WE CAN DO BETTER: Sea turtles end up trying to eat our plastic bag ocean pollution because they think it is food.
WE CAN DO BETTER: Sea turtles end up trying to eat our plastic bag ocean pollution because they think it is food. Kwangmoozaa

Use these tips to live better with less plastic

IT CAN start with one action at a time and lead to big changes in our home and in our community if we aim each day to make single-use plastic less a part of our everyday lives.

It's a huge subject. Single-use plastic is a way of life for many seniors. It's what we are used to using in so many ways, but when you stop and really think about the impact those plastics are having on the world in which we live, you might just want to start chipping away at making your impact a little less negative and a lot more positive.

CSIRO research scientist Dr Qamar Schuyler quoted the following disturbing numbers:

  • Over 50 per cent of turtles worldwide have ingested plastics.
  • By the year 2050, it is predicted 90 per cent of seabird species will have injested plastics.

There are some 700 species of marine animals that have been entagled in marine debris, or eaten marine debris.

Where to start

Tackle one thing at a time Dr Schuyler recommends. And, develop awareness of what you use and how.

Trying to not use plastics at all is the best choice, but that for many people is a major change of lifestyle. Perhaps, approach individual items and gradually look for ways to reduce your use of single-use plastics.

'Here's the plastic I have used in a week. What's the dominant thing there. Let me try to address that one first', she suggests as being a simple approach to getting started.

Reduction before recycling

"Before you get to recycling, if you can reduce the use of single-use plastics then you are creating the situation where you don't need to use the energy and resources to try to recycle that plastic," Dr Schuyler said.

Because of the various additives used to manipulate the way a plastic product acts, it's much harder to recycle them into the same form. Rather, they may be downcycled into a different product.

Redcycle is such a company that takes soft plastics and converts them into things like benches and astro turf. They often have collection points at major supermarkets.

Beth Terry on her blog, myplasticfreelife.com, offers 100 ideas for reducing plastic in our everyday lives. "Don't try it all at once," Terry advises.

Her top 10 ideas to start a gradual change in your household are:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags.
  • Give up bottled water.
  • Shop at your local farmers market.
  • Say no to plastic produce bags.
  • Buy from bulk bins as often as possible.
  • Cut out soft drinks, juices, and all other plastic-bottled beverages.
  • Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.
  • Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc to the farmer's market to be reused.
  • Bring your own container for meat and prepared foods.
  • Choose milk in returnable glass bottles.

"She has got her plastic use down to a small laundry basket for the whole year," Dr Schuyler said.


When it comes to plastic bottles, there is no simple answer as to what you can or can't put in your recycle bin. The best solution is to contact your local council and ask what is allowable.

Dr Schuyler also suggests using the ABC's abc.net.au/ourfocus/waronwaste as a good source of practical household tips.

Start by developing a habit when you get ready to go to the supermarket of packing your recylable shopping bags and any plastics that can be dropped off in the Redcycle bin.

Did you know ?

Cans have a thin lining of plastic around them so they don't degrade as quickly.

There isn't enough data as yet to say there is a link between human health and plastics. "The connection between the fish that eat the plastics and us that eat the fish is less clear because, typically, the plastic compounds are not accumulating in the tissues, they accumulating in the gut or the blood stream," Dr Schuyler said.

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