THE BIG­GEST PLAS­TIC POL­LU­TION CUL­PRITS and their solutions

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - COUNTDOWN INITIATIVE -

PLAS­TIC BAGS

In the 1980s, the plas­tic bag be­came ubiq­ui­tous around the world for ease of car­ry­ing and pack­ag­ing items when shop­ping. The trou­ble is you can’t get rid of them. They take decades to de­grade and even when they do, they never de­grade com­pletely, they just be­come smaller bits of plas­tic which work their way into the en­vi­ron­ment and kill wildlife. Also, as they do break down, they leak toxic fumes, con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change.

THE SO­LU­TION:

Re­us­able shop­ping bags. The only is­sue is re­mem­ber­ing to take them to the su­per­mar­ket. But once you get into the habit, you’re sorted. They’re eas­ier to carry than plas­tic bags, you can usu­ally fit a nor­mal-sized su­per­mar­ket shop in two or three of them (no more end­less trips back and forth to the car while un­pack­ing) and you’re not killing any sea crea­tures by us­ing them. Plus there is such a huge va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent pat­terns avail­able now, they’re al­most be­com­ing a sta­tus sym­bol at the check­out. Even bet­ter, Count­down has in­tro­duced af­ford­able $1 re­us­able bags!

COF­FEE CUPS

Cof­fee has be­come a way of life for so many of us on our morn­ing com­mute or as we head into work. But all those sin­gle-use cups are clog­ging up land­fills all over the world; it’s es­ti­mated that in Aus­tralia, cof­fee drinkers are throw­ing out a bil­lion take­away cups a year, and in New Zealand, it’s al­most 300 mil­lion an­nu­ally. Even if you’re do­ing your bit and pop­ping your cup in the re­cy­cling bin, it’s still not a fool­proof process; a lot of New Zealand re­cy­cling plants don’t have the tech­nol­ogy to sep­a­rate the main ma­te­ri­als of the cof­fee cup, and even with com­postable cups, the ma­jor­ity of our com­post sites can’t ac­cept them for the same rea­son. Over­seas cof­fee chains have started charg­ing for sin­gle-use cups, with Star­bucks in the UK charg­ing 5p per cup, re­sult­ing in a 150 per cent in­crease in peo­ple bring­ing their own re­us­able cups.

THE SO­LU­TION:

Re­us­able cups have all the car­rya­bil­ity of a take­away plas­tic cup, with none of the plas­tic pol­lu­tion side ef­fects. Plus, many cof­fee stores of­fer dis­counts for bring­ing your own cup.

WA­TER BOT­TLES

Around the world, a stag­ger­ing one mil­lion plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles are bought ev­ery minute. While the bot­tles are more eas­ily re­cy­clable than other sin­gle-use items, the sheer amount be­ing used means the rate of re­cy­cling can’t keep up. Less than half the bot­tles bought in 2016 were col­lected for re­cy­cling, with only seven per cent turned into new bot­tles – most end up in land­fill or in the ocean.

THE SO­LU­TION:

In­vest in a metal or glass re­us­able wa­ter bot­tle – bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment and bet­ter for you: a study of 250 wa­ter bot­tles from 11 dif­fer­ent brands found mi­croplas­tic par­ti­cles in 90 per cent of them, which we then in­gest. And that can’t be a good thing.

STRAWS

Yes, those things you’ve prob­a­bly never thought twice about are in­sid­i­ous lit­tle of­fend­ers when it comes to plas­tic pol­lu­tion; they take more than 200 years to biode­grade and in the UK 8.5 bil­lion straws are thrown away an­nu­ally.

THE SO­LU­TION:

When you go out for a drink, say no to a straw. If you’ve got kids and this isn’t prac­ti­cal, buy re­us­able bam­boo or stain­less steel straws to take with you.

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