When Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic, in 1907, little could he have known how useful and, at the same time, environmentally catastrophic the product would be.
Most households use disposable plastic every day, with plastic contributing ten percent to human-generated waste. Worldwide, an estimated eight million tons of plastic trash is dumped into our oceans annually, taking up to 1000 years to fully decompose, its detrimental effects evident on ecosystems and water supply.
In Queensland alone, about one billion lightweight plastic shopping bags are used each year, with production set to double in the next 10 – 15 years unless present usage habits change.
On 5 September 2017, the Queensland Parliament passed a new law banning single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags, including degradable and biodegradable bags, effective from July 2018.
So, how can we proactively anticipate this change? Here are a few suggestions on ways to phase out plastic:
* Take your own reusable shopping bags.
* Selectively shop to avoid plastic packaging, choosing cardboard or glass packaging instead.
* Buy fresh food instead of pre-packaged, pre-made or frozen.
*Carry a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water.
* Give up your use of plastic drinking straws. Drink from a cup instead.
* Ask for a ceramic coffee cup or take your own reusable coffee cup to your café. Some places, such as Marie Anita’s, incentivise this practice.
* Rethink storage options, using glass jars or ceramic containers for storage, and bees-waxed material, baking paper and aluminium foil for covers.
* Separate your rubbish into recyclable, non-recyclable and food scraps.
* Compost your food scraps on your own garden.
* Recycle your soft plastic bags and packaging at your supermarket so they can be converted into new products.
There are plans to introduce a recycling refund scheme to Queensland (similar to those operating in NSW, SA and NT) with refunds for recyclable drink containers at designated points.
Now is the time to make a change. While there is no perfect way to dispose of garbage (since garbage itself is not eco-friendly), the best option is to try and reduce the amount of waste we generate in the first place. Let’s make new habits and leave each place a little better than how we found it.
NOTE: This article was published in The Sun on 20 June 2018.