Plastic Free July is now done and dusted and so begins a plastic free life. Having navigated my way around the sea of plastic bags, bottles, windows in boxes, tubs, packets and packaging as standard for almost every single food retail experience, for 31 days, I’m convinced it can be done, and will be a continuous uphill battle.
Thankfully, this month’s announcement by Woolworths, Coles and Harris Farm to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next 12 months has put the discussion into the mainstream consciousness.
Before the announcement came, the reaction to my requests to not wrap my food in plastic, not bag my food in plastic, take hot chickens out of its plastic bag and serve it to me in a paper bag, to please use or reuse a paper bag I had brought with me, or a reusable plastic container for my meat, the overall reactions were firstly of surprise but no one said no.
I got plenty of looks and no matter what they were thinking I felt my gestures of demanding, gently, real change, had been noticed and would leave the right impression.
After the announcement, across the board cooperation. No servers hesitated, in fact when they saw me coming they knew what to do.
Ha! As I write this, an email blast from the Plastic Free July crew in WA has just arrived, with congratulations for my 31 days of going cold turkey and proposing, what’s next?
Did you have an ‘aha’ moment, they ask? Oh, yes, every minute of every day.
How could my waste output reduce by two thirds, just by avoiding single-use plastic! It makes me wonder about the third bin and how it gives permission to some degree to encourage consumption.
The Whylandra Waste Depot will turn a pretty penny for council once it’s buying rubbish from other cities, a fact I hope next week’s 4Corners program by Caro Meldrum-Hanna on the dirty business of recycling will provoke genuine discussion on how that whole business model of packaging production and recycling works.
It favours the few who are doing it of course, but it wasn’t long into Plastic Free July that it genuinely felt like I was feeding a voracious machine with no benefit to my kid’s future, in particular.
Making retailers and manufacturers responsible for their plastic, simply by bringing an alternative to the store and leaving their packaging behind was another ‘aha’ moment. It’s possible.
That even weeks into the program, I still went into ‘auto-mode’ and would start filling up plastic bags at the check out! Tired, not thinking. I look around and see robots. We have nothing really to fear by the wave of robots about to invade our everyday lives, because we’re the first generation.
Feeling like I was part of a solution is liberating. Awkward, challenging, for my family too, as I stuck with the program and just said no to everything plastic.
An estimated 50 million plastic bags end up as litter in the environment each year in Australia, mostly in waterways and the ocean, where they kill and injure dolphins, turtles and other marine life.
That is 50 million way too many.
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.