How to Reduce Plastic Use

Our beautiful oceans are part of our collective heritage. Every time we refuse to use a piece of plastic, it is one small victory for our marine life — but we need to pressure governments and corporations to act too.

Oceans are fundamental to our lives on earth – the lungs of our planet. But the balance of life within our oceans is delicate. Right now, plastic bags, plastic bottles and micro-plastics are choking Australian sea life and clogging our marine ecosystems.

With one simple decision — to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our daily lives — we can turn the tide on plastic pollution and give our majestic sea creatures a healthier future.


How to reduce plastic bag use

Did you know the average plastic bag is used for 12 minutes but essentially lasts forever? You can avoid plastic bags easily:

  • Say yes to reusable bags and bring your own from home
  • Shop at local markets and don’t use plastic bags for loose vegetables – take your own reusable, washable Onya bags, or paper bags
  • Support your local clean/bulk foods store
  • Sign petitions to ban single-use plastic bags in your state


How to avoid plastic at the supermarket

Plastic packaging in the supermarket is rampant, whether it’s fresh fruit on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in cling wrap, plastic squeeze bottles or over-packaged lunch options for kids. It doesn’t have to be this way:

  • Choose the unwrapped produce where you can
  • Bring your own veggie bags from home
  • Choose bulk products where possible
  • Choose glass bottles or buy containers only where they are made from recycled plastic
  • Sign petitions to reduce or ban plastic packaging in supermarkets


How to avoid plastic at cafes and bars

Australians use 1 billion “disposable” coffee cups a year and millions of straws. But the coffee cups have a plastic lining and can’t be recycled and the straws end up in the ocean and are eaten by unsuspecting fish. You can turn the tide:

  • Remember to bring your own reusable cup, such as a Keep Cup
  • Some cafes will let you bring your own mug
  • Introduce your local cafe to ‘Responsible Cafes’ and start saving money on each drink!
  • Say no to plastic straws. Either bring your own metal straw or just drink from the bottle or glass


How to avoid plastic at the party

Big events should be a worry-free celebration — and what better way to celebrate than to take care of the planet while you’re at it.

  • Say no to balloons — especially if they’re going to be released outdoors. They can travel for miles and end up as litter on land or out in the ocean. A mixture of plastic and rubber, they can last for up to four years once in the ocean – breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces
  • Say no to plastic toys, trinkets, party bag fillers — there are lots of wooden and paper alternatives that are gorgeous
  • Say no to the plastic bag for the gift, and anything else — carry your own bags for gift shopping and clothes shopping, just as you do for supermarket shopping
  • Use real plates, cups, and cutlery. Remember that ‘paper’ plates and cups often have plastic lining
  • Use rice or recycled paper instead of confetti — commercial confetti is filled with tiny sparkly bits of plastic which looks pretty in a photo but is devastating to marine life
  • Choose new bio glitter rather than plastic glitter for facepaint, sparkly eye make-up and fancy cards


Plastic recycling

We’ve all seen the recycling symbol on plastics. But remember the guide is reduce, reuse, recycle — in that order of priority. First, think about whether you really need the plastic or if there’s another option; then choose to reuse the plastic product as many times as you can, including buying products that are already recycled; then buy a new product and recycle it if there are no other options.

Here are some tips:

  • Check for the recycling symbol on all plastics you purchase and don’t buy the product if there isn’t one
  • Take plastic bottles back to redeem the container deposit if you live in a state that has a container deposit scheme, and help campaign to introduce a scheme to Victoria & Tasmania
  • Look for a program like RedCycle in your state that will recycle post-consumer soft plastic waste like plastic bags and bread wrappers into large-scale recycled products like fenceposts and bridges
  • If you are a company buying large scale plastic such as signage, check whether there is a commercial recycler who will buy your materials from you when your campaign is finished.


Take it further – create a plastic free ocean

You’re reading through all the tips above and none of it applies to you: you’re already a plastic-free superstar! Fantastic work, but there’s still more you can do:

  • Join a local clean up crew, whether it’s part of Clean Up Australia or a local ‘friends of the creek’ — cleaning up the rubbish left near creeks helps stop the waste before it reaches the ocean
  • Sign petitions to pressure governments to introduce container deposit schemes, ban single use plastics and generally introduce incentives to improve sustainability in your state
  • Write to supermarkets and other major corporations asking them to reduce waste, eliminate unnecessary plastic wrapping and packaging and to use more recycled materials — with major stores Coles & Woolworths pledging to reduce their waste, keep them on track by keeping the pressure on them
  • Make a Plastics Pact with your friends that you’ll reduce your use together. When everyone carries a calico bag to go shopping, it will become the new normal
  • Throw a plastics-free party and challenge your friends to get creative
  • Set guidelines for the next children’s birthday party, by adding a “We love our ocean — please no plastic presents” on the bottom of invitations


When everyone becomes an ocean advocate, we can really become the solution to ocean plastic pollution.

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