Australians love their plastic. If you experienced the weeks of transition when Coles and Woolworths finally told customers that plastic bags were no longer available, you’d think a room of toddlers had been told that sharing was now mandatory. Tantrums abounded! Aussies are addicted to plastic bags, plastic straws, and we wrap everything in a thick film of Glad Wrap. How else can we express our gladness?
Banning plastic straws and bags is a good start, and it certainly makes a lazy person like myself feel better. Every time I take my own bags to get groceries I imagine tying myself to a family of Tasmanian Devils in order to stop loggers from turning them into paper. I assume that’s how environmental activism works.
Unfortunately, most of the plastic pollution that is affecting wildlife in our oceans is coming from rivers in developing countries. This isn’t to say we should give up. There are initiatives in the developing world that help motivate plastic collection before it reaches waterways. Not only that, at home, we can start investing seriously in recycling plants. Australia currently only recycles 12% of what is collected. With only 70 recycling plants in Australia, we rely heavily on imported plastics. If the appropriate infrastructure is created, like they have done in both France and Britain, we will be able to provide our own recycled plastic for mass use.
It’s going to be a longer process than simply banning random plastic items, one at a time, but both investing in initiatives in developing countries and infrastructure at home; we’ll be making Earth a little happier.