Every year when Plastic Free July rolls around I feel increasingly frustrated. I've grown tired of the guilt-tripping (intentional or not) of consumers. Year after year I read the endless doom filled headlines: there’s now more plastic in the ocean than could ever be cleaned up, plastic is a health risk because we are consuming microplastics through seafood and cookware, xxx million tonnes of plastic is created every year. I am well aware by now that 1. There is an incomprehensible amount of plastic floating around in the ocean and also some inside my body, 2. Lots of plastic is still being manufactured each day, 3. I am using too much plastic, and 4. This is all Very Bad for the planet and everything living in it.
But I have come to realise that:
***The onus should not just be on consumers to reduce their plastic usage.***
Together our keep cups and our reusable bags and our metal straws and our bamboo cutlery sets have reduced large amounts of plastic I’m sure. A few years ago we successfully campaigned for eliminating plastic shopping bags. And as of 1 February this year the Victorian government joined NSW and WA and banned the sale and distribution of some common single use plastics including plastic straws, drink stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and plastic q-tips. Individual action and public pressure has resulted in these amazing changes.
But the fight has only just begun. Plastic packaging still lines the aisles of supermarkets, with no soft plastic recycling in sight. And that’s not even taking into account all the plastic used behind the scenes.
We need change from corporations, changes that must be enforced at a governmental level.
The Fair Trader wants the State Governments of Australia to set timelines for reducing soft plastics in the retail and industrial sectors of our economy.
Our team are going to write to our local State government representatives and we encourage you to do so too. If you need help getting started, we’ve written a template that you can use. Don’t forget to edit in the relevant details.
If you live in Victoria and you’re not sure who your local State member is, you can look them up here. To search by your suburb or electorate, change the drop down to ‘Location Search’.
MP Letter Template
Dear (insert MP’s name),
My name is (insert your name) and I am a constituent of yours from (insert your suburb).
I am writing to you because I am concerned about plastic pollution and the excessive use of plastic in retail and other Australian industries.
It is estimated that 13,000 tonnes of plastic leaks into Australian waterways every year. The UN is calling the issue of ocean plastic a ‘planetary crisis.’ Plastic pollution not only has devastating effects on marine life, but microplastics are also being found in humans. Despite this, every year plastic production continues to double.
The recent ban of single use plastics like straws and cutlery in Victoria was a huge step in the right direction, but I think we need to do more. I urge you and your party to set a timeline for reducing the manufacture and sale of soft plastics in the retail and industrial sectors of our economy. A timeline would give food services and industry time to make the changes they need, and to find plastic alternatives. Overseas suppliers also require certainty about our plastic policy and a timeline is a respectful way to bring change.
There are many alternatives to new plastics including recycled cardboard, hemp plastics, bioplastic, agave bio plastic and bio cellophane. Your government could lead the way by researching plastic alternatives and providing guidance to industry.
I don’t believe that recycling plastic is a real solution because it is expensive and energy inefficient. I encourage your party to look beyond recycling as a solution to the plastic crisis, and instead start with reducing it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email.
(Insert your name)
Header photo by Masha Kotliarenko.