Recycle, reuse ... or refuse

As a species, humans continually influence the habitat that we call planet Earth.

With technological advancements never seen before in the evolution of the human race, we fundamentally alter the very nature of our environment. Our contemporary reliance on a certain molecular polymer called plastic is simply staggering.

In 1907 a chemist called Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the world’s first mass produced synthetic plastic. This industrial discovery eventually led to plastics infiltrating their way into our personal care products. Plastics have become so interwoven into the fabric of our lifestyle, our dependence is overwhelming.

How many times each day you touch a piece of plastic?

This World Environment Day (5 June), why not reflect on your ecological footprint as you bag those bananas, or wrap that gourmet sandwich. What could you do differently?

The overarching theme for World Environment Day is a rally call, a cry for action to beat plastic pollution. Chosen by this year’s host nation India, it invites humanity to consider how we can make simple changes in our everyday life to reuse, reduce or refuse plastic.

Plastic pollution has become the number one burden on our natural places, our wildlife, even our own health.

Without doubt plastic has a place. But we have become a throwaway society with a reliance on single-use, disposable plastic with devastating consequences for planet Earth. Around the world 500 billion plastic bags are used each year. We buy one million plastic bottles every minute. In the last decade we produced more plastic than we did the last century.

Globally, one third of plastic packaging avoids our waste disposal systems, clogging city streets and polluting our environment. Washed into our storm water systems, it makes its way into our oceans. Each year up to 13 million tons of plastic cloaks coral reefs. Floating in our oceans, discarded plastic can circle planet Earth four times each year.

Too often it is ingested by birds, fish and other sealife. It will last more than 1000 years before it disintegrates.

In thinking globally we can act locally and in doing so make a real difference. If you can’t reuse it, refuse it. Choose reusable options. Take your own coffee mug. Refuse disposable plastic, refuse single-serve packaging. The next time you go to the shops, ask why the fruit and veges are wrapped in plastic.

Through reflecting on how much plastic we use, we can find innovative ways to replace plastic in our daily life. To glean more, visit World Environment Day 5 June

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 5 June 2018 in The Chronicle