22 Dec 2022
WE HAVE THE SOLUTIONS TO HELP END PLASTIC POLLUTION IN AUSTRALIA
Plastic waste. It's a toxic tsunami crashing on our shores - a global disaster threatening marine animals and humans alike. The scale of this unfolding crisis has just been outlined in a Plastic Revolution to Reality - Roadmap to halve Australia's single-use plastic litter, developed in association with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
And it makes for compelling reading.
In Australia, we consume 3.5 million tonnes of plastic every year, that’s five kilograms each year, Australians are consuming. That's more than three times the global average. Worse still, approximately 130,000 tonnes leak into our marine environments - that’s heavier than two Titanics.
Plastic is everywhere and it doesn't disappear. We can't let nature go to waste.
Help phase out single-use plastics.
In addition, many of us have had to take a step back from our good plastic-free habits, like using a reusable coffee cup, as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions ease in some areas of the country, it’s important we get back on a plastic-free track when it’s safe to do so. The Report identifies the top six offenders that constitute the bulk of single-use plastics collected during litter clean-ups in Australia - the priority plastics that we must urgently tackle. They include:
1) Plastic Bottles
Australians use about 5 billion single-use drinks bottles each year, which weigh in at a hefty 325,000 tonnes.
2) Soft 'Scrunchable' Plastics
Australians use around 70 billion pieces of soft 'scrunchable' plastics, such as food wrappers, every year.
3) Disposable foodware
An estimated 7 million plastic utensils are used in Australia every single day.
4) Disposable packaging and containers
Takeaway containers now represent one of the largest categories of litter in Australia.
Cigarette filters are made from non-biodegradable plastic that can take up to 12-15 years to break down.
Due to their size, microbeads and microfibres easily make their way to the ocean, into the stomachs of marine animals and then into ours.
Addressing the mounting plastic problem may not seem easy. Plastics have become a convenient part of everyday life. It requires a revolution in the way we produce, consume and dispose of many of the plastic products we've come to rely on. Plastic is everywhere and it doesn't disappear. We can't let nature go to waste.
Help phase out single-use plastics.
The good news... we already have solutions
Thankfully, Australians, organisations and businesses are already demonstrating their commitment to finding creative and meaningful solutions. In our report, WWF-Australia shows - in very practical terms, for the first time - how we can sustain and grow this effort. We highlight success stories and leading research from around the world, sharing groundbreaking ways that we can reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, and reuse and recycle the plastics already in circulation. Here's how we can significantly reduce plastic waste and halve - yes, halve - the amount of single-use plastics posing a threat to nature, by focusing on those top six culprits.
- Increase the number of water refill stations. By encouraging people to bring their own bottles to 70 major events and providing refill options, We-Refill reduced the need for 454,324 plastic bottles.
- Make tethered lids mandatory. This will help reduce small bits of plastic - which are easily consumed by animals - ending up in our oceans.
- Make container deposit stations more convenient. Container deposit stations like TOMRA’s Return and Earn stations could be made more convenient and the refunds offered could be increased.
Soft 'Scrunchable' Plastics
- Scale up innovative non-plastic alternatives to plastic. Evoware uses edible-grade seaweed film instead of plastic packaging for foodstuffs, and non-edible grade for other grocery items. Odourless and tasteless, it lasts for up to two years in a cool, dry environment.
- Make simple changes to packaging materials to improve sustainability. Changes were made to the packaging of the iconic Tim Tam’s, following a company-wide packaging review by Campbell Arnott’s. They reduced the number of inks used in it’s packaging and swapped black plastic trays for recyclable plastic.
- US company MonoSol produces a range of transparent ethylene-based polymers that dissolve in water. The edible film can be used for single servings of food and beverages, has no effect on their smell or taste, and naturally biodegrades after use.
- Support businesses to scale-up rent/return schemes. RETURNR® supplies insulated stainless-steel bowls and cups for a deposit of $6. They can be borrowed from participating cafes, restaurants or food delivery services, and customers have their deposit refunded when they return a clean bowl within the network. Once we’re able to jump back on the plastic-free train, remember to request your takeaway in a RETURNR.
- Ban plastic utensils, straws and stirrers. Australian company BioPak is manufacturing compostable beverage stirrers made from sustainably sourced and FSCÔ-certified birchwood. They have a six-month shelf life, can be composted at home or left to biodegrade in commercial compost.
- Increase availability of recycling collection. Australia's largest cup recycling program SIMPLY CUPS has teamed with 7-Eleven Australia to provide cup recycling stations at 7-Eleven stores. The company is now even offering recycling collection units to schools and workplaces, including a pick-up service for delivering cups to a facility to be turned into new recycled products.
Disposable packaging and containers
- Support businesses to scale-up rent/return schemes. Looppromotes products & groceries that are sold in reusable and refillable containers. Consumers pay a small deposit fee, refundable on return of the containers and can buy and return containers in-store and online.
- Ban the use of expanded polystrene for all consumer packaging. Planet Protector Packaging uses 100% sheep waste wool to create insulated, thermal packaging in Australia and New Zealand. Liners are recyclable or compostable and can be used for products like wine and seafood.
- New Zealand company BioFab is using mushroom packaging (MycoCompostite) as a creative replacement for polystyrene.MycoCompostite can be composted at home within 30 days and then used as fertiliser - win-win! IKEA and Dell are two of BioFab's current clients.
Cigarettes and cigarette butts
- Ensure that cigarettes are much less likely to be littered. This Sunshine Coast Voting Ballot Box initiative, encourages people to recycle their butts. A 12 week trial reduced cigarette butt litter by 70%.
- Ban plastic cigarette filters. California has proposed a ban on single-use plastic filters and requires multi-use tobacco products to be recyclable or collected for take-back by manufacturers.
- The European Union adopted a ‘polluter pays’ model and new labelling requirements in 2018. Extended producer responsibility schemes will require the producers of cigarettes with filters to cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, and mandatory labelling highlights the negative environmental impact of cigarettes with plastic filters.
- Ban the use of microbeads. Since 2014, Unilever has replaced microbeads with natural alternatives, including apricot kernels, cornmeal, ground pumice, silica and walnut shells.
- Fit washing machines with microfibre filters. PlanetCare sells washing machine filters that can be fitted to any washing machine and stops 90% of microfibres from polluting the environment. It then takes back the microfibres and supplies new cartridges to customers.
- L’Oréal has replaced plastic microbeads with mineral-based ingredients (such as clays and the powder of fruit kernels) in its wash-off cleansing and exfoliating products.
The planet's plastic problem is undoubtedly complex, but it's not impossible.
There are clear steps the Government can take right now to reduce production of single-use plastics, improve recycling and encourage better alternatives. Taking positive action to curb single-use plastics will help protect our wildlife and the places we love. All Australians, businesses and governments have a role to play in fixing the plastic problem - that includes you and me. Our choice of products, our support for visionary businesses and our disposal habits send important signals to both business and government. In the fight to reduce plastic waste, we have the power to revolutionise how plastic is used and protect the ocean's animals. So join WWF-Australia today to play your part in putting plastics in their place. Help us to ensure the health of entire marine ecosystems and all those who depend on them.
Australia, we have the opportunity to halve the amount of plastic pollution flowing into nature right now.
We can't let nature go to waste.