Single Use Plastics

Tips for dealing with single-use plastics

Single-use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, polystyrene, and food packaging are a major culprit to the plastics in our oceans and waterways. It is estimated that globally, 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year.1 They contribute to landfill and the vast majority are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

With Australians producing 1 tonne of plastic waste every minute and the plastics recycling rate only 11.8%, what postive actions can you take?

1. Avoid

  • Overly packaged items at the supermarket such as fruits and vegetables in plastic wrapping or on foam trays – bring your own reusable produce bags for small items in the fruit and veg section.
  • Say no to plastic straws in cafes and bars – use paper or metal straws where possible.
  • Say no to plastic cutlery - have your own at work.
  • Buy in bulk where possible and bring your own containers.

2. Reduce and reuse

  • Swap your disposable coffee cups for a reusable one - find Responsible Cafes that offer a discount when you BYO.
  • Swap single-use plastic bags for reusable bags - even at shops that aren't supermarkets.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you.
  • Find single-use plastic alternatives at stores such as Biome or other ethical shopping outlets. Or shop your own home by using what you have such as a glass jar as a coffee cup, make your own beeswax wraps or reuse tins and jars for storage or lunch containers.
  • Bring your own lunch to work and reduce take away container use – saving money and plastic!
  • Find where you can BYO container via Trashless Takeaway.
  • Instead of cling wrap consider using beeswax wraps or a reusable alternative.

3. Recycle right

  • Recycle soft plastics like shopping, bread, pasta, lolly and dry cleaning bags through the REDcycle program at participating supermarkets.
  • Almost all Australians live in a council that collects rigid plastic packaging for recycling. Check what your council accepts.
  • Take your containers home to recycle if there is no public place recycling.
  • Look out for products that contain the Australasian Recycling Label clarifying what packaging is recyclable.

4. Pick it up

  • Litter is one of the biggest sources of ocean plastic pollution. When at the beach, park or on the way to work, if you see litter pick it up. 
  • Overflowing bins are a big issue, material blows away or gets scattered by animals and ends up as pollutants. Don't add to an already overflowing bin, take it home. Join in with Clean up Australia Day, Take 3 for the Sea or Responsible Runners.

5. Dispose of wisely

  • Plastic straws, cutlery and coffee cups are generally not accepted in kerbside recycling. Place in your general waste.
  • Foam trays such as those used for meat and some fruit & veg are not recyclable in most kerbside collections.
  • The harder polypropylene (5) meat trays when black won't be recycled either as their colour does not allow them to be sorted properly by optical scanners. 
  • Polystyrene boxes, pellets and beads cannot be placed in the recycling bin.

6. Create change

  • Vote with your dollar, buy purchasing products not overly packaged, are recyclable and made with recycled content.
  • Write to your supermarket or manufacturer about their packaging and request they use the Australasian Recycling Label.
  • Support bulk supply stores and sustainable products that use minimal packaging.
  • Set an example for your kids and community with your actions!
Jambeck, J. R., et al. “Plastic Waste Inputs from Land into the Ocean.” Science, vol. 347, no. 6223, 2015, pp. 768–771