Reduce Reuse Recycle
How are we creating an iconic symbol of waste?
Billions of bags are used by shoppers in Australia each year and far too many of these bags made their way onto the streets, bush and waterways as unsightly litter.
Discarded plastic bags have been described as “an iconic symbol of waste”.
5 reasons to consider ‘reusing’.
1. Wildlife is paying a high price for our waste.
Plastic bags can choke or poison fish, animals and birds, with marine wildlife particularly vulnerable. When seabirds, sea mammals or fish ingest plastic particles, blocking of the gut is likely to harm or even kill them.
Birds can mistake the bags for fish or nesting materials. If their legs or heads become entangled, it can prove fatal.
2. It’s a never-ending clean up job.
Even with the help of wonderful people who contribute their time and energy to organisations like Clean Up Australia Day, littered carrier bags are expensive and time consuming to clean up. It is a job that can seem never ending.
3. Is all this resource waste worth it for 20 minutes?
Plastic bags use up finite resources, including oil, in their creation. According to some estimates, up to 100 million barrels of oil are needed to make the world’s plastic bags each year.
Yet typical usage of a plastic bag is just 20 minutes.
4. A thousand years from now, what will they say about us?
Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Is this what we want to leave behind?
“The average plastic bag is used for 5 minutes but can take up to 1000 years to breakdown in the environment.”
It is estimated that, worldwide, 1 trillion plastic bags are used and thrown away every year. Australians use 3.92 billion of these plastic bags. That’s almost 4 billion every year and over 10 million new bags every day.
“It is estimated that every year about 50 million bags become litter in Australia.”
5. The damage is a continuous deadly cycle.
More than 100,000 animals die each year from ingesting or becoming tangled up in plastic bags.
Turtles, dolphins and even whales can die from choking or starve from confusing plastic bags for jellyfish.
“Plastic bags are killing our marine life. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s turtles and 90 percent of the world’s birds have ingested plastic.” https://act.greenpeace.org.au
“When the animal dies and decays the plastic is free again to repeat the deadly cycle. There are 2 major reasons that plastic bags are particularly problematic in the litter stream:
1. They last from 20 - 1 000 years
2. They escape and float easily in air and water, travelling long distances”
Isn’t recycling enough?
Recycling -- breaking down items into raw materials to be used again -- is important, but environmental experts know reducing consumption and reusing are more important, because they use up fewer natural resources.
When plastics are recycled, they become less strong every time they are recycled and so each time tend to be made into a less strong product. This means there are only so many times that plastic bag I throw into a recycling bin can be recycled into anything of use.
“Unfortunately, most people see it the other way around. We tend to think recycling is much cooler than reusing. It's an easy way for people to connect with environmental issues but reusing is much less wasteful.”
“… the recycling process takes place at a high heat it leaches a component of plastic called antimony into the local atmosphere as a carcinogenic toxic industrial pollutant.
It is generally still considered safe for us to use products made from recycling plastic bottles but in doing so we might be indirectly placing the people involved in the production process in danger.
This is not something we would wish upon anyone-and this seems especially bad given that these people are usually from underdeveloped countries.” https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/antimony-in-fabrics/
Why is it important to reuse?
It makes the most economic and environmental sense to reduce the amount we consume.
The next best way to reduce waste is to reuse things.
Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.
Recycling and making something new from something that has been discarded is still good but it does take energy to make that new thing.
For more information:
“The difference between biodegradable, recycle and reuse.”