Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July

As the month draws to a close, so does the Plastic Free July challenge, an initiative of the Western Metropolitan Regional Council to encourage us to avoid single-use plastic throughout the month.

I must admit that I wasn’t very successful. For example, it’s very difficult to buy biscuits that don’t come wrapped in some kind of plastic. However, I certainly became aware of just how much single-use plastic I consume; examining the contents of my kitchen bin this month, since I compost and recycle as much as I can, the bin was pretty much full of wrappers, packaging and torn plastic bags.

However, I recently noted that at my local Coles supermarket there is a collection bin for plastic bags and other “soft” plastics that can’t be accepted as part of my kerbside recycling collection. There’s plenty of controversy and criticism to be voiced about the Woolworths-Coles grocery duopoly, but it’s still good to see initiatives like this appearing in the big chain stores.

The seven different types of plastic that can be recycled.

The seven different types of plastic that can be recycled.

I’ve reached the following conclusion – plastic in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s our attitude that’s the problem. We have to stop thinking of plastic as single-use, throw-away commodity. Sure, while it is a by-product of the petroleum industry (though non-petroleum based plastics do exist), when used thoughtfully, and considered over it’s entire product life, plastic can be a versatile, durable, re-useable and above all genuinely recyclable product. I say genuinely recyclable, in that often it gets downcycled due to contamination and less than ideal sorting practices (different types of plastic, marked with a number between 1-7 inside a recycling symbol, can’t be mixed with each other when recycling).

I suspect it will be a long time coming before we see single-use plastic-free supermarket aisles, but at least initiatives like Plastic Free July are starting to get us thinking about better ways to use our finite resources.

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