The unexpected places that plastics hide
By Eav Brennan
Plastic has become an obsession of mine, I started going plastic free in 2015 and although I’m not perfect I still try to cut down on my plastic use as much as I can. I’ve also spent the past year researching marine debris in Murramarang National Park in NSW, and I can say that in this area, going plastic free and encouraging others to do the same can make a huge difference. It’s also pretty fun. Going plastic free gave me a fresh look at how I eat, my fashion choices, and made me simplify my life.
We know that plastics pose a major threat to marine life, and are all round bad for people and the planet. Plastic production has exploded since the 1980’s as throwaway culture became the norm all over the world. Now we’re realising that this culture is strangling and starving the creatures of our planet, and it has to stop. This can, and has to, start at home, but we also need to encourage our business leaders and politicians to reduce plastic production and consumption.
Where plastics have been banned, or where plastic consumption patterns have changed, marine debris on the coasts and beaches have changed with it. There are measurable signs that to protect our coasts, the best thing we can do is transform our waste. In my research, the main sources of debris in the National Parks were from the towns and cities in the region. Imagine if Sydney followed Noosa’s and Wollongong’s lead and decided to cut single-use plastics by 50% in the next year? We could protect so much of Australia’s marine life.
There are ways to reduce plastic waste, going beyond refusing a straw and buying a keepcup. Here’s a few areas that we can reduce single use beyond the fruit and veggie isle:
Say no to synthetic fibres in fashion
There are nasties in our clothes: Polyester, nylon and neoprene to name a few. Each time we wash synthetic fabrics, microplastic fibres get washed into rivers and the ocean. Opting for natural fibres can reduce your plastic waste every time you wash.
Have a zero-waste period
There are alternatives to pads and tampons. Medical grade menstrual cups are available as well as reusable cotton pads. I’ve found that they’re clean and comfortable, provided you are disciplined at washing them out.
Get rid of the plastics in your bathroom
Toothpastes, sunscreens, cosmetics and hair products commonly contain microplastics. There are alternatives to all of these products (although some of them come in plastic packaging, the reduction of the microplastics is worth it). Shampoo bars and bulk conditioners, as well as alternative sunscreens and toothpastes are usually available and bulk food stores.
Cut the sneaky plastics in your kitchen
Teabags are safe, right? I was not happy when I found out how much plastic goes into the production of a single teabag. Opting for teapot or metal mesh net can reduce your waste. Chewing gum’s not an option either.
Keep up the pressure
Cutting out waste in your own life is great, but we need to shift away from single use as a society to combat this problem. There are alternatives to single use plastics, and policies to cut waste are being implemented all over the world. Researching alternatives, and pressuring your local and regional businesses and governments to take action is critical. Even larger businesses will listen if market forces are on board.
Plastic pollution is a big problem, but it’s also a visible one that we can solve. Altering your life to reduce consumption and waste, and persuading others to do the same is an important step to improve the way we care for our oceans and environment.