Get the juice on single-use!
This month the Baillieu Government ordered the Zoo to dump their ‘Wipe for Wildlife’ campaign because their own logging practices don't quite make the grade.
The Zoo’s campaign encouraged visitors to choose toilet paper made either from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, or from paper with the internationally-recognised FSC logo – a certification which VicForests’ operations have unfortunately failed to meet. Given that most Australians don’t use recycled toilet paper, millions of trees are being flushed down the toilet every year after a single use. So it’s a bummer that the campaign’s been canned.
And there’s heaps of other ‘stuff’ that we also use just once and throw away. It might only take 10 seconds for us to unwrap and use an item before it disappears forever down a dark hole never to be seen again – by us.
But behind everything we use is a story which often starts in a distant part of the world in a beautiful field somewhere. A natural resource is extracted, trucked, refined, produced, manufactured, packed, stored, shipped, distributed and sold - and that’s just before we use it! So we decided to lift the lid on some household items that we use once and chuck and suggest some alternatives.
DISPOSABLE COFFEE CUPS
Coffee is a big business in this country. We latte-sippers couldn’t do without our daily hit of caffeine. But did you know that over 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured worldwide every year? Even worse, most are lined with polyethylene which makes them non-recyclable in some areas (and even if your Council can recycle them, most people don’t know this), so they end up in landfill emitting greenhouse gases as they break down.
The alternative is pretty simple – sit down for five minutes in the cafe and have a chat to your barista! Or get yourself a reusable Keepcup and keep moving. By not using paper cups, not only will you get kudos from your local barista, but you’ll be reducing your coffee habit’s contribution to global warming by 92%. And coffee is under threat from global warming, so it all makes sense - disposable cups are rubbish!
Each baby in disposable nappies sends 700kg of waste to landfill every year, where it sits, leaching toxic chemicals, for a very long time. To give you a sense of the scale of the problem, 8% of Moreland Council’s annual waste is composed of used nappies! It also takes more water to manufacture a disposable nappy than it takes to launder a cloth nappy.
You wouldn’t wear a pair of trousers once and throw them away, so why not give reusable nappies a go? We know that new parents have a lot on their plate and we certainly don’t want to add to that. You might want to wait a few months before you give them a go, or to only use them during the day. You might be surprised how snazzy modern reusable nappies look…
Australians use and dispose of 10 million plastic bags a day. Why is this a problem? Because plastic is made from non-renewable resources like oil, gas and coal and can take up to 1000 years to breakdown! According to Clean Up Australia ‘8.7 plastic checkout bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car 1 kilometre.’ What a waste of energy! Plastic bags are also very good at escaping from landfill and ending up at sea where they can pose a threat to our marine animals.
But the good news is that the solution is oh so simple. Just use a reusable grocery bag! Or for those times you forget, reuse the plastic bags as many times as you can, and then finally use them for your rubbish disposal. The planet will thank you for it.
LUNCH BOX WASTE
The average family uses thousands of disposable plastic lunch bags each year. But here’s an encouraging thought: if we took them home and washed them just once each, we’d halve the amount that we use! The same goes for plastic cling wrap and aluminium foil. They’re easy to wash, but a little bit harder to dry.
So here’s a tip from ‘story of stuff’ guru Annie Leonard on how to construct a simple plastic bag dryer. It’s not complicated – just fill a jar or vase with disposable chopsticks and you’ve got yourself a plastic bag dryer and a use for your disposable chopsticks in one. Plus, you can recycle used aluminium foil - true! Best to scrape off the food and scrunch it into a ball.
PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES
Plastic bottles have a dark and disturbing life story. It takes significant amounts of water, oil and energy to make and transport them. Only one third of plastic bottles in Australia are actually recycled, so the majority end up in landfill, where they take ages to break down, emitting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for years. Or worse, they find their way into the ocean where they leak chemicals like BPA and choke wildlife. In fact the UN estimates that the average square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic waste. Yikes!
There’s no need for bottled water in Australia. Our tap water is perfectly good, and there are plenty of places selling reusable water bottles these days. So let’s stop using single-use plastic water bottles today! Read about the inspiring Plastiki expedition, aiming to educate the world about the disaster of our oceans filled with plastic waste.
Here are some fast facts on plastic water bottles to shock you into action:
- Australia produced 582.9 million litres of bottled water in 2009-10, which used 145.7 million litres of oil in production, transportation, refrigeration and recycling/disposal. Source >
- Australians’ bottled water use last year was responsible for more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Source >
- It takes three litres of water to make a one litre water bottle. Source >
Got any hot tips for single use items that can be re-used or substituted? Throw ‘em this way. Recycled ideas welcome...