At Fremantle Council’s last meeting of 2011 an articulate young lady gave a very compelling speech about her hopes for Fremantle to become a plastic bag free city. Which took me back a few years to when Council tried this and alas failed. The hitch was those doggy bags Council provide at the beach, the non-plastic alternative was too expensive for the Council of the day. Frankly I think it was a cop-out and its way past time to revisit this environmental ambition. It transpired the young lady was Lisa Griffin, she turned up again at Hulbert Street Film Night in January when Plasticized was shown and film maker Michael J Lutman gave a short talk and answered questions. Lisa is the driving force behind plasticfreefreo.
It is crucially important we reduce our use of plastic; it comes from oil, a finite resource, and it ends up in our oceans killing and maiming millions of mammals and birds. Australian marine scientists performing autopsies on dead marine creatures have found up to 317 pieces of plastic in one turtle and 276 in a single mutton bird, and we have all seen gruesome pictures off marine creatures entangled in our discarded plastic products.
It won’t surprise Herald readers that 80% of plastic in the ocean comes from land-based uses and 20% from boats and ships. Once in the ocean plastic is carried by currents to the 5 Ocean Gyres, these are areas that are thousands of kilometres away from land, yet as a result of ocean currents accumulate huge amounts of plastic waste. Whilst plastic breaks down in size it does not biodegrade, it remains with us forever. Plastic recycling is not closed loop recycling, meaning plastic products we put in our yellow topped bin can only be recycled into another product once. That is why we need to stop buying plastic products and bottles to simply throw away, it’s a ludicrous waste of resources and a threat to our wildlife. When considering a single use disposable plastic spoon, artist Max Temkin produced a poster which read: It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground ship it to a refinery turn it into plastic shape it appropriately truck it to a store buy it and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’ve done with it.
New South Welshman and surfer Tim Silverwood has started an organisation called Take 3, they use the simple message that when you leave a beach take 3 pieces of rubbish with you, not your own rubbish but someone else’s, not only will it start to reduce rubbish in the ocean it is also an empowering act that encourages people to respect our beaches. Try it, remember 80% of plastic in the ocean came from the land, either washed in by rivers or discarded by people close to the shore.
Back to Lisa’s campaign to make Fremantle plastic bag free, is it really practicable? The answer is a resounding yes, The Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and South Australia are plastic bag free states and territories. WA should join that list and for Fremantle to become plastic bag free would be a great first step. Our supermarkets seem to have a culture of pushing plastic bags onto customers, I take my own bags to the supermarket, but need to be ever vigilant to stop checkout workers slipping things into plastic before putting them into my shopping bag. On the other hand Bunnings do not offer plastic bags to customers who must pay if they choose to get one, but they do sell 99cent plastic buckets which also proliferates plastic waste.
Let me finish with the mystery of bottled water. Perth has some of the best water in the world on tap at around 1cent per litre, why would anyone choose to buy water in a bottle at anything over $2 a litre when there are also health risks with water stored in PET bottles? Globally 200 billion litres of bottled water are sold annually, while here in Australia we use over 400,000 barrels of oil to make plastic for water bottles. In the driest continent this next statistic is mindboggling, it takes 7 litres of water to supply one litre of bottled water. When shopping choose the product that reduces plastic waste and support shops that have signed up to the plasticfreefreo campaign.
Published in Fremantle Herald 4th February 2012