State Level Leadership Required on Single-Use Plastics
Whether you received this magazine through your letter box or read it at your favourite cafe, you obviously live near the beach. It’s therefore safe to assume that you give a shit (or at least should) about the damaging effect plastic has on the ocean. Of course, this global epidemic affects far more than oceans but, as a coastal community, we have a particular duty to take responsibility for our destruction of marine life.
Human beings as a collective are ruining the planet. Driven by convenience and profit, we continuously choose whichever option is most beneficial to us rather than going a little out of our way for an environmentally friendlier alternative. From buying produce in new containers rather than refilling the old ones, to getting take-away coffee cups rather than bringing our own, we need to understand that our modern consumption habits are actually luxuries, not necessities. Many of us already carry our own keep cups and so on but if we’re going to see significant change we need to implement it on a bigger scale, and that means getting businesses involved.
The small town of Huskisson on the South Coast of New South Wales made headlines in 2003 when local resident Matt Cross partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to make it the first plastic bag-free town in mainland Australia. Business owners were initially concerned about costs and the pressure on their profits but gradually more and more businesses came on board. Since then, although some of the enthusiasm has waned, countless other initiatives have surfaced with Shoalhaven Council, Shoalhaven Transition, Boomerang Bags and Plastic Pollution Solutions working to educate locals in order to get rid of single-use plastic. This is great for Shoalhavenites, but what are we doing here?
Woollahra Council no longer uses single-use plastic bags or straws and banned water bottles from meetings in 2009. Since 2018, all local festivals and events that Woollahra endorses or participates in are free of single-use plastic. A spokesperson for Woollahra Council told The Beast, “We’re committed to making a difference by reducing our own consumption of plastics and we encourage our community members to follow suit… but we can only speak on behalf of Council and to what we have in place for our own properties and events.”
Meanwhile, Waverley Council has followed a similar path. In March 2018, Council updated its guidelines to rid any events on Council land of single-use plastic. Furthermore, Council works with organisations including Responsible Runners, Plastic Free Bondi, Plastic Free Bronte and Transition Bondi to deliver plastic-reducing education programs.
Like its neighbours, Randwick Council has also phased out plastic bags, drink bottles and straws from Council operations and events since July 2018. A motion has also recently been passed to develop an education campaign to partner with and support local businesses to phase out single-use plastics.
This is all wonderful progress but we need to get all businesses (and patrons) involved to see real change. The best option is for something to be enforced on a state level but, assuming that hell will freeze over first, we must keep fighting for change ourselves.
Of course, banning plastic bags isn’t going to save Earth or magically fix humanity, but it is a huge step forward. It’s the gateway to taking responsibility and understanding the downfalls of our convenience-driven habits. And while remembering to carry a reusable shopping bag might be an adjustment, I guarantee that having toxic plastic nanoparticles rotting your gut from the inside out will be far more inconvenient in the long run.