It’s that time of year again when we focus on reducing plastic use: Plastic Free July. Over three-quarters of rubbish found in the oceans in a recent survey was plastic, with plastic bags, bottles, food containers/cutlery and wrappers the top four items.  

The good news is that there are some changes coming with plastics regulation in Australia: 

  • In April 2021 state and territory environment ministers agreed on a National Plastics Plan that includes the phase out of a range of single-use plastic items by 2025.  The agreement led to a series of announcements from Australian states and territories on how they would implement the ban.  
  • Under its new Plastics Action Plan the NSW government will ban the use of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery, expanded polystyrene containers, plastic cotton buds, and microbeads in personal and cosmetic products within 12 months of the legislation passing. It will be six months for lightweight plastic shopping bags. Within three years there are also plans to review the use of plastic cups, heavier plastic bags and fruit stickers.  
  • Under its draft Draft Zero Waste Strategy Inner West Council prioritises waste avoidance and sets a target of reducing waste by 50% by 2036. 

According to Clean Up Australia’s 2020 Rubbish Report plastics accounted for 13% less of the rubbish collected from community clean-ups than in 2019, probably due to the advent of the NSW drink container deposit scheme Return and Earn. Soft plastics made up 15% of the total, and 39% of plastic waste. 

It’s great to see the positive impact of Return and Earn, but we can all recycle more soft plastics. Check out what you can and can’t put into the Redcycle bin at your local supermarket. For tips on recycling look at Council’s A-Z guide or download the waste app to your phone.  

The circular economy for plastics is gaining momentum, with calls for producer responsibility to take back, clean and refill plastic containers through a track and trace system. Some innovative product developments include plastic bottles being converted into recycled Lego bricks. In the Inner West we have several businesses that convert plastics into new products, such as Defy Design and Dresden Vision’s recycled range developed with SMaRT@UNSW. 

The best thing is to avoid or reduce plastic use. There are many things we can do to reduce our plastic use at home and in the community, such as:

  • Carry a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, bag and straw with you when you’re on the go 
  • Take a reusable container with you to pick up a takeaway meal. Returnr and Replated are two new reusable container programs and you can find which cafes and restaurants are happy to accept reusable containers at Trashless Takeaway 
  • Choose low or no-packaging items above those wrapped in plastic e.g Buy unpackaged fruit and vegetables, buy toilet paper wrapped in paper 
  • Shop at bulk stores and farmers’ markets, with your own produce bags 
  • Cook your own breads, biscuits, stock and so on. It’s great fun, and avoids packaging 
  • Plan a plastic free picnic with homemade dips, salad, treats and tea in a thermos 
  • Go naked! Don’t line your garbage bin, just wash it after each use 
  • Use reusable cloth nappies – there are many easy to use options 
  • Adopt a plastic free period by using a menstral cup or try washable period underwear. 

Find out how you can get involved or act locally on Council’s Plastic Free July page. 

Follow the Green Living Centre on Facebook and Instagram for more suggestions on how to live a plastic free life and let us know what you’re up to!