Less Plastic is Fantastic aims to encourage reduction of single-use plastics in our community and help you get started on your single-use plastic reduction journey.
What are single-use plastics?
Single-use plastics are plastic items that tend to be used a single time, and are often described as disposable. Examples include plastic bags, water bottles, straws, food packaging, plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene.
Planet Ark estimates that Australians produce 1 tonne of plastic waste every minute - and with the plastic recycling rate being so low in Australia, now is the time to take positive action to help reduce plastic waste.
Where do our single-use plastics end up?
Ultimately, all of the plastic waste that is not disposed of properly (or any litter, for that matter) ends up in our environment, with a large portion making its way into our waterways and oceans.
Much of the plastic waste in our oceans has formed into garbage patches, where the currents move the waste in a certain direction, causing it to build up in distinct locations within our oceans. There are five major patches across our world’s oceans. The biggest is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the Pacific Ocean, which is 3 times the size of France, or around twice the size of the state of NSW.
Plastic Free Initiatives
Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July is a great Australian initiative that seeks to raise awareness of the impact that single use plastic is having on the entire world.There is plenty of advice about the small changes you can make to help reduce the impact of single use plastic locally and around the globe. Now is the time to learn more about Plastic Free July and what you can do to reduce single use plastics and make a difference.
Take the Plastic Free Challenge
Anytime is a great time to take the challenge – but there’s no time like the present! Plastic Free July provides a template for you to choose which single use plastics you would like to work on and how long you want to challenge yourself for.
We have gathered some simple tips on how to get you started on your ‘less plastic is fantastic’ journey. We know there is plenty of other ideas too, so if you know of something different make sure you spread the word and share your idea with hashtag #lessplasticisfantastic.
Here are some tips on how to make some simple swaps in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry:
Kitchen (including the fridge and pantry)
Swap cling wrap for:
- Reusable takeaway containers
- A spare plate used as a lid
- Beeswax wraps
- School lunches in reusable containers
More simple kitchen tips are to:
- Use the containers you already have – don’t feel like you need to buy more containers or change to glass ones. Use what you have, and reuse as much as possible. For example, when a glass jar is empty, keep it for storing foods in the fridge and pantry
- Buy dishwasher tablets that have dissolvable covers and are packaged in a cardboard box to reduce plastic waste
- Fruit and vegetable shopping – see if you can avoid plastic wrapped fruit and vegetables by buying them loose and taking your own produce bags. If you don’t have any, you can always pack fruit and vegetables loose into one of your reusable bags. By shopping this way, you’ll avoid plastic waste and possibly food waste as well, since you’ll only buy as much as you need
- Find a farmers market near you – fruit and vegetables from here will be local, fresh, and in season too. Plastic can be completely avoided when you take your own bags or basket
- The rest of the shopping – as much as possible choose products that have simple packaging or packaging that clearly indicates how to recycle and or dispose of it
- Avoid purchasing pre-packaged bars and cakes from the supermarket by making your own instead. Even if you use a cake mix, this option reduces the amount of plastic packaging, and is also a great way to spend time with the kids in the kitchen!
- Swap shower gel or liquid soap for a bar of soap. You can even buy it wrapped in paper or not wrapped at all to avoid that packaging too
- Swap the plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. These are becoming more widely available in supermarkets and chemists, so you shouldn’t have to search too hard to find one
- Swap out moisturiser – try coconut oil, or even some of the other cooking oils in your home
- Shampoo and conditioner – try the bar version, or buy the bigger bottles to reduce the amount of plastic waste created.
- Buy your washing powder in a box or packaging that can easily be recycled
- Do you really need fabric softener? If you are using it for the scent, swap it for an essential oil instead. A couple of drops should do the trick for a refreshing scent, or you can also choose different oils for different purposes (such as antibacterial and antifungal properties)
- Try soapberries – these can be considered expensive, however 1kg can do up to 365 loads of washing, creates no waste, and the berries can be composted at the end of their useful lifetime
- Create your own surface spray – place it in an old spray bottle you already have at home, and reduce the amount of chemicals in your home at the same time
- Create cleaning cloths out of old towels, cotton clothing or cloth nappies.
How to prepare for when being out and about
Lunches for school or work
Lunch for school and work can feel like a chore, and it’s easy to take the convenience path to make this job as quick and painless as possible. However there are a few easy swaps to reduce the use of single use plastics at lunchtime:
- Pack the kids’ sandwiches and snacks in reusable containers instead of cling wrap. Pop their names on the containers to ensure the containers make it back home each day
- Send a reusable drink bottle with the kids to refill at school
- Spend some time on the weekend making a slice from scratch, or bake some cupcakes instead of buying pre-packaged bars and cakes. Freeze extra for later in the week and this will instantly reduce the volume of packaging and wrappers in your home.
Make a 'Less Plastic Kit'
Make a ‘less plastic kit’ to take with you when you are out and about. This kit is great to keep at the office or when meeting up with friends for lunch. The items in the kit will empower you to use less single use plastic as you go about your day.
Suggested items for your kit:
- Foldable reusable bag
- Stainless steel drink bottle – though if you already have a plastic one use this one first
- Reusable coffee cup
- Stainless steel drinking straw
- Cloth napkin
- Container for left overs
Disposing of any plastics you have left
Now that you have worked hard to reduce your single-use plastics, it is important to dispose of what you have left as best as you can. Here are some ways to help you out.
Check the label to improve plastic recycling
Planet Ark and Industry have developed a new recycling label called The Australian Recycling Label. The label makes it easier for consumers to understand how to dispose of various types of packaging, so that we can improve the recycling of packaging across Australia. The label provides advice about which bin to place different packaging components in, or where you can drop the packaging off for recycling if it’s not suitable for placing in the yellow lid bin at home. It’s important information to help improve recycling in Australia. Buying products with this label or those with recycled content shows our support as a community to reduce waste in any way possible.
REDcycle - Soft Plastic Recycling
REDcycle is an Australian program that recycles soft plastics into a wide range of uses. Collect the soft plastics you have at home (please ensure they are clean) and take them with you on your next shopping trip. Look for REDcycle bins at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. A wide range of soft plastics can be recycled through this initiative.
Share your successes with us and be inspired
We would love to hear from you! Tell us about your success – what items have you used less of, or even eliminated? Share any simple tips and amazing recipes that have helped you reduce the packaging in your school or work lunches.
The more we share our success, the more our community can see how much we have done to make a difference.#plasticfreejuly #lessplasticisfantastic
Need more inspiration?
Check out the stories of other Australians who have shared their experiences of creating less waste in the hope of helping others do the same:
Work towards being a zero waste family - This is the story of a Tasmanian family who participated in a sustainability program. From that they reduced their energy by 60% and moved to a zero waste lifestyle. The family have produced a book about how to reduce waste, and also run a waste reduction course for anyone looking to start their own waste reduction journey.
Blogging your way to less - Erin Rhoads - A Melbourne girl who blogs her journey to reducing plastic use and rubbish. Erin has also published a book Waste Not which provides tips on how to throw away less.
A journey that started with Plastic Free July- Lindsay Miles started her journey in 2012 when she took part in Plastic Free July, and her efforts continued from there. Lindsay now has written several books, including many e-books, to help others start their journey towards reducing plastic waste and simply having less stuff!