Caravan World - - Contents -

Aus­tralians are part of the prob­lem when it comes to the ‘dis­pos­able so­ci­ety’, but there are plenty of ways we can ‘switch and ditch’ our habits to pro­tect our oceans from plas­tics and

re­duce the rub­bish that ends up in land­fill

R e d u c i n g was t e

on the road

What’s the worst thing we do to­day that our grand­par­ents didn’t? You might say that we poi­son our food with pes­ti­cides or that we eat too much, work too hard or drive in­stead of walk­ing, all of which are true.

But what we do much more of­ten than our grand­par­ents ever did, is throw things away.

The amount of waste that ev­ery Aus­tralian dis­cards has in­creased tenfold in the last cen­tury to a whop­ping 560kg a year. What’s more, ev­ery sin­gle piece of plas­tic ex­ist­ing on the planet to­day will never, ever, go away, no mat­ter how much it breaks down or how of­ten it gets re­cy­cled. This in­cludes plas­tic bags and straws, dis­pos­able cof­fee cups, wet wipes, poly­styrene plates and more.

The good news is that, as con­sumers, we are pow­er­ful peo­ple with choices to make. By ditch­ing and switch­ing the prod­ucts we buy and use when we hit the road this year, each and ev­ery one of us can keep a moun­tain of waste out of land­fill and, more im­por­tantly, our oceans.


Ev­ery minute of ev­ery day, a stag­ger­ing one mil­lion plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles are bought across the world — that’s 16,666 bot­tles per sec­ond. If you think that sounds like a third­world statis­tic, con­sider this: in Aus­tralia, a quar­ter of us drink from a sin­gle-use wa­ter bot­tle ev­ery week and less than 40 per cent of those bot­tles are be­ing re­cy­cled.

Most end up in land­fill and, when they do, take more than 1000 years to de­grade. The re­sult is mi­croplas­tics, which are be­com­ing more of a haz­ard to our oceans than the plas­tic bot­tle it­self.

Re­cy­cling makes a dif­fer­ence. Place just 41 plas­tic bot­tles in the right bin and you’ll save enough en­ergy to run your com­puter for 17 hours. But what if you stopped buy­ing plas­tic bot­tles al­to­gether?

In 2009, the NSW town of Bun­danoon did, of­fer­ing only re­us­able drink­ing bot­tles for sale in its stores and chilled fil­tered tap wa­ter to fill them with: sim­ple and ge­nius!

All we need to do is change our habits. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to snap up wa­ter on the run by al­ways car­ry­ing a wa­ter bot­tle with you. Buy a qual­ity stain­less steel wa­ter bot­tle and cart it ev­ery­where: to the su­per­mar­ket, on strolls around town, on bush­walks and out to lunch.


The wet-wipe wash has saved many an out­back camper be­tween show­ers, but this guilty plea­sure de­mands a re­think.

De­spite a lot of claims on su­per­mar­ket pack­ag­ing, very few wet wipes are biodegrad­able and, worse still, when flushed they ac­cu­mu­late in sew­ers as what is de­light­fully known as ‘fat­bergs’.

The next des­ti­na­tion for these wipes is the ocean where they will take up­wards of 100 years to break down or worse, kill the creature that in­gests it.

I’ll ad­mit that I’ve car­ried an­tibac­te­rial wet wipes on al­most ev­ery road trip I’ve ever tack­led, un­til now. My switch this year is to a wash­able muslin cloth and nat­u­ral, soap-free

cleanser for my face, hands and body when there’s no shower avail­able in camp, and to com­postable and gen­uinely biodegrad­able bam­boo fi­bre wipes for every­thing else.


Ac­cord­ing to Planet Ark, 345 mil­lion hand­held bat­ter­ies are sold in Aus­tralia each year and, de­spite re­cy­cling ef­forts, two thirds end up in land­fill leach­ing toxic me­tals — lead, mer­cury, cad­mium and nickel — into the en­vi­ron­ment.

Re­cy­cling bat­ter­ies can re­cover up to 90 per cent of the ma­te­ri­als used to man­u­fac­ture them, but when you travel, it can seem like a has­sle to find a bat­tery re­cy­cling sta­tion and all-too tempt­ing to stash them in the bin.

Thank­fully, Planet Ark’s web­site (re­cy­clingn­ can guide you to the near­est dis­posal point, wher­ever you are. Even bet­ter than re­cy­cling sin­gle-use bat­ter­ies is to stop buy­ing them al­to­gether. Choose so­lar or USB-recharge­able torches and out­door lanterns, cam­eras, GPS units, wa­ter pu­ri­fiers and more.

If the equip­ment you have on hand needs a bat­tery, choose the recharge­able kind which can be recharged up to 1000 times, or buy Eco Al­ka­lines. These are the world’s first cer­ti­fied car­bon neu­tral bat­ter­ies con­tain­ing no mer­cury, lead or cad­mium, and they are non-toxic if sent to land­fill (you can buy them at green­


Have you ever slid into a pris­tine out­back wa­ter­hole and found your­self sur­rounded by a whirlpool of toxic sun­screen? Sun­screen is a camper’s best friend but it may sur­prise you to know that most of the sun­screens sold in Aus­tralia con­tain toxic in­gre­di­ents harm­ful to hu­mans and the wa­ter­ways we swim in as well.

Check yours now and if it con­tains oxy­ben­zone or octi­nox­ate (re­cently banned in Hawaii af­ter be­ing proven to dam­age and kill coral reefs), make the switch to a reef-safe, hu­man-safe sun­screen that uses a bar­rier of nat­u­ral zinc ox­ide to shield your skin from harm­ful so­lar rays.

You don’t have to be snorkellin­g to be a part of the prob­lem as sun­screen washed off into the shower drains into our wa­ter­ways, mak­ing it vi­tal for all Aussie trav­ellers to re­think the chem­i­cals we put on our skin. Sun­screens made by Nat­u­ral In­stinct (www. nat­u­ralin­ are Aussie-made and es­pe­cially af­ford­able.


When I tack­led my first Big Lap way back in 1995, I spent a month’s wages on camp­ing gear: a One Planet down sleep­ing bag, a Kath­mandu can­vas day pack, a GORE-TEX rain jacket, leather hik­ing boots and a Wind­stop­per fleece — all of which are still with me to­day.

The One Planet sleep­ing bag and the can­vas ruck­sack that I threw into the back of my boyfriend’s Com­modore on that first, big Aussie ad­ven­ture, re­cently en­joyed their third trip to Ever­est Base Camp.

All these qual­ity items that were hugely ex­pen­sive at the time, have with­stood a hun­dred adventures and out­lasted all the cheaper, in­fe­rior pur­chases I’ve un­wisely made over the years.

Qual­ity gear lasts the dis­tance and, while the price tags might seem sky-high com­pared to cheap Asian im­ports, you’ll save your money in the long run. What’s more, qual­ity gear won’t fail when you need it, or end up as land­fill all too soon.

Make your goal for 2019 to buy the best qual­ity travel and caravannin­g gear you can af­ford: every­thing from cloth­ing and footwear to portable fridges, car tyres and sit-on kayaks.

Choose to give your hard-earned cash to en­vi­ron­men­tally-mo­ti­vated equip­ment com­pa­nies that use re­cy­cled and re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als, man­u­fac­ture in car­bon-neu­tral fac­to­ries (such as One Planet), that sup­port en­vi­ron­men­tal causes and of­fer re­pair ser­vices (One Planet, again) and sell their prod­ucts with small eco­log­i­cal foot­prints and with­out plas­tic pack­ag­ing.

There are plenty of Aus­tralian com­pa­nies that de­serve your dol­lars so why not choose to buy from those who serve the en­vi­ron­ment best?


We may have fi­nally banned the bag, but the loop­hole — al­low­ing stur­dier, re­us­able plas­tic bags to be handed out for a tiny fee — means that there are an as­tound­ing num­ber of

plas­tic bags still in use in Aus­tralia.

Us­ing cloth bags is a no brainer when we shop, but what do we use as rub­bish bags now? Buy­ing a box of plas­tic bags to throw away with our rub­bish seemed like a big step back­wards to me, so when I even­tu­ally ran out of my old plas­tic su­per­mar­ket bags, I started stow­ing my rub­bish in card­board boxes, which could be emp­tied into a bin and the box reused or re­cy­cled.

I grab them from Bun­nings, liquor stores and lo­cal su­per­mar­kets, and on big out­back trips, I use fold­able, wash­able bins. If your camp­ing setup doesn’t have the lux­ury of per­ma­nent bins un­der a sink, you might like to try this sim­ple al­ter­na­tive: grab two PVC pop-up bins ($20 from BCF) that can be stowed dur­ing travel. When you ar­rive in camp, sim­ply hang them on the out­side of your rig or on the rear tyre of your 4WD. Fill one with re­cy­clables and the other with non-re­cy­clables, and empty them when you get into town. When dirty, sim­ply rinse and upend them to dry.

If you love to bush­walk, pad­dle or cy­cle, you’re go­ing to need a new way to or­gan­ise and wa­ter­proof your food, clothes and gear in­side ruck­sacks or kayak hulls now that plas­tic bags are his­tory. Head to your favourite camp­ing store and in­vest in a set of light­weight, wa­ter­proof dry bags or stuff sacks to pro­tect your valu­ables from all kinds of weather.


One of the most Earth-friendly things that car­a­van­ners do at around 10.30am ev­ery morn­ing is to pull over and brew a cuppa. Brew­ing our own cof­fee keeps non­re­cy­clable cups out of land­fill, but how many is a fig­ure that might stag­ger you.

If all the cof­fee cups man­u­fac­tured last year were lined up end-to-end, they would stretch around the globe 1360 times (that’s 500,000,000,000 cups).

Aussies alone throw back (and then throw away) up­wards of three bil­lion cof­fees sold in sin­gle-use cups ev­ery year, and while the pa­per in most ‘pa­per cups’ even­tu­ally breaks down, it leaves be­hind a wa­ter­proof, polyuretha­ne lin­ing that will out­last us all.

The chal­lenge for us van­ners when we fancy a cof­fee when we are out is to al­ways order it in a ce­ramic cup or mug and sit down to en­joy it. If you need to take your cof­fee away, hand the barista your own re­us­able travel mug and you’ll most likely score a 50-cent dis­count and a big smile for do­ing so. If you do have to take away and for­get your own mug, refuse the lid that re­ally does last a life­time in land­fill.


Ev­ery straw you have ever sipped on is still on the planet to­day. They will never go away and they are ac­cu­mu­lat­ing. Last year, the ABC’s War on Waste team es­ti­mated that Aus­tralians use 10 mil­lion straws a day. It’s a big prob­lem but the so­lu­tion is sim­ple: leave straws on the counter.

En­ter the bam­boo straw. Re­new­able, sus­tain­able and 100 per cent com­postable, the bam­boo straw is also light­weight and costs as lit­tle as $2. If you are a smoothie and juice drinker, bam­boo straws are easy to pack and most come with a thin cleaner (from $8.95 at shop­nat­u­

If you need con­vinc­ing about the harm plas­tic straws can do in the ocean, try watch­ing — with­out squirm­ing — that vi­ral YouTube clip of a straw be­ing re­moved from the nose of an en­dan­gered olive ri­d­ley sea tur­tle found floun­der­ing off Costa Rica.

“If you need to take your cof­fee away, hand the barista your own re­us­able travel mug and you’ll most likely score a 50-cent dis­count”

Words C at h e r i n e L aw s o n

Pics David Bristow

LEDT TO RIGHT Re­sist the urge to buy wa­ter on the run but if you do, al­ways re­fill and re­cy­cle; switch those help­ful yet harm­ful non-biode­grade­able wet wipes for com­postable bam­boo ones or a wash­able cloth and soap-free cleanser for 'baths' at camp

“... ev­ery sin­gle piece of plas­tic ex­ist­ing on the planet to­day will never, ever, go away, no mat­ter how much it breaks down”

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE Choose USBrecharg­e­able camp­ing gad­gets; ditch sin­gleuse bat­ter­ies and charge your gad­gets off so­lar in­stead; ev­ery piece of plas­tic on the planet to­day will never, ever, dis­ap­pear; buy gear from com­pa­nies that care about the en­vi­ron­ment

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE Keep sun­screen out of pris­tine wa­ter­holes; in­vest in qual­ity gear that will last the dis­tance; only buy sun­screen that is friendly to our reefs (and hu­mans); re­fus­ing all plas­tic bags is the only way to stop them end­ing up in the sea and in the tum­mies of our ma­rine life

“The wet-wipe wash has saved many an out­back camper be­tween show­ers, but this guilty plea­sure de­mands a re­think”

FROM TOP Stop­ping to brew your own cof­fee keeps non-re­cy­clable cups out of land­fill; sit and sip — al­ways order your cof­fee in ce­ramic mugs; bam­boo straws are re­new­able, sus­tain­able and 100 per cent com­postable

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