17 sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics
Victoria has unveiled plans to ban single-use plastic. Here are 17 ways to go plastic free.
As the world grapples with what to do with the 380 million tonnes of plastic waste it produces each year, Victoria has taken a stand announcing it will ban many single-use plastics from 2023.
Last month the government announced that single-use plastics, including plastic straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, polystyrene food and drink containers, and plastic cotton bud sticks would be phased out over the next two years in a bid to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and ending up in our waterways.
The move follows the state’s 2019 ban on light-weight plastic bags and the introduction last year of a container deposit scheme to address the issue of drink cans and bottles, which account for almost half of Victoria’s litter.
According to the Department of the Environment and Energy’s recent Australian Plastics Recycling Survey, more than 3.5 million tonnes of plastic was produced in Australia in 2018-19, of which only 11.5 per cent was recycled.
Not-for-profit organisation Plastic Oceans estimates that about 380 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced globally every year, of which up to 50 per cent is for single-use purposes. As well as being dumped into landfill and waterways, our oceans are also drowning in the stuff, with a staggering 10 million tonnes ending up in the sea, leading to the loss of about a million marine animals every year. This is equal to emptying the entire contents of a garbage truck into the ocean every minute.
If current trends continue, by 2050 the ocean is expected to contain more plastics by weight than fish.
“Plastic became prevalent in the 1950s and every piece made since then still exists,” says Sustainability Victoria spokeswoman Katie Pahlow. “It’s kind of been this hidden secret that when you throw plastic in the bin, it doesn’t just go away.”
The problem with plastic is that it never biodegrades, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces – or nanoparticles – which eventually end up in our water systems and even the air we breathe, Katie explains. But this isn’t the only reason it’s toxic to the planet.
“It also takes huge amounts of energy to produce, and it creates big environmental impacts when we stop using it,” she says.
So, with single-use plastics to be banned by 2023 in Victoria, what action can we take to reduce our plastic footprint?
The easiest way to use less plastic, Katie says, is to just stop buying it. What you shouldn’t do, though, is start going through your house and binning everything that isn’t eco-friendly.
“Don’t do that wholesale ‘plastic is evil, now I’ll get rid of it’,” she says. “If it is in use and effective, keep using it until you can’t any more. When it is at the replacement point, then you can choose a greener option.”
Here are 17 eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics.