Why, as humans, are we so insistent on destroying everything around us? As a part of the ECO Clean Beach Initiative and Full Tide, we hold regular beach clean-ups across the Sunshine Coast. At the end of our clean-ups, we count and document every last piece of rubbish to contribute to the Australian Marine Debris Database. It is always shocking to me just how much rubbish we collect from seemingly “clean” beaches. At one small clean-up alone, we collected a total of 2438 pieces of rubbish. It’s scary that this is how we treat something that we supposedly love so much.
While counting, we often saw the same objects appearing over and over again. In particular, we kept finding paper receipts, plastic cutlery, salt sachets, coffee cups and plastic water bottles. These are all things that can so easily be eliminated from our lives, and yet single use plastics continue to devastate marine environments.
As consumers, it can be difficult to understand the ramifications of our habits when it comes to waste. While we may think we are too small to make a difference, the combined actions of humankind as an entity is mind-blowing. If something is broken, it isn’t fixed, it’s replaced. When a new model comes out, the old version, which still does exactly what it’s supposed to do, is thrown away. We buy things we don’t need and when we get sick of them, they become part of the growing mass of waste that cannot ever truly be disposed of. When you throw something away, there is no “away.” Rubbish doesn’t just disappear because you left it behind. Ultimately, every piece of litter ends up in waterways, which eventually lead to the ocean.
We are an incredibly intelligent species with the potential to make great choices for our environment. It’s time we started looking at our habits, thinking about the repercussions of them and how we can make changes to lessen our impact on Mother Earth. We should be asking ourselves every day what we can do to look after the ocean. Better still, we shouldn’t have to ask ourselves, we should just know to do it. If you need some help with where to start, check out these easy ways you can reduce your plastic usage and keep our oceans clean and healthy.
1. Say no to straws.
Straws provide a purpose for a very short time and are then discarded. Is that little bit of ease when drinking really worth it?
2. Purchase reusable grocery bags and take them with you whenever you go shopping.
About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade.
3. Give up chewing gum.
Gum is literally made from synthetic rubber. That’s not something you should be chewing on, anyway.
4. Buy products in boxes, not plastic bottles.
Cardboards can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic can.
5. Buy food in bulk.
Whole food shops in particular even sell certain products in bulk bins, without all the unnecessary packaging.
6. Wash out and reuse containers and jars when they are empty.
It’s so easy. Buy your food in bulk, then store in an old jar. It looks pretty, and you’re doing something good for the place we all live.
7. Purchase reusable bottles and coffee cups.
Bottled water produces 1.5 billion tons of plastic waste each year. By simply refilling your bottle, you can reduce this figure significantly… but only if we all do it.
8. Use matches rather than lighters.
Lighters sit in landfills for years and even end up in birds’ stomachs.
9. Don’t use plasticware.
Be prepared with your own cutlery and chopsticks rather than using the disposable ones. If you’re going to eat on the run, why not just bring a fork?
10. Use reusable containers for your lunch rather than glad-wrap or snap lock bags.
While your sandwich might disappear after you eat it, the bag it was in won’t disappear for a long, long time.
When we all step up together, as a community, we have the power to change things in unimaginable ways. It’s time to change society’s mindset. It’s time to clean up our act. It’s time to clean up our beaches.