Single Use Plastic – Not So Fantastic

With over 8 million tonnes of the stuff entering the oceans every year, it’s no secret that plastic certainly is not fantastic. However, some plastic items are worse than others.

Single-use plastic like drinking straws and plastic shopping bags are a particularly nasty form of plastic. These items have a shockingly short lifespan, normally used once and then discarded to landfill. Like other plastics, they never biodegrade and take hundreds of years to break down. Plastic straws and plastic bags have an average useful lifespan of twenty minutes and are ending up in our oceans by the thousands.

The Gladstone Regional Council is currently considering a report examining the impact of the release of helium balloons and plastic straws into the environment, with neighbouring councils Rockhampton and Bundaberg voting to change their local laws to ban the release of helium balloons.

Bundaberg Regional Council has also acted to replace plastic straws at the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre with recyclable paper straws after Kalkie Primary School students petitioned the council because of their concern about marine debris and its effect on iconic local turtle populations.

It can be hard to see how using one measly plastic straw is going to cause huge amounts of damage to the environment but let me put it into context for you. Recently a team of scientists in Costa Rica came across an endangered species of sea turtle with what they thought was a parasitic worm blocking its airway. They realised it was a plastic straw.

Hours from veterinary help, the scientists successfully dislodged the straw themselves and released the turtle back into the ocean. The grim ordeal was filmed and gathered 5 million views on YouTube, gaining support for community programs such as www.thelaststraw.com.au which aims to ban plastic straws from venues Australia-wide.

From July 1, Queensland and Western Australia will ban single-use, lightweight plastic bags from major retailers, bringing the states into line with the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania.

Victoria is set to follow, having announced plans in October 2017 to phase out most lightweight plastic bags this year, leaving only New South Wales without a proposed ban.

It is estimated that if every Australian household switched to green bags, 2,200 garbage trucks would be diverted from landfill annually, 42,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases could be abated, and 50,000 litres of water saved.

Customers shopping at Woolworths Boyne Island, Gladstone Valley, Kin Kora and Kirkwood would have noticed in-store reminders to bring their own reusable bags, as the supermarket prepares to go single-use plastic bag free nationally, from June 20.

Group Manager, Emina Demirovic said; “We appreciate that it will be a big change for our customers and will do what we can to support them through the transition to make it as smooth and simple as possible.”