Our love for plastic is growing into something of an epidemic.
Don’t get me wrong; plastic is a great material; mouldable, inert, light and highly versatile, used not just in toys and toothbrushes but in pacemakers, teabags and spaceships.
But we rely on it too much and regard it as more of a cheap, disposable item, which has a massive impact on our environment.
You might be thinking ‘get this woman off her soapbox, ‘Plastic Free July’ is over but this is a conversation that goes beyond the month dedicated to its awareness and a local grassroots group agrees.
Trish Haeusler from Plastic Free Launceston started the group in March 2017 and has been a conversation starter for the people and businesses of Launceston.
“We started in March last year as a Facebook page to start a conversation, I’d been doing Plastic Free July for a couple of years, and I just wasn’t hearing much about it in the Launceston community,” Trish said.
“I saw this as an opportunity to start spreading the word, it was really interesting to then see how many people were concerned about plastic use but just had nowhere to voice their concerns, I was very surprised at how quickly the page gained support.”
From humble beginnings as a Facebook group, it is now a five-member working group of TamarNRM. The group has become an authority on the matter, giving talks at schools and local groups and even taking up residence with Launceston Harvest Market for the whole of July.
“Our activities happen throughout the year, Plastic Free July just happens to be a really good focus to help spread that message further around the community,” Trish said.
“Leading up to July and even now we are still engaged in campaigns and activities.
“We had five consecutive weeks at Harvest Market to spread that message, a lot of the work we do is around public education to encourage change within businesses, groups and as individuals.”
For Trish and Plastic Free Launceston the message is all about making small changes that have a significant impact.
“We want to give practical advice about reducing plastic use; we don’t want to make people feel guilty about their plastic use because it’s often unavoidable,” Trish said.
Trish said that people are becoming more environmentally aware thanks to an increase in media coverage and grassroots campaigns like ‘The Last Straw.’
The campaign was started by Hobart hospitality worker Eva Mackinley in 2015 in an attempt stop the use of plastic straws in pubs, clubs and restaurants around the country.
“Plastic Free Launceston is still behind the Last Straw Campaign and every week we visit businesses to invite them to join or to check up on businesses that have switched to an alternative to see how they are getting on,” Trish said.
“It is so nice to sing the praises of businesses that have made a change to reduce their plastic output, whether it is straws or promoting to bring your own container.
“We have many local examples and stories on our Facebook page of what businesses are doing around Launceston.”
There are numerous good news stories within our community, with businesses jumping to action to provide reusable or sustainable alternatives.
Plastic bottles have been a controversy for some time and depict so wonderfully the throwaway nature of plastic and what we have become accustomed to, but there are some organisations and businesses working to make this a thing of the past.
“A wonderful example of reducing plastic waste at an event was Triple J’s One Night Stand on the East coast,” Trish said.
“TasWater installed portable refilling water stations, and we are hoping that more and more events will be able to access that facility.
“It’s all about getting these good messages out there and making plastic free or waste free an additional attraction to local events.”
While there is no end of life story for plastic, there are still plenty of things we can do to help make a difference.
Next Month Plastic Free Launceston launches its final campaign for the year. The ‘Plastic Free Christmas’ campaign will aim to provide information about how to reduce waste at Christmas and keep our rubbish bins from overflowing. The campaign urges people to choose wisely to avoid excess packaging and to chose to give gifts that won't contribute to plastic pollution.
Trish’s top tips to reduce, reuse and recycle
- Don’t be too hard on yourself; sometimes we just don’t have an alternative to use.
- Where there are opportunities to purchase items not wrapped in plastic, make wise choices.
- Try using a bamboo toothbrush - an estimated 30 million are thrown away each year in Australia.
- Avoid single-use cling wrap and bin liners - they are either not needed or can be replaced with non-plastic alternatives
- Refilling containers, most delis and butchers in Launceston are happy for you to bring your own container.
- Say “no thanks” to the ‘Big Four’ - plastic bags, coffee cups, straws and bottled water
- Do things that are manageable and bit by bit they will become a habit.
To keep up to date on what the team at Plastic Free Launceston are up to make sure you check their Facebook page for details or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Plastic Free Launceston will be at this year’s Sustainable Living Expo on Saturday, October 13.
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