Did you know…Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the world’s oceans? And for every Australian, there are 5 pieces of litter on our beaches? The issue of ocean plastic pollution has been prominent for years, however, there seems to be no improvement regardless of efforts by environmental activist groups such as 4ocean, Take 3 and recently, the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

Bird stuck in pollution of materials
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Bird nesting in the litter

The reason for this is deeper than we think. Although we can only blame ourselves as for causing this disaster, the issue of ocean plastic pollution is based on a chain of habits that we have all been accustomed to over time. It is only until we are informed of the negative impacts that we really have the chance to change our ways and fight back against ocean plastic pollution.

So, we are here to present to you a breakdown of what plastic pollution is and the key ways you can reduce it, both in everyday life and while travelling. 

Avoid takeaway foods that are wrapped in plastic

This rule of thumb applies to both when living at home or while travelling. As mentioned previously, we have become accustomed to habits that involve excessive plastic and we may not even realise it.

Rat eating in plastic takeaway coffee cup
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Rat eating in plastic take away coffee cup

Ordering takeout? Make sure that you either order from a place that uses very little, or ideally, no plastic. Many restaurants and takeaway stores are getting on board with the use of recyclable paper, cardboard or wooden materials such as wooden cutlery.

Grocery shop wisely

This rule also applies to grocery shopping. In fact recently in Amsterdam, a 100% plastic free supermarket aisle was opened for business – a world’s first! Read more about this here. Although this hasn’t been implemented all over the world yet, we as individuals can choose to purchase products with less plastic packaging.

Plastic pollution retrieved from the ocean
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Plastic pollution retrieved from the ocean

For example, instead of buying a large pack of separated snacks (which literally have multiple packaging for each small handful), instead, opt for the large packet and divide the snacks at home into reusable containers. Also, make sure to bring as many reusable bags as you think you’ll need (plus a few more for unexpected purchases!)

Choose stores that are taking action against plastic pollution

Recently, supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles both have undertaken plans to phase out the use of plastic bags when shopping. Currently, Woolworths gives out approximately 3.2 billion plastic bags per year according to ABC News. It is great news that these large corporations are taking a step in the right direction, however, if you have a local grocery store that is already environmentally conscious and uses less plastic, make the effort to choose these over other stores – a great way to lessen your impact while also saying ‘thanks’ to the people who are trying to fight against plastic pollution.

Prepare ahead when travelling

When travelling it can seem more difficult to be environmentally conscious than at home, but the truth is actually the opposite! When you pack your bags you essentially are preparing yourself up for the time you will be away.

Person filling up reusable water bottle
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A person filling up a reusable water bottle

Whether its 2 weeks or 6 months, these are the three main tips to prepare you for avoiding plastic pollution:

  • Pack reusable bags, cutlery, containers, straws and water bottles – these will take up minimal space in your suitcase and come in handy when travelling.
  • Invest in a filtered water bottle – When travelling overseas, it can be risky to drink the tap water, so many people go straight to buying bottled water. By purchasing a filtered water bottle, you can fill up water and drink with peace of mind knowing that your health is protected and you’re saving the environment.
  • Find out the recycling methods in the country your travelling to – every country is different, so whether it be before you go or when you get to your destination, it’s worth finding out the best ways to dispense of plastics and other recyclable materials.

Support the charities/NFP organisations involved

There are many NFP organisations and charities dedicated to making a change in the area of ocean plastic pollution in Australia including Keep Australia Beautiful, Responsible Runners, Take 3, Taronga Blue & Two Hands Protect, just to name a few. Visit the websites of these organisations and get involved in whichever way they offer.

Plastic bottles on ocean shoreline
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Plastic bottles on the ocean shoreline

Whether it be getting involved physically in a cleanup day or simply making a donation, there are plenty of options that you can choose from.

Take the issue into your own hands (literally)

Sometimes the best thing we can do as individuals is take the issue into our own hands. In this case, it literally means picking up any rubbish when you see it, especially near the ocean or waterways. The NFP organisation Take 3 started up with the idea that if everyone took 3 pieces of rubbish anytime they were near the ocean, waterways (or anywhere for that matter!) the world would be a cleaner place.

Empty plastic bottles littered on beach
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Empty plastic bottles littered on beach

This is something every individual can do and its so simple – when you see rubbish, pick it up and throw it in the bin!

Spread the word on ocean plastic pollution

If you’re reading this article and its the first time you’ve properly been informed of ocean plastic pollution, then you may be thinking ‘why didn’t anyone tell me about this earlier?’. If you had known earlier then you could have possibly taken action months or even years ago! The same applies to your friends, family or even strangers. A great way to remind yourself to do this is by purchasing the 4ocean signature bracelet. 4ocean is an organisation dedicated to ocean plastic clean up – one pound at a time. Each time a bracelet is purchased, they remove 1 pound of plastic pollution from the ocean! Having their signature bracelet on your wrist is a great way to remind yourself to tell friends or family about the cause and what they can do to help. 

Polar bear stuck in plastic cone
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Polar bear stuck in a plastic cone

We hope by reading this you’re eyes are now a bit more opened to the issue of ocean plastic pollution and, most importantly, what you can do to make a difference! What do you do to reduce your impact while travelling or in your everyday life? Please let us know in the comment section below! 

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