1 July 2021


As the world faces a global health pandemic, the majority of us have had to revert back to some bad habits. We're using a lot more single-use plastic - from coffee cups to takeaway containers.

But as this lockdown-lifestyle becomes more repetitive , it's important we look for ways we can break away from this unnecessary relationship with plastic and keep it away from our natural environment.

Why it matters

Our oceans are facing an increasingly urgent waste crisis. On average, Australians use 130kg of plastic per person each year. Only 12% of that's recycled. More frightening still, up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic will find its way into our waterways and oceans each year.

Even while we’ve been at home, single-use plastics have been littering our coasts, polluting our oceans and endangering our marine wildlife.

The truth is, plastic is everywhere and it doesn't disappear. We can't let nature go to waste.

Plastic pollution - a plastic bag and rubbish float in the ocean
© Shutterstock / Rich Carey / WWF

Here are 9 ways to start your break up with plastics.

1. Say no to plastic straws

Australians use about 10 million straws every day, or 3.5 billion a year and it’s one of the most common items found in litter collections. They’re lightweight, so once they’re dropped or discarded, plastic straws easily blow into waterways and enter our oceans. Once in our oceans, they’re extremely dangerous for our marine wildlife. For instance, sea turtles have been found with plastic straws lodged painfully in their nostrils.

Luckily, there are a range of options when it comes to swapping plastic straws out of your life, including: stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, pasta straws and rice straws (yes, they’re a thing!) and even rose gold stainless steel straws for the stylishly inclined.

The Green + Kind stainless steel straws even come with a cleaning brush and travel pouch, making it easier to carry with you on your daily travels. For those that like the flexibility of plastic straws, there are other eco-friendly alternatives including paper straws, reusable silicone straws and compostable plant-based straws. Or best of all - and when possible, choose to break up with straws completely and go straw-free!

2. Choose nature friendly takeaway - think pizza and opt out for cutlery

Eating out and getting takeaway often comes with more than just food. Plastic, containers, cutlery and plastic bags go hand-in-hand with the convenience of takeaway.

In Australia, plastic cutlery isn’t easily recycled. Recycling machines often can’t sort them due to their shape, so many end up in landfills and will take centuries to degrade.

Eco-friendly alternatives: Next time you order takeaway, choose cuisines like pizza or Mexican that don’t often come in plastic containers. Or chose to opt out of getting plastic cutlery. Most delivery apps give you that choice now. You can also check out companies like Returnr, which gives you the option to order your takeaway in a reusable bowl!

If you’re getting takeaway on the go, switch to reusable bamboo utensils, a travel cutlery set that you can take with you wherever you go or bring your own from home! Reusable chopsticks are also a great alternative to have in your bag.

3. Cook at home - bake your own bread, grow your own veggies

Baking paper is a real tragedy: so much non-stick, but so little recycling potential. Unfortunately, baking paper is not recyclable right now. Aluminium foil, on the other hand, is an infinitely recyclable and valuable material. Try swapping out to foil, and remember to scrunch it up and pop it in the mixed recycling bin afterwards.

Why not go one step further, and invest in a reusable baking mat for your next batch of banana bread or sourdough?

4. Make your own toiletries e.g. soaps & scrubs

DIY coffee body scrub
© WWF-Australia

Most shampoos, body washes and soaps come in plastic packaging that just adds to the plastic footprint of a household.

Making your own soaps and scrubs at home is not only a great eco-friendly alternative - and as working from home becomes something of a new norm - it’s also a great new stay-at-home project to take on.

5. Remember your reusable carry bags including produce bags

Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags next time you’re heading to the supermarket. Alternatively, ask for a cardboard box to put your groceries in or pick up a green bag at the local supermarket.

Also, if you’ve picked up one of Woolworth’s green bags - Bag for Good, you can return it to the store when it’s worn out and Woolworths will recycle it for you!

Hello Green has a range of reusable bags for all your shopping needs. Take the next step and pick up reusable bags for fresh produce and bakery items.

6. Choose loose veggies instead of pre-packed

Loose fruits & veggies at farmers market
© PhotoMix / Pixabay

A lot of fruits and vegetables often come unnecessarily wrapped in plastic with a styrofoam tray. Next time, choose loose fruits and veggies. Taking only what you need is also a great way to cut down on your food waste.

If you forget your reusable produce bags, grab a paper bag from the mushroom section to carry your vegetables, then recycle it when you get home.

7. Look out for the Australian Recycling Label when shopping and only buy recycled items

What do all the plastic recycling symbols mean? The number (usually 1-7) stamped on plastics, inside a triangular series of three arrows, refers to the type of plastic resin a product’s made from, not (directly) whether that product can be recycled. But this code does make it easier for us (and reprocessors) to identify and separate used plastics for a range of new applications.

If you really want to boggle your brain, have a look at this Green Matters website that explains the science behind those numbers.

Is your plastic scrunchable? That makes it a soft plastic. Collect all your soft plastics and recycle them in the REDcycle bin at your local Coles or Woolworths supermarket.

And to help, make the RecycleSmart app your best friend – it helps you familiarise yourself with the rules of your local council’s collection facilities, including kerbside.

8. If buying a takeaway coffee and can’t use your reusable cup, ask for no lid

If you aren't able to use your reusable coffee cup, say no to the lid!
Takeaway coffee cup with no lid © Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

Due to the global health pandemic we’ve all had to make some changes and adjust our daily routines for the safety of the community. One thing that hasn’t changed though - is our love for coffee. More than a billion disposable coffee cups and lids are used in Australian every year.

Although we’ve had to take a step backwards and are in most cases unable to use our reusable coffee cups at the local cafe - we still have plastic friendly options.

If buying a takeaway coffee and can’t use your reusable cup, ask for no lid!

Or - If you’re unable to use your reusable cup and can’t risk coffee spillage on your new white shirt before that important Zoom meeting, you can recycle your plastic cup and lid separately.

9. Look out for retailers offering returnable/sustainable packaging

Wasteful packaging is quickly going out of fashion. Support those businesses who are ahead of the curve and offer alternatives to single-use plastic packaging. When you’re purchasing, ask the retailer whether they’re using sustainable, reusable or returnable packaging. Some retailers and brands are now moving towards using compostable packaging. It may not be commercially viable on a mass scale just yet, but it’s getting there.

So, especially during Plastic Free July say ‘NO’ to single-use plastics and ‘YES’ to zero waste packaging.

WWF-Australia is proud to be supporting Plastic Free July's global movement helping millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution.