Plastic, a synthetic material made from carbon-based molecules, are notoriously famous for all the wrong reasons. It’s anywhere and everywhere – in laptops, ATM cards, kitchenware, and even your television and radio sets. Plastic certainly has many benefits and there’s no denying its convenience. The most commonly-used type are single-use plastics – plastic products that are used once and then thrown away – and they pose the biggest threat to the environment. They end up in the digestive systems of marine life or clog our landfills and waterways. Astonishingly enough, we still continue to use them despite the harm they cause.
By the numbers
In 2010, out of 275 million tonnes of plastic created, 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes were found in the ocean. In an article published by Science Daily, researchers found that by 2015, 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic were created. Out of this number, only 9 percent was recycled, 12 percent destroyed, and a massive 79 percent dumped in the environment. A more recent report, ‘The New Plastics Economy’ by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. If these numbers and predictions aren’t alarming, I don’t know what is.
Inspiration comes from within
During my week off, I decided to visit a beach to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Brighton Beach is about 14 kilometres south of Melbourne CBD and is a must-have on your travel list. A tourist hotspot famous for its rich history and its attractive and colourful beach bathing boxes is an ideal destination for a perfect swim and a relaxed afternoon. The 82 distinctive bathing boxes light up the coast and make a perfect background for a selfie.
When I arrived, I was greeted by the wind-swaying plastic bags in the air, not the relaxing, warm, clean air of the beach. The amount of single-use plastics on the beach washing ashore was hard to ignore. It was a worrying sight, since there were birds feeding and searching for food without realising the danger plastics pose for them. Instead of the relaxing afternoon that I planned, I decided to collect the plastic items and write this article, which can hopefully help spread awareness about the issue.null
Single-use plastic products are very lightweight and easy to carry on a picnic to a beach or the mountains. Moreover, because of their light weight, they get blown away by the wind, travelling for miles before eventually ending up in the ocean. They’re everywhere – literally. You may recognize some of them below.
A common sight on my trip was the amount of single-use plastic cups being disposed of or thrown away by tourists after use. A major source of single-use plastic pollution, these cups can be hazardous to fish or birds who might nibble at them after mistaking them for food.
ALTERNATIVE: Bring your own cups from home or use biodegradable cups.
Single-use carry bags are the most infamous of the lot. Their lightweight design and structure does more harm than good when you consider their effect on the environment. Marine life ingests plastic bags after mistaking them for food, which causes them to choke on plastic. This is common with sea turtles as they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish due to their similar structure. This causes a blockage in their digestive system, eventually causing death.
ALTERNATIVE: Reusable cloth or jute bags.
Single use straws do not break down, keeping the plastic in the environment for many years. These straws are major pollutants, causing harm to marine life, thus disturbing the ecological balance.
ALTERNATIVE: Carry reusable or washable straws.
Brands that Care
The Victorian state government will ban single-use plastic bags from 2019, including shopping bags less than 35 microns thick. The Australian supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths, have already banned single-use plastic bags and have come up with affordable alternatives to help with the transition, not just for them, but for you, too.
Big supermarket giants aren’t the only companies and brands that are helping us fight the war against plastics. Check out some of these eco-friendly, non-plastic using brands below.
Keep-cup: Reusable Cups
Keep cups are trendy and affordable alternatives to single-use coffee cups. These cups are affordable and come in a wide range of colour options. What’s even better is that you can design your own cup: one that suits your style, or one for every day of the week to match your outfit.
Ecosoulife: Eco-friendly dinnerware
Inspired by the enthusiasm of their eldest son to protect the environment, Gal and Sharon Benjamin started Ecosoulife as an attempt to reduce the harmful consequences of the use of plastic materials. Their products are made from re-purposed agricultural waste and are designed to merge with the environment once buried in the ground, staying true to the term ‘biodegradable’. A brand that prides itself in constantly researching new techniques to reduce the carbon footprint is a must-have for your kitchen.
Biome: Reusable Bags
Australia’s original zero-waste, toxin-free, ethical eco-store is 100% palm oil free. A one-stop shop for your eco-friendly needs, they maintain a strict ingredient policy, and are a certified B-Corp. They’re also approved by Palm Oil Investigations for your peace of mind. Biome provide a wide range of products from lunch boxes to vegan makeup. Their bold and beautiful designs are hard to resist, providing you with great eco-friendly alternatives for plastic products you would normally use.
Flora & Fauna: Reusable Straws
Although reusable straws can easily be purchased online, Flora & Fauna offer a much wider range of truly eco-friendly products. This Aussie brand has truly established itself as an ethical provider of sustainable materials for everyday use. One of their most impressive products is the Green + Kind bamboo reusable straw. These straws provide an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. These straws are ethically-sourced and, even better, donates 50c from each set sold to Sea Shepard Australia.