Simple Ways to Reduce Single-use Plastics

Picture of Annie Caughey

Annie Caughey

Freelance Writer

Swimming with Turtles is a humbling experience. Their perplexing but beautiful appearance and relaxed character make them fascinating to watch, and after considering the threats they face and their 200 million years of existence, you’re left passionate about their protection. To do this, we must protect their environment.

Plastic pollution has fast become one of the most significant threats to the health of our oceans. Discarded improperly, this plastic ends up in our waterways and oceans where it can be mistaken for food that chokes or entangles marine life. Plastic can even break down into micro plastics, which then enter the food chain from the bottom, poisoning the entire ecosystem, which in turn is consumed by humans.

Have you been out swimming with turtles? These creatures are so gentle in their nature and aren’t usually phased by humans, so you can often get close enough to get a glimpse of their personality. Seriously, turtles are so funny to swim with, I always think they look a little bit grumpy. One day I was lucky enough to be joined on a morning swim by a group of turtles out for breakfast. Not bacon & eggs, these guys love to eat jellyfish.

While apprehensive to swim with a swarm of jellyfish ahead, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I carefully swam a respectable distance alongside the turtles, my flippers helping me to match their pace. As I twirled throGPTempDownloadugh the swarm of jellyfish, I was enjoying watching the turtles chomp away on their morning snack. They’re exactly like their stereotype – chilled out, and this kind of makes you feel like time is in slow motion.

It was truly captivating. Distracting enough I almost forgot to look where I was going and as I realigned my vision to what was in front of me, I saw a large jellyfish blobbing straight towards me. The thing is though, this wasn’t a jellyfish, it was a plastic bag getting swept along by the current. Now if a piece of plastic can fool me into thinking it’s a jellyfish, a turtle can make this mistake also. Luckily, I was there to grab this rubbish and take it back into shore with me.

It is estimated that more than 1000 turtles die each year from ingesting plastic. As a society we are getting better at recycling our waste, however, we can’t recycle our way out of this problem. The real solution comes from reducing our consumption. So, in that light, here are a few easy actions you can take to help:

Shopping bags
I know it’s hard to remember to bring your own bags, so keep some in your car or stash one in your purse, your briefcase or gym bag. I found that investing in some good quality mesh bags helped me to enforce this habit – One. Having spent the money on buying super cute ones, I wanted to make sure that I was actually using them. & Two. They stretch the more you fill them, so you can literally fill them like a Mary Poppins’ bag.

Don’t bag vegetables
Nothing makes me cringe more than watching people individually wrap their vegetables in plastic bags at the grocery store. Just chuck them in the trolley bare and they’ll get a clean when you prepare them anyway. Alternatively, bring additional reusable bags for your fruit and veg.

Cigarette Butts
They are the number one most littered item on earth, with about 4.5 trillion cigarettes discarded each year. And guess what, 98 per cent of those little filters are made of plastic fibres. It’s heart-breaking to see these butts littered along the shorelines especially as this only gives us the tiniest glimpse into the problem out at sea. Why not buy biodegradable filters or consider the ultimate alternative…

Reusable water bottles
Thankfully, water refill stations at public parks, beaches, walking paths and shopping centres are becoming more common. Which is decreasing the need for people to buy plastic water bottles whilst out and about. That is, if you have your own reusable water bottle. Stainless steel varieties are the best as they are more durable and better for your health and the environment. Plus some types even keep your water ice-cold for like 12 hours or something!

Celebrate without balloons
Becoming more environmentally conscious is about challenging our current attitudes and traditions. Party balloons have been a part of our celebrating culture for a long time but just like shoulder pads on jackets, they were a mistake in history that should be long forgotten.

Refuse straws
Most of us simply don’t need to use straws, but if you really can’t give up the straw life, then buy yourself a reusable stainless steel or bamboo straw and take it with you – Some even come in solid packaging you can clip onto your bag. Watch that video of a plastic straw being pulled from the nose of a turtle, you’ll never go back.

Avoid packaged foods & make your own
Sounds like a lot of hard work but frankly, it’s not. Homemade muesli usually consists of a few oats tossed on a baking tray, mixed with some seeds, grains and spices with a dash of maple syrup or cacao. Bread is much the same, just a few ingredients thrown into a bread maker, and voila, you have artisan goodness. Not only are you saving plastic and reducing the emissions associated with making it, but homemade recipes are usually healthier and preservative free. Yew!

Use bamboo toothbrushes
If you’re anything like me, you go through a new toothbrush every couple of weeks. (I know right? I need to chill.) But that’s a lot of built up plastic from the last 25 years of my life. Bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable and are much kinder to our environment. You can get them online, at your local health shop and I’ve even noticed them on the shelves at Woolworths and Coles.

Buy a Keep-Cup
Coffee is food for the soul but a takeaway cup is not. Discipline yourself to remember to bring your Keep-Cup every time you enjoy a cuppa. In the beginning you will forget it, but if you keep persisting with the new habit, soon enough it’ll be just as much second nature grabbing your cup as if it is your wallet.

Take 3 for the Sea
It’s a simple yet powerful concept that was started by three ocean lovers back in 2010. It’s a movement that encourages you to pick up three pieces of rubbish when you are at the beach, a waterway or basically anywhere. It may be only three pieces of rubbish to you, but since the organisation officially launched, it has empowered millions of people worldwide to take action against plastic pollution. And you know what that means? A whole lot less junk floating where it’s not meant to be. You can find more information at www.take3.org

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I hope you have enjoyed reading and found some useful things you can do in your life, as I have. Marine life is precious but we are compassionate and have our chance to protect it so that future generations can swim with turtles too.

Annie Caughey is a freelance journalist, copywriter and photographer, please visit her page to see more of her work: wildereyes.net/

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