use plastic bags has just come into effect in every state except for New South Wales.

While the movement to reduce plastic pollution is steadily gaining momentum, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to change the dreary outlook for the future. In the next decade, if no change is made, it’s predicted that the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

This is where Plastic Free July comes in. This month, Australians are being urged to take action by adopting a lifestyle that says no to single-use plastics, such as water bottles, coffee cups, plastic bags and straws, among other things.

The Plastic Free July campaign, now in its seventh year, aims to raise awareness about the problems with single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to #choosetorefuse plastics for the month of July.

Admittedly, this is definitely harder than it sounds; last month, Curieux’s Ruby Becker attempted to live waste-free for a week, finding that it wasn’t really a decision you could make overnight.

“It would take a lot more than a cold-turkey approach and some invested time, preparation and practice,” she wrote.

However, there are significant changes that you can make this July to minimise your plastic use and rethink your approach to single-use products. According to the Founder of the Plastic Free July Foundation, Rebecca Prince Ruiz, it can be as simple as swapping out your disposable coffee cup for an eco-friendly Keep Cup or using soap instead of bottled wash products.

“Although the size of the plastic waste problem is frightening, the numbers tell us that small actions can make big impacts. Last year, participating households of our campaign reduced their landfill waste rates by nearly 10% which in my home state of Western Australia translated to 10,400 fewer tonnes of waste generated by participating households,” Ms Prince Ruiz said.

“With the big supermarkets moving to ban single-use plastic bags, there is no better time to turn universal awareness of plastic waste into universal action on single-use plastics.”

Angharad Lodwick is just one of many Canberra residents attempting Plastic Free July, which she says is a great opportunity to reduce her plastic consumption while encouraging her family and friends to do the same.

“Plastic, especially single use plastic, is having a disastrous impact on the environment. It’s killing all kinds of wildlife, everything from fish to birds to whales. We have giant floating islands of plastic waste in our oceans. It takes hundreds of years to break down into smaller pieces, but we have no idea if it can ever truly be broken down into safe components,” Ms Lodwick said.

Although this is Ms Lodwick’s first attempt at Plastic Free July, she already has some experience under her belt having already made the switch to eco-friendly alternatives in some areas of her life.

“I first started out using reusable bags when shopping at the supermarket, and from there I have gradually introduced more and more plastic-free alternatives,” she said.

“Almost everything I have tried has taken some adjustment, but after a bit of perseverance everything has been successful.”

“The easiest change was definitely changing from takeaway coffee cups to a reusable cup. Other changes have included swapping to a menstrual cup, using junk mail to line the bin, using loose leaf tea and buying bottle-free toiletries like shampoo.”

Speaking of the challenge, Ms Lodwick said that she expects to struggle with finding specific foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic.

“Two areas that I have struggled with in the past are trying to avoid plastic packaging for certain ingredients in cooking and finding a hygienic plastic-free alternative for picking up dog poo. These are two areas where convenience has historically won out. Lots of things like snacks, tea, cheese and noodles are very difficult to buy plastic-free.”

Even though there are numerous ways to get involved and make more environmentally friendly choices, it can still seem daunting or difficult to know where to begin. When asked to share her best advice for those wanting to give it a go, Ms Lodwick noted that “even small changes can have a huge impact.”

“I’ve had my keep cup for over two years which means I’ve avoided over 700 takeaway cups going to landfill in that time.”

“It can be really hard to find environmentally-friendly options in supermarkets and local shops so don’t be afraid to order products online and support environmentally-friendly businesses. Finally, the mushroom bags in supermarkets are a great alternative to those thin plastic bags for fresh produce.”

Tips for going plastic-free this July:

  • Carry a Keep Cup with you whenever you’re planning to get coffee. If you have time, get your coffee in a mug and sit down to drink it.
  • Avoid products that come wrapped in plastic. Loads of fruit and vegetables come pre-packaged in plastic but can also be bought individually. This also helps reduce food waste as you only buy as much as you need.
  • Bring reusable bags for your shopping, such as Ever Eco’s reusable produce bags.
  • Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. Plastic toothbrushes amount to approximately 1000 tonnes of landfilleach year in Australia, while bamboo toothbrushes are generally biodegradable, environmentally sustainable, and do not pollute the environment.
  • Bulk buy where possible to avoid excess packaging.
  • Swap out plastic straws for reusable metal ones (or no straw!). They’re dishwasher safe and easy to clean. Plus, you’ll save a baby turtle. It’s a win-win.
  • Avoid plastic bottled water in favour of your own drink bottle. This one’s pretty easy given that UC is the only campus in Australia that doesn’t sell bottled water.

To learn more about the Plastic Free July campaign, visit their website here and access resources to help make environmentally friendly lifestyle choices.

Published in Curieux Magazine. Image by Velizar Ivanov on Unsplash.

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