It was after Harriet Spark’s colleague found 600 straws in the ocean that the Sydney resident and dive instructor felt obligated to join local group Sustainable Organisations of Manly to help clean up the mess.
A toxic ocean
While the destination of our single-use plastic recycling may be uncertain at the moment -- something we will be exploring more in the coming weeks -- it's crucial for us to clean up our towns and cities now.
But why is it important? A recent article by ABC claims that because of the increasing temperatures of the Arctic waters due to climate change, the alien organisms attached to microplastics have had their barrier weakened which is resulting in the toxification of our oceans.
Marine plastics are vastly affecting the world’s wildlife, with 87.5% of one particular native bird thought to have traces of the recyclable material within their stomachs. Though we cannot eradicate this problem overnight, we can work together to take steps in the right direction.
Containing the issue
Another successful initiative that has diverted over 50 million single-use plastic containers has been the Container Deposit Scheme. New South Wales’ Return and Earn, which began on 1 December 2017, offers depositors 10 cents back on each verified plastic container they return, as long as the bottle fits the specifics of their scheme.
So far they have installed more than 500 collection points, with rapidly growing success. Container Deposit Schemes work because they incentivise individuals to recycle their bottles, and therefore divert them from landfills.
Community action, then, has become the way that many Australians are seeking to make a visible difference to the increasing magnitude of the issue.
From the beach to the playground, and in the workplace, coming together to form a collective has proven to be the most effective method for engaging people to pick up litter and take a stand for the environment.
Business Clean Up Day
On Tuesday 27th February and thereafter, businesses around Australia will be participating in Business Clean Up Day 2018. The perfect way to be seen as a commendable leader and to do your part for the sustainability of your workplace, it’s simple to take part: locate a site, register online, receive your kit, start organising and promote your endeavours.
Last year 14,139 tonnes of waste were removed during Clean Up Australia Day events, with over 2000 schools participating in School Clean Up Day. This year’s school event will take place on Sunday 4 March.
The Clean Up initiative has been running for 26 years, and in that time volunteers have donated more than 31 million hours to activities that have amounted to disposing 331 thousand ute loads of rubbish from nearly 166 thousand locations around Australia.
What else can we do?
If you’d like to be involved with cleaning up Australia, start a conversation. Engage your employees about how they can be mindful with their waste, and research how collectively you can achieve your sustainability goals.
Another effective way to enact change is to actively curb your use of single-use plastics, eliminating the waste in the first place: remove plastic straws from your workplace, drink from reusable coffee cups, or bring your own tupperware to avoid single-use food containers.
Even the smallest step can make a visible difference.