Let’s all do our bit to continue reducing our plastic use

Saltern Cove plastic waste arranged into a collage.

Saltern Cove plastic waste arranged into a collage. - Credit: Katie Webber

A passion for wellbeing with Katie Webber:

Plastic free July ended last week.

Since its inception in 2011, the initiative created by Australian Organisation The Plastic Free Foundation has helped millions of people around the world to reduce their reliance on single use plastics and adopt alternatives.

In Sydney I worked at The DoSomething Foundation with environmental activist Jon Dee.

Dee co-organised Australia’s first plastic bag ban in the Tasmanian town of Coles Bay in 2003 and helped front South Australia's state-wide ban in 2009.

He advised Rebecca Hosking, the woman behind Europe’s first plastic bag ban, in Modbury back in 2007.

While shops are now required to charge for single use plastic bags, their price is still very low, so although it’s become standard behaviour to take reusable bags along on our weekly shop, it’s not the end of the world if we forget them, and there are still thousands in circulation.

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I vividly remember the video that Jon used to encourage governments to adopt the ban in Australia.

It was of a turtle eating a plastic bag it had mistaken for a jellyfish. It was shocking, and so sad.

Now that our awareness has risen so much, it’s hard to believe that we used to use single use plastic bags so freely not so long ago.

Living beside the sea, we can all appreciate how important it is to safeguard our precious marine life against the dangers of discarded plastic.

Yesterday, a friend and I went for a walk to one of my favourite seaside places, Saltern Cove near Goodrington.

The beach was almost deserted but there was a healthy population of plastic and other waste taking up space on the sand.

We collected it and this morning my 11-year-old niece and I arranged it into a collage.

I often feel that enough has been written about the need for us all to take steps to reduce our dependence on plastic but yesterday reminded me that in truth most of us, myself included, are still very much at the beginning of a journey, so any reminder of ways to take action is a good use of column space. 

Most supermarkets now sell fruit and vegetables without plastic packaging, and offer paper bags instead.

In the past there has been a debate around the need for plastic because it stops perishables from being damaged, and ending up in landfill, creating another environmental issue.

As more and more shops source produce locally however, this should become less of a problem.

Scientists at Cambridge University have created a way to make a plastic alternative out of pea protein, which breaks down to become food rather than foe for fish.

There are bright minds doing amazing things, and although it will be a while until these alternatives become cost effective and widely adopted, there is hope. 

Recycling facilities are much better than they once were, but a great deal of water is required to remake items, so finding ways to avoid using them in the first place is always the best option.

I still struggle with this but I am determined to keep trying.

Reading the instructions on the plastic packaging we do use and on our recycling bins is important, because items that were not recyclable until very recently may now be welcome. 

Like most young people, my nieces have been aware of the issues facing our planet for a long time.

I find it frustrating that more hasn’t been done since I started working in this area almost 15 years ago but I am encouraged and inspired by their positive energy, and the way that they are seeking out and adopting sustainable alternatives, educating and reminding their elders in the process. 

Let’s all do our bit to continue reducing our plastic use now that the official month for doing so has ended.

And, perhaps make a pledge to collect a few pieces from the beach next time you visit.

For more hints and tips visit www.plasticfreejuly.org