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That liberating feeling of being single-use plastic free

Image: Supplied Image: Supplied

Sitting with a friend getting a replacement phone at Optus this week, I opened the box and removed the plastic moulded tray, the little plastic bags the accessories were individually wrapped in and the little bits of plastic wrapped around the headphones.

It occurred to me this “schmick” packaging is probably seen by some as having “status”, but basically the plastic is landfill.

Handing them back, with a second box made with a plastic window so you can see the clear plastic protective case packed inside (yes plastic but not single-use… one step at a time), I explained: “I’m doing the Plastic Free July Challenge (PFJC) and I have to choose to refuse single-use plastic.”

Graciously, the charming young salesman said that’s fine, they had recycling out the back.

Why we bother to exchange this plastic refuse in the first place is mind boggling and increasingly ridiculous the further down the rabbit hole of PFJC I go.

From Baker’s Delight, I had expected to automatically get my bread in paper bags for some reason, and while they automatically reached for the plastic bags, plastic bread tags and plastic carry-all bags, obliged me with paper bags instead for the bread and I bought a hessian bag from them too to carry it in, with proceeds to Breast Cancer Research.

Yes, it’s easy to be plastic free.

Where, however, can you buy milk in a glass bottle?

This was a question posed on a Facebook page called “Plastic Free Life – Dubbo” which invites visitors to share their tips on how to live plastic free.

Local milk producer “Little Big” has one product in their line bottled in glass, but 99 per cent of milk is delivered in plastic.

If you’re a child of the ‘70s you’ll remember the sound of glass milk bottles clinking in their wire baskets delivered to your door. Whatever happened to the milkman’s livelihood?

Plastic happened.

Yet, back then it was an industry that left little trace and you don’t find glass milk bottles still floating around in the ocean or down in the river 30, 40 or 1,000 years later.

Genuinely recyclable.

Sure enough the PET bottles of milk and soft drinks can be too. The majority shareholder of the market who makes plastic bottles here in Australia, recycles them too. Visy.

While they’re rubbing their hands together with the view that in the future a rise in single occupant households will require portion and pack sizes to meet this individualised demand, along with the development of intelligent packaging which means your empty plastic drink bottle can order a replacement plastic drink bottle for you over the internet… none of this addresses the issue of what’s not making it into recycling.

Six million tonnes of rubbish is dumped in the world’s oceans each year and eighty per cent of that waste is plastic.

If you put your recycling in a plastic bag it goes to landfill.

That’s the myth of recycling and repurposing. While we continue to think that recycling is actually making a difference and there’s our caveat to keep on producing the stuff, well, what’s the tipping point and what’s really driving this market: convenience or market share and share price.

Plastic Free July is a chance to look up the aisle toward the near and distant future and see where all this plastic production and recycling is heading.

Don’t believe me?

Take a stroll through just one or two aisles in your local supermarket, and say the word ‘plastic’ for every item you pass that uses single-use plastic in its packaging.

Then imagine yourself doing this challenge – and appreciate what’s available to you on the shelves.

Not much, but largely, it’s nothing that you really need.

Yvette Aubusson-Foley

Yvette Aubusson-Foley is a Dubbo journo, who spent time living and raising her family in the USA, but has now returned to her home town.