Single-use plastics is a term commonly used across media platforms today regarding our country’s environment. Plastics are seen everywhere we go. They are on our streets, in our homes, waterways, oceans, beaches and parks. The breakaway from the grasps of this environmentally hostile material is inescapable due to its popularity in manufacturing everyday items. So, instead of eliminating this material how can we as communities reduce the effects of single-use plastics on the environment?
What are single-use plastics?
Simply, these plastics are items which are used once and thrown away. The worst single-use plastics affecting our environment include products such as plastic bags, straws, drink stirrers, coffee lids and cups, food containers, cutlery, and plates, just to name a few. While these one-off use plastics are convenient and we may not think much of it in the checkout lines when asking for plastic bags to carry our groceries, these choices have serious impacts on our environment’s health.
What you need to know about single use plastics, and how they affect the country.
How do these single-use plastics affect the environment? Perhaps plastic does its job too well? It is a pervasive material and has a history of utility yet, its existing source of development and the nonchalant way society discards it makes it hazardous to our environment. It is estimated around 40% of plastics utilised daily are single-use only. These affect our environment in a multitude of ways:
Effects on the health of all of us:
At times, the question “how does plastic affect our country?” appears far removed from us as humans. Our environment, although needing help, is interdependent. Pollution from plastic can negatively impact not only the health and wellness of the environment but of humans as well. When our water becomes contaminated with micro-plastics, facilities that treat our water are not necessarily advanced enough to fully eliminated them from our usable supplies. This is damaging to our health as particle matter of chemicals from plastics themselves like methylene chloride harm the human respiratory system as well as cause headaches, skin irritation and fatigue. When our soils become contaminated by these single-use plastics it too influences our health, as our crops for our food supplies become damaged. These effects are very real and directly correlate to the abundance of one-off plastics circulation and production.
Effects on our wildlife:
Like us, animals and sea creatures also suffer from the pollution plastics cause. This is seen when critters suffer from dehydration, starvation or suffocation as plastics are mistaken for food or cosy homes. If ingested choking can occur, or if they escape that fate, they may endure serious digestive tract damage. One-off use plastics like soft drink can holders, may entangle species and cause them injuries for example impede the movement of a bird’s wing or, we have all seen the damage they do to the growth of turtles if caught up in them. This especially is an eye opening answer to the question of how these plastics affect our environment.
Effects on freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams:
Due to our society’s careless discard of one-off use plastics, our freshwater lakes, rivers and streams have become highly contaminated creating a negative impact on our water systems and environment. According to a study developed in 2016, a troubling number of micro-plastics were present in many estuaries and tributaries. These tiny plastics have come from decaying bags, bottles, toothpastes, polyester clothing, skin lotions and other sources. These affect our waterways as well as the ecosystem of aquatic life as they serve as efficient transporters of pesticides, trace metals and other harmful chemical pollutants. Thus, other hazards besides pollution are introduced into already threatened freshwater ecosystems.
Effects on changing climates:
Yes, some plastics are derived from natural plant-based substances, but the vast-majority of these products are derived from petroleum and or natural gas. With the manufacturers of plastics continuing persistent, the emission of greenhouse gasses from the combustion of fossil fuels is also unrestrained. Research, utilisation and development of alternate materials for these one-off plastics like starch based polymers and milk proteins promises improvement in the future. In the mean-time, returning to paper bags and glass bottles doesn’t seem like such a retrograde.
Sustainable swaps you can make to reduce your use of one-off plastics.
According to the Department of the Environment and Energy’s current Australian plastics recycling survey, over 3.5 million tonnes of plastic was manufactured in Australia between 2018 and 2019, of which only 11.5% was recycled. An organisation named ‘Pacific Oceans’ estimated that around 380 million tonnes of plastic waste is created every year, and 50% of it is single-use. Becoming completely plastic free is understandably hard, especially when so many of our country’s daily essential items are developed from plastic or are packaged in unnecessary one-off plastics. It is also challenging to find sustainable options for our disposal readily available. The good news is that while Australia moves towards a ban on plastics as well as companies beginning to support the demand for environmentally friendly products, there are a multitude of ways we can start creating change and making a difference in reducing the use of one-off plastics. These may include:
1: Glass containers to replace plastic and snap-lock bags.
Give single-use plastic bags and containers the flick and opt for recyclable materials instead. An empty jar makes a perfect container to transport salad dressings or switching to glass storage containers for carting leftovers. Small cardboard boxes like sultana boxes are perfect for your trail mix on the go.
- Glass or metal bottles for drinks
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, according to a study by The Guardian, and in Australia alone, around 373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year. Instead of buying bottled H20, the most eco-friendly and cost-effective option is to just drink it straight out of a glass. But, if you’re on the go and don’t have access to water on tap, invest in a good-quality reusable drink bottle. If you’re buying packaged beverages, look for glass bottles or easy-to-recycle cans over plastic.
- Natural or microfibre cloths to replace synthetic cleaning sponges
Plastic kitchen sponges harbour bacteria and germs and it is recommended that we replace them weekly, of course, this just adds to environmental waste with these sponges ending up in landfill in the masses. Making the conscious decision to change to using an alternative such as microfibre cloths, hemp sponges, bamboo or wooden scrubbing brushes. You can even get vegan dish blocks.
- Plastic straws for paper or metal
In Australia, we discard an estimated 10 million plastic straws every day. Rather than add to this growing problem try switching to more sustainable alternatives, such as recycled paper straws, silicone, steel or glass just to name a few.
What Australians are doing to reduce waste and recycle responsibly.
As mentioned above industries have progressively been moving towards banning these one-off use plastics. You may have experienced the change where plastic bags are now not given out at supermarkets but are either able to be purchased or you must use your own fabric bags. This dramatically reduced one of the most unnecessary single-use plastics within our environment. You also may have seen companies like McDonalds changing their straws from plastic to paper to support our countries’ need to reduce waste and change to sustainable products.
Cheapest Load of Rubbish are dedicated to helping Sydney-siders reduce their use of single-use plastics in order to create a more sustainable future. Contact us today to see how we can help you with plastic waste removal.