Plastic: Refuse or Reuse
Microplastics: What's the Problem?
A recent study found that the global average of microplastics ingested weekly per person could be as much as five grams. Five grams of plastic is about a teaspoon, or as much plastic as a credit card.
Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5mm. These can be found in hygiene products as microbeads or shed from clothing and fabrics made of nylon and polyester. Microplastics can also be the result of larger plastic objects and materials broken down over time.
Although the harm to humans ingesting these microplastics is not fully understood, we do know that microplastics absorb and emit harmful chemicals and pollutants. Humans are consuming these microplastics not just through our drinking water but through health and beauty products, seafood, food packaging and even in the air we breathe.
It may be years before we completely understand the results of microplastics inside of us. In the meantime, we do know that the best thing we can do is work towards reducing plastics that we use and produce. Avoiding personal consumption of single-use plastics like straws, coffee cups, cutlery, take-away containers and shopping bags and preparing ourselves to reuse more can minimise the amount of microplastics released into our environment.
Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July is an initiative started in 2011 by the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Perth. The objectives of Plastic Free July are to spread awareness about the harm of plastics in our natural environment as well as encourage individuals to reduce their consumption of plastics and choose to refuse single-use plastic. This challenge can be fun and eye-opening for participants and anyone can try it for a day, week, the month, or even incorporate it into their everyday life forever.
Many of our local businesses have taken steps of their own to combat single-use plastics.
In Glenferrie Hawthorn, Axil, Laurent and other cafes offer reusable cups to purchase in-store, with some cafes like Hawthorn Brew Bar and Second Empire even offering discounts for those who remember to bring in their reusable cups. Many eateries have replaced plastic straws with paper straws including Short Straw, Café Blac and Supernova. Liar Liar and Methodist Coffee have stepped it up a notch using metal straws for those dining in, eliminating waste entirely by reusing. For take-aways requiring a straw, Methodist Coffee have introduced straws made out of just that - straw! A clever and easy-to-compost initiative.
1 November 2019: Victoria to Ban Lightweight Plastic Bags
On 19 June 2019, legislation was introduced to the Victorian Parliament to ban lightweight, single-use plastic shopping bags. This ban will come into effect across Victoria on 1 November 2019. Plastic bags have been taxed or banned in 127 nations already.
The ban will apply to suppliers of bags and include retailers such as grocers, bakers, pharmacies, clothing stores, takeaway food outlets, convenience stores and more. All types of lightweight plastic bags are banned, including degradable, biodegradable and compostable plastics. The ban will not affect barrier bags for fruit, veg, meat and fish, bin liners or animal waste bags.
Through until November, the Victorian Government will be working with the National Retail Association to help retailers make the transition and implement the change. Some Glenferrie businesses have already replaced their lightweight plastic bags with reusable or paper bags. Bakers Delight have reusable plastic bags that have printed on them "Fold me neatly & reuse me!" with a full how-to diagram on each bag.
In a further bid to reduce single-use plastics, Miss Gourmet & Co, Glenferrie Gourmet Meats and some local takeaway food outlets allow you to bring your own container to fill. If you are not sure which businesses will allow you to do this, there is no harm in bringing a bag or container along and asking.
To help you further reduce your use of plastic and switch to reusing, you can find supplies such as metal straws, cutlery, beeswax food wraps, shopping bags and more at The Works, Homing Instincts and Blackbird & Fox. It is also possible to utilise things already in your own pantry. An old pasta sauce jar can be the perfect carrying container for liquid or snacks or even just bringing cutlery from home to enjoy take-away food.
This is not just a job for individuals; one Melbourne council has even taken part and shown their support for a more waste-free lifestyle. In February 2018 Darebin Council banned single-use plastic from being used or sold on council land. They also banned council staff from buying or drinking from single-use water bottles or cups at work. Earlier this year, over a 10-week period between March-May, the City of Boroondara posted 10 tips on their Facebook page for residents to reduce their waste and have been hosting sustainable living workshops and events. Upcoming events can be found at www.boroondara.vic.gov.au.
As we change our habits into the future, we can minimise the damage that plastic is causing to our environment, animals and to us. If you have a story about how your local business has reduced its plastic consumption, be in touch and let us know.