Budding Australian solutions for plastic waste
Author: Liam Taylor
In recent times we’ve seen a number of innovative solutions to the issue of plastic waste springing up around Australia. That’s great news when considering the negative impact that poorly managed or disposed of plastic can have on our natural environment, especially oceans and waterways.
Plastics can take over 1,000 years to break down and as part of the process turn into microplastics. These small particles are increasingly found in the digestive tracts of marine animals, particularly fish and seabirds, while also potentially impacting human health. An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic enters oceans globally every year, and by 2050 the cumulative weight of plastic in the ocean may exceed that of fish.
One particularly nasty culprit in terms of plastic waste is the single-use plastic bag. Australians use 7-8 billion plastic bags every year. Just 3% of that number is recycled according to Clean Up Australia around 180 million plastic bags wind up in our natural environment per year. There they pose a hazard to the health of coral reefs and wildlife including turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and coastal birds.
In a massive win for sustainability both Coles and Woolworths announced complete phase-outs of single-use plastic bags last year, which will come into action next month. That announcement, in combination with numerous state bans on plastic bags in recent years (South Australia in 2009, the NT and ACT in 2011, Tasmania in 2013 and Queensland, WA and Victoria in 2018), is a sign of Australians’ strong willingness to move away from plastic bags to protect our environment. Since then both major supermarkets have made further commitments including Woolworths pledging to stop selling plastic straws, Coles promising to replace meat and poultry packaging with recycled and renewable materials, and both committing to removing plastic packaging for various fruit and vegetable lines.
Planet Ark has supported these plastic bag phase-outs since the get-go and it’s thrilling to see the work of many passionate Australian individuals and organisations culminate in this way. On June 10 our head spokesperson Rebecca Gilling appeared on The Today Show with Woolworths Group’s Head of Sustainability Adrian Cullen to discuss the phase-out and what it means for consumers. Our CEO Paul Klymenko has also been doing the media rounds a outlets to celebrate the supermarkets' efforts and promote the uptake of the Australasian Recycling Label, an evidence based system providing consumers with easy to understand recycling information.
Other solutions to the plastic bag issue are also emerging as Australians come to terms with the need for innovative waste recovery ods. Earlier this year soft plastics from approximately 200,000 plastic bags and packaging were combined with glass from approximately 63,000 glass bottle equivalents, toner from more than 4,500 used printer cartridges and 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt to construct a Victorian road in an Australian-first trial.
Engineering firm Downer and Hume City Council partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group to make the trial happen and set a new benchmark for road transport sustainability. Close the Loop supplied the printer toner through the Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program, an innovative recycling program that provides Australians with a free, easy and environmentally-accredited way to recycle their used printer cartridges. The soft plastics were sourced through our good friends at REDcycle, a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic in supermarkets around Australia.
With the second season of the ABC’s War on Waste just around the corner it’s encouraging to see so many emerging solutions to Australia’s plastic waste issue. Through dedication, innovation and lots of hard work we can find the pathway to a cleaner future!
- Refuse single-use plastics whenever possible and support the phase-out of plastic bags by using reusable shopping bags.
- Recycle your soft plastics at supermarkets with REDcycle bins.
- Recycle used printer cartridges at Cartridges 4 Planet Ark boxes at Officeworks or participating Australia Post, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and Office National stores.
- Sign up to Plastic Free July and make your own pledge to reduce plastic consumption.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.
- Sustainable printing? Yes, it is possible! »
- Cartridges 4 Planet Ark nails product stewardship at a time when most are finding their feet »
- Who's in the top ten returners for Cartridges 4 Planet Ark? »
- Recycle your schools' printer cartridges in May to help protect our beaches »
- The latest data on commercial and industrial waste »
- Introducing the technology behind the Australasian Recycling Label »
- Recycling is not a con. Here's why »
- Research reveals Australia's most trusted recycling program »
- Clean up your waste with the Australasian Recycling Label »
- Rocking recycling competition »
- Important green dates for the 2019 school calendar »
- We're celebrating 40 million cartridges saved from landfill »
- The new regifting - giving recycled products »
- Reboot your perspective on recycling this National Recycling Week »
- Close the Loop winners at 2018 Hume Business Awards »
- Naturale pledges to end recycling labelling confusion »
- A new packaging label making recycling easier to understand »
- New research sheds light on Australian attitudes towards environmental sustainability »
- Lake Macquarie Council paving the way for recycled roads »
- NSW gets its own revolutionary road »
- Turning the tide on trash with the ABC's War On Waste »
- Reflections on a Plastic Free July »
- Where are we with e-waste recycling? »
- China challenge an opportunity for the Australian recycling industry »
- War on Waste is back! »
- The recycling label ending confusion »
- Did your council or workplace make the top ten? »
- Cartridges 4 Planet Ark celebrates 15 years of recycling with Layne Beachley »
- How Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is part of the solution to plastic pollution »
- Find out how Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is part of the solution to plastic pollution »
- Planet Ark urges Ipswich Council to reverse decision to send valuable materials to landfill - and the Council agrees »
- Nestlé to go fully reusable and recyclable by 2025 »
- Finally! The recycling label you've been waiting for is here... »
- Compatible printer cartridges are not what you think they are »
- Epson elevates commitment to cartridge recycling »
- Going plastic free: what does it take? »
- What's the Deal with Coffee Cup Recycling? »
- Wriggly Solution To Plastic Pollution: The Caterpillar That Eats Plastic »
- Did Your Council or Workplace Make the Top Ten? »
- Thanks Australia! 13,500 Printer Cartridges Recycled Every Working Day »
- An Impressive 10 Million and Counting »
- 14 Items You Can Recycle - But Probably Aren't (Part Two) »
- Printer Cartridges are Driving Innovation »
- Soft Plastic - Scrunch and Recycle »
- Zero Waste Audit Results for 'Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' Program Partner »
- Win a YEAR'S SUPPLY of Naturale Toilet Tissue »
- Post Back Your Post Packs »
- You made June our Biggest Month Ever! »
- A Quick Recycling Guide To 3 Tricky Items »
- Working It Out At Officeworks »
- Selfie Challenge Winners »
- Printage Cartrij? Printer cartres? Printer Cartridges? »
- Reimagining Rubbish as a Resource »
- Selfie Challenge - #WhatsNotToLove »
- Look Who's Recycled 30 Million Cartridges »
- Electrify Recycling »
- What's In a Label? »
- Is it Gold For Australia? »
- Are You Making the No 1 Mistake? »
- Test Your Recycling Knowledge! »
- Awake to the Fun of Recycling »
- Planet Ark Project - Answering Kid's Questions »
- The art of upcycling »
- PREP For Better Recycling »
- Planet Ark Ambassadors Honoured »