10 simple ways to reduce single use plastic

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It is estimated to be 3.5million square kilometres – and growing.[1] The patch, also described as a Pacific Trash Vortex, is located in the North Pacific Ocean and spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan.

Since the discovery of the patch in the 1980’s, plastic recycling and reduction advocacy has been at the forefront of most developed nations. Today, there is a global agenda to manage the ‘Plastic Crisis’[2]; especially considering that approximately 91% of plastic globally isn’t recycled. [3]  

Global advocates are again bringing plastic recycling specifically to the front of the conversation. An example of this is David Attenborough through his recent Blue Planet II series.[4]  The acclaimed filmmaker is encouraging people globally to ‘give up’ single use plastics.  Even the Queen of England is on board![5]

Whilst companies and governments are investing in recycling technologies to increase recycling manufacturing; currently, we simply cannot keep up recycling with the rate of raw plastic production.  Until new innovations come into place – or we see a ban on plastic production - there are simple ways that we can all contribute to reducing single use plastic in day to day life.

1.       Say no to plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are being banned across Australia in supermarkets and retail chains in a combined effort by governments and industry, however this is not a universal ban. Currently, plastic bags still appear in food and retail outlets.  A simple tip is to have a variety of reusable bags in your car boot or hand bag ready to use when you’re in need.  Further, there is no need to use plastic to collect your apples and pears. Use your reusable bags to collect your fruit and vegetables; meaning less need for plastic bags at all.

2.       Buy a (proper) drink bottle for water

In 2015, Australian’s spent $2 Billion on Bottled Water![6] That is approximately 726 million litres. Plastic bottles can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade if not recycled and it is estimated that less than 40% of bottles are recycled each year.[7] If that’s not enough to convince you, think: bottled water costs roughly 1000 times more than tap water (and you can often even get it for free!)

3.       Scrap the straws

Did you know plastic straws can’t be recycled?[8] They are too soft to go through plastic recycling facilities and therefore, they end up in landfill.  Due to the small size, straws are often discarded (sometimes unintentionally) on our streets and end up in our drains; which leads to our ocean. They are one of the most deadly and harmful items for wildlife who mistake straws for food. This causes horrid results for our sea creatures.

And really, who needs a straw? 

4.       Know your ‘beauty’ microbeads / microplastics

Microbeads can be found in many well-known beauty products throughout Australia.[9] In 2017, the US banned all microbeads, but they are still readily available in Australia.  Each time a person uses a facial or body wash containing microbeads, up to 94,000 miniscule beads can be flushed down the drain.[10] These microbeads end up in the waterways and harm coral, sea life and contribute to forming plastic islands. So, how do you know if your product uses microbeads? Look on the product ingredients and if it contains: Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), or Nylon (PA) then your product contains plastic.

5.       Keep your cup

Takeaway coffee cups are not friends of the environment.  Not only are the plastic lids incredibly hard to recycle, the base of coffee cups is usually lined with a membrane of polyethylene (plastic) to make them waterproof; meaning they are not recyclable either.[11] Reusable coffee cups are readily available and, in you need another incentive - many cafes offer discounts to BYO cup.

6.       Entertain in style

As Australian’s, we love our BBQ’s. However, those convenient disposable plastic plates, cups and knives and forks are all one-use plastics. Whilst these can sometimes be recycled, it can differ across recycling facilities.[12] Paper or bamboo plates are a great alternative; but make sure these go in the compost as they can’t be recycled due to food contamination. Alternatively, invest in some ‘entertaining’ plates and cups to use for BBQ’s that you can reuse year after year. You will probably end up saving money!

7.       BYO containers

There is currently a push to encourage patrons to BYO containers when ordering take away food.  Hobart City Council is even looking to completely phase out takeaway plastic containers.[13] Next time you order takeaway, ask the restaurant if you can BYO.

8.       Refuse redundant plastic wraps for fresh fruit and vegetables

In early 2018, Woolworths outraged customers by packaging bananas.[14] This highlighted how many of our fresh fruit and vegetables are in plastic wrapping.  Large chains will only package items this way if consumers buy it: so, when doing your weekly shop, choose the loose items over the plastics wrapping. (It’s often cheaper too.)

9.       Give the family a plastic-wrap free lunch

Why did we ever give up the lunchbox? Kids lunchboxes these days are highly ecofriendly, with airtight locks, removing the need to wrap sandwiches and fruit in additional plastic.  These are great solutions for kids and adults alike.  Stop wrapping up lunches with cling wrap and put in airtight reusable containers instead.

10.   Switch out plastic for paper cardboard

Next time you head to the supermarket, butcher or baker, take note of what your wrapping options are. You can find washing powder in cardboard; which is much better for the environment than plastic bottles. Delis can wrap small goods in butcher’s paper with no need for additional plastic and your local baker will usually have brown paper bags too.

Have other ideas of what to switch out or how to reduce plastic? Let us know!

About Container Deposit Systems Australia

Container Deposit Systems Australia was formed with a vision to oversee the implementation of improved operational practices in recycling facilities.  The company offers a range of services to recycling depot facilities to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern technically advanced operators.

The company achieve this through patented technologies which deliver manufacturing automation to auto-sort materials via a highly sensitive multi-sensor integration.  Systems integrations enable facilities to further gain efficiencies through workflows, materials handling, logistic processes, facility layout and design, customer interaction and data acquisition and management. 

Container Deposit Systems Australia technologies are designed and manufactured in Australia with local partners Sage Automation and Macweld Engineering.

For more information, please contact us directly.  



[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash
[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/12/13/193-nations-sign-pledge-tackle-global-crisis-plastic-oceans/
[3] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
[4] http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/television/environmentalist-david-attenboroughs-chilling-warning-on-plastic-and-coral-in-blue-planet-ii/news-story/e94bf868f5528899f6d805643dfaf0fa
[5] https://www.fastcompany.com/40530408/queen-elizabeth-bans-plastic-at-buckingham-palace
[6] https://www.coolaustralia.org/bottled-water-secondary/
[7] https://www.coolaustralia.org/bottled-water-secondary/
[8] https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/because-you-asked-what-s-so-bad-about-plastic-straws
[9] https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/beauty-and-personal-care/skin-care-and-cosmetics/articles/microplastics-and-microbeads-in-toothpaste-facial-body-scrubs
[10] https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/beauty-and-personal-care/skin-care-and-cosmetics/articles/microplastics-and-microbeads-in-toothpaste-facial-body-scrubs
[11] https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/drinks/tea-and-coffee/articles/are-takeaway-coffee-cups-recyclable
[12] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-24/what-plastics-can-i-recycle-war-on-waste/8548658
[13] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-08/plastic-food-containers-ban-to-be-imposed-in-hobart/8784266
[14] http://www.news.com.au/national/woolworths-says-customers-prefer-prepacked-bananas/news-story/4484f07cdb5b42d1ec610cdca7407a86