50 million plastic bags enter the Australian litter stream every year, according to an estimate by cleanup.org.au. In the 2010 Clean Up Australia Rubbish Report, one in ten items found on Clean Up Australia Day were related to plastic drinking bottles. Most of this rubbish is never recovered causing untold damage to wildlife and the environment.
Even though we may not litter intentionally, waste that is placed into garbage bins is easily blown away, either while in the bin or while the rubbish is being processed at the tip. Or who knows what happens to the lunch wrapper once your child has taken it to school.
Plastic in our Oceans
The most common form of pollution found on our beaches and in our oceans is plastic bottles and bags. Ten percent of plastic ends up in the ocean, the majority of it settling on the ocean floor where it will never degrade. Plastic water bottles are made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics. PETs don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means they break down into smaller fragments over time, but never completely break down. These fragments stay in the ocean and attract other pollutants such as pesticides. These tiny pieces of plastic end up more contaminated than the water around them. Fish and other sea creatures ingest these tiny toxic plastic particles, that are then passed onto us when we eat seafood.
What can we do?
Plastic pollution is choking and polluting our oceans. Scientists agree that if our oceans die we die. The majority of the problem is with single use plastic, we can all play our part in reducing the amount of single use plastic that we use. The first step is being aware of just how much we do use. Small actions like taking our own reusable shopping bags to the supermarket is a great start. Buying a reusable water bottle is another step in the right direction. The less single use plastic we buy sends a message to manufacturers that we have had enough of single use plastic waste and the less likely the chance that our plastic will become litter.