Plastic is a visual and insidious material and source of pollution. It is something that seems to be uniting young and old to try and take action. In fact while Australia continues to be an embarrassing laggard when it comes to climate action, Scott Morrison and the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) announced a ban on plastic, paper, glass and tyres with a $20 million fund to boost national recycling. This is welcomed especially following recent turnbacks of our waste in Indonesia and Malaysia.
With this in mind, it’s been an interesting time to participate in Plastic Free July. This month long pledge is now officially over. The last week saw us staring at the finish line in anticipation. Would our plastic free life style carry on to August and onward? I’m afraid not so much. We learnt a lot. About how prevalent plastic is in our every day life and how convenience has made it hard to give up. Despite that though, we are determined to continue to try and carry as much of the plastic free ethos beyond July. But in order for us to be able to avoid the use of this material and the environmental impacts of its production in the first place, a broader societal shift needs to occur led by supermarkets.
Are our major supermarkets willing to take this challenge on though? Let’ check out the Coles ‘Sustainability’ page: https://www.coles.com.au/corporate-responsibility/sustainability/environment
We understand the important roles packaging plays in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste. At the same time, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and have implemented a Sustainable Packaging Policy.
This Policy extends to plastic packaging and plastic bags with a focus on recycling infrastructure to recycle these plastics, rather than try and avoid them. With the recent cases of turnback of plastics, it’s unknown whether this policy is even practical and achieving its stated aim.
Let’s now take a look at Woolworths which has a lovely ‘sustainability’ page: https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/discover/sustainability
Our plan to tackle the plastic problem is focused on eliminating plastic where possible and to work towards ‘closing the loop’ by encouraging recycling through design, technology and clear communication to our customers.
The Woolworths Policy and its actions are certainly fairly comprehensive and while it isn’t easy to avoid plastic, reducing unnecessary use should be an absolute must.
Therefore it’s with disappointment that both supermarkets, in the month of Plastic Free July, decided that it was a super idea to have silly toy giveaways – both aimed to children and the pester power that they have. This is certainly something that I never buy into, but that doesn’t always stop extended family from doing the same. We now have a number of Lion King Ooshies in our house. This despite all that I tried to teach my children about plastic and ways to avoid it in the last month.
While the ooshies are in our house (not many), I’m pretty sure this will be one of the last time these cheap plastic toys make their way into my home. At least the ooshies are giving me a chance to really drive home the message that unless my kids plan on keeping these toys for life, they are likely to end up in landfill or polluting the ocean and after all we did in July – won’t that be a shame? It is hard though when I must be about the only parent at the school to hold these views, as I see many children with bags and bags of ooshies at pick up time.
So it is with interest that I observe the intersect between environmental issues and science with art because artists will be able to clearly communicate in a creative way, what many scientists have failed to do for so long. In the case of the ooshies, this has been through the Future Landfill initiative which is using cheeky art to make a point about the pointlessness of these cheap promotions.
So if there’s one last tip that I can give – it is that, while it may be hard, it isn’t impossible to significantly reduce our plastic use and it all starts with a simple ‘no’. No, to taking a ‘free’ ooshie or other cheap toy giveaway, no to plastic waste, no to takeaway cups, cutlery and containers and no to plastic water bottles. Our world really does depend on it.