A Sustainable Life: November 1

WAY FORWARD: Popular tourist venue the Maze House at Mt Prospect is already leading the way with the paper straws it offers for its customers.

WAY FORWARD: Popular tourist venue the Maze House at Mt Prospect is already leading the way with the paper straws it offers for its customers.

The Andrews government recently announced that it would legislate the ban of lightweight plastic bags. Finally, it is making a move. Although it has not announced when this will happen, and how, I’m trying to not to get too excited in case it drops off the agenda. It is critical that the government does move on this sooner rather than later, particularly when you read the statistic that by 2020 there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life.

Unless we do something about this, we are going to find out the hard way what the health implications of this will be. Refusing single use plastic such as plastic bags, plastic water bottles and plastic straws, is a great start to fixing the problem.

Daylesford has been on the trail to eliminating single-use plastic bags since April this year and there has been fantastic adoption and behaviour change as result. This community has really got behind the cause, which is great preparation for a legislated ban. We can already live without them.

As we know, eliminating plastic from our lives takes some effort at first. That’s why attempting to stop using plastic bags, as a first step is much easier than eliminating all single use plastic at once. Acting sooner rather than later is a must, as we use 5 billion plastic bags in Australia each year, and 150 million of them end up as litter, either in landfill or in our waterways.

I’m not your lover of plastic, so I’ve been attempting to eliminate it from my life over some time. Some of the ways I’ve done this is by:

  • Taking reusable bags shopping with me and refusing disposal plastic bags
  • Avoiding takeaway food (well, at least, takeaway in plastic containers)
  • Saying no to straws
  • Reducing the purchase of plastic packaged food
  • Refusing bottled water and using a reusable bottle
  • Refusing disposable coffee cups and always having a reusable cup handy
  • Really thinking about my purchases and avoiding plastic where I can
  • Using bees wax wraps instead of cling wrap

Reusable beeswax wraps are a marvel! Not only do they work well, they look gorgeous too. Of course, I still have the plastic containers that I have collected over the years until I saw the light. So they also eliminate the single use of cling wrap, but I have to say the beeswax wrap is proving to be a success.

They can be used for wrapping sandwiches for lunches, wrapping cheese and covering food in the fridge. After use, you simply sponge with some detergent and cold water. Apparently they last for one year. And being biodegradable and non-toxic, they will break down in the ground, making it safe to continue to grow food.

The wraps I've bought are made in Australia, which is rare these days. They also contribute to the increase in the honeybee population, which has been rapidly in decline. They cost $45 for three different sized wraps, but so far I'm really impressed with the investment. Besides, you'd most likely spend more than that per year on cling wrap, which is only used once then ends up in landfill or in our oceans.

My more recent challenge for the family was the eliminating of the plastic toothbrush. I purchased environmental toothbrushes made from bamboo by another Australian company. All components of this product are biodegradable meaning that, unlike every other toothbrush I've used in my lifetime, this one won't outlive me!

So I think the next step for Daylesford is to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles and straws. It was with great excitement to read that Hepburn Shire Council have included in its council plan the introduction of a plastic wise policy. This means any events held on council land must ensure it is single-use plastic free – another great step forward to challenging that scary plastic in the ocean statistic.

Michelle Stephenson is a consultant specialising in sustainability with BE Designs. Visit her blog at www.bedesigns.com.au/blog