In 2014, scientists in Hawaii discovered a rock formation consisting of beach sediment, basaltic lava fragments, organic debris and melted plastic. Such a finding is illustrative of the world in which we now live; one where plastic melds with organic material to leave an indelible, non-biodegradable record of our consumer habits. The scientists have dubbed the material plastiglomerate and suggest the compound could define our legacy on earth.
Plastic pollution is everywhere
If you look around your office or house, you’ll find plastic items within a matter of seconds. This durable material has become a part and problem of lives across Australia.
Ipswich City in Queensland is the first Australian council to go public on sending recyclable waste to the tip due China's ban on imported recycled waste. South East Queensland based environmental conservation group, Healthy Land and Water, travel across the coast to collect almost 10,000 items a month and are consistently finding plastic bottles. As per estimations, between 4,866 and 14,600 turtles could have been caught in any one of the 9,000 nets found across Northern Australia. This is the harsh reality of Australia's plastic pollution problem.
The complexity of recycling
An obstacle to recycling lies in a lack of transparency about which plastics are recyclable. Plastics are numbered, helping consumers understand which plastic they are using. However, few of us understand the code. We may not realise a bottle displaying a ‘1’ is recyclable, while a bottle showing a ‘3’ or ‘5’ is probably not. Moreover, PET only suits single-use, as anything more increases the risk of bacterial growth; or hazardous materials leaching into the liquid. This means consumers are actively discouraged from re-using the products.
Earth Day 2018
Earth Day has been at the forefront of environmental activism since 1970; now turning its attention to plastics, with its 22nd April event seeking to galvanize the community to modify behaviors through:
- A grassroots movement for the adoption of a global framework regulating plastic pollution;
- Mobilizing global populations to control and clear plastic pollution;
- Educating individuals around plastic consumption with the aim of encouraging rejection, reuse, and recycling;
- Promoting increased regulation at a local level.
As evidence mounts of the impact of ocean-borne plastic, Earth Day hopes to motivate individuals, organizations, and educators alike to take collective action to reverse the impending threat. With concerns the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by 2050, it is critical to pursue change at every level. The growing seas of plastic have prompted movements on a global scale. The United Nations Environment Program is pioneering a project to promote global awareness of the risks of marine plastic pollution, while also leading a #CleanSeas campaign to ‘turn the tide on plastic disposal’.
Five steps towards plastic free living
Do you think it's possible to live life without plastic? There are effective ways to limit your exposure and you can implement these practices to start your journey towards plastic-free living.
Say no to straws
Only buy the clothes you need
Polyester now dominates the fashion industry, with usage easily outstripping both cotton and wool. Polyester is a polymer, most commonly referred to as a PET – or plastic 1. Overproduction and overconsumption of clothing have led to high volumes of clothing disposal, resulting in pollution. Consumers must be mindful of what is in their wardrobe, making the most of their selection and donating to a local charity or consignment store.
Try cooking at home
Reduce reliance on takeaways, unnecessary packaging, disposable cutlery and containers. Single-use items are a scourge of the ocean. You can save home-cooked leftovers or compost the scraps from the cooking process.
Avoid single use carrier bags
Keep cloth bags in your car, store them in a visible position in your house and always remember to take them with you when you head out.
Purchase a reusable water bottle
Most plastic bottles are unsuitable for multiple-use: they leach toxic by-products and harbour bacteria. Choose BPA-free bottles or glass jars when hydrating with a plumbed-in water cooler in your home or office.