Plastic Free July has rolled around again, so it’s time to take up the challenge to reduce our use of single-use plastic.
In good news, the WA Government has introduced a state-wide ban on certain plastic items. They include plastic shopping bags or bags with plastics laminate, disposable plastic straws and stirrers, disposable plastic cutlery, plates and bowls, and polystyrene food containers.
From October 1, the ban will extend to disposable plastic cups.
Most of us are already used to carrying our own shopping bags, Keep Cups and water bottles; this ban will help to finally end these plastic waste streams.
Bans and careful shopping serve to reduce the amount of plastic coming into our homes, but it’s almost impossible to avoid plastic entirely. The next steps in sustainable waste behaviour are re-use and recycle.
A great initiative in operation since 2020 is Containers for Change. Most aluminium, glass, plastic, steel and liquid paperboard drink containers between 150ml and 3L can be saved from landfill. You can drop off your containers at refund points across WA (see Containers for Change website www.containers forchange.com.au/wa/ to find the one closest to you) and receive 10¢ for every container you return, which you can keep or donate to a favourite cause by using their collection bin at the site. Make sure you take off the lids – they recycle those too, just separately.
We are pretty good at recycling paper, cardboard and recyclable plastics in our yellow bins, but if, like me, you are sometimes confused about whether a particular item can be recycled, the answer is at hand on the Recycle Right website www.recycleright.wa.gov.au/. Here you can find out what does and doesn’t belong in each of your bins and find your nearest recycling centre or drop off point to dispose of items which can’t go in kerbside bins.
Your local shire or city is another great place to get information. I talked to Penny Dowd, the project administration and education officer at the Augusta-Margaret River Shire. The Shire’s waste sorting station allows residents to dispose of many items which would otherwise end up in landfill. Conveniently located inside the front entry of the Shire’s office, the station enables appropriate disposal of small amounts of aerosols, CFL household light globes, pens, pencils, markers, coffee capsules, media storage such as cassette tapes and CDs, unusable clothing, soft packaging, beauty product tubes and oral care waste such as used toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, together with the existing collections for used batteries, household printer cartridges, mobile phones and plastic lids.
The items collected are then sent to specialist recycling facilities that can either dispose of the items correctly or recycle them.
Penny said that use of the waste sorting station indicates our community overall is supportive of disposing of waste items correctly.
“People in the Shire saved 62 per cent of their waste from ending up in landfill in the second half of 2021. This is up from 59 per cent in 2020–2021,” she said. “The Shire is continuing to focus on positive behaviour change to reduce contamination of waste and promote a circular economy.”
Participating supermarkets in the Australia-wide REDcycle Program offer you the opportunity to recycle many soft plastics that can’t go in the yellow bin. These include biscuit packets, bread bags, bubble wrap, cellophane, plastic bags and cling wrap.
You can find the REDcycle drop off point nearest to you on their website.
A recent problem due to the Covid pandemic is discarded disposable face masks. If they get into the environment, the elasticated ear straps make them a hazard to wildlife. Penny said that medical waste, including face masks, should be disposed of in the designated box at the Shire’s waste sorting station.
“Face masks can also be disposed of in your general waste bin with the red lid – however we ask that people either remove or cut the strings to reduce the risk of animal entanglement,” she said.
Penny has a Plastic Free July message for readers: make a pledge to reduce single use plastic in your home and at work, and support others to make the change.