Tag Archives: reuse

Plastic Free July

The Challenge: attempt to purchase no single-use plastic for the whole month of July

PlasticFreeJuly logo

So it’s been a while since I wrote a post, but I decided to take on a challenge this month and it’s something that I just have to share. It’s called Plastic Free July.

Plastic Free July was started as a local community initiative by the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Perth, Australia in 2011. Its popularity grew in 2012, so in 2013 PFJ expanded to include a website for the project and over 3,000 people around the world have already signed up.

So what’s the idea?

The challenge is simple: attempt to buy no single-use plastic for a month. ‘Single-use’ includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then sent to landfill. It’s not a competition, so you can keep a ‘dilemma bag’ for any unavoidable plastic that you purchase. There are lots of ways to share your stories and pics, ask for advice, or have a go at recipes and DIY’s for around the house that don’t use plastic. You can do it for a day, a week, or the whole month. You can also choose just to cut out the ‘Top Four’: straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids.

Why do this?

Basically, it’s a way to raise awareness about the amount of plastic that you use. That everybody uses. That could be avoidable.

Australians send 1 million tonnes of plastic waste to landfill every year. Every piece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. Why use something for only a few seconds that will take longer than the rest of your life to break down?

Most of the commonly used disposable plastic items are a convenience and the numbers are staggering. In one week we go through 10 billion plastic bags worldwide, in the USA an average of 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour whilst over 500 million straws are used daily!

There’s also the problem of recycling: whilst important, recycling will never be the solution to rapidly expanding consumption. Plastic Free July focuses on refusing, reducing and reusing. Plus it’s not always possible to recycle everywhere you go.

Some people are also becoming concerned about the health impacts of wrapping food in plastic. The UN and the WHO have even released some reports about it.

Plus of course an issue close to my heart: marine debris. More than 270 of the world’s marine animal species are affected by marine debris; it has a major impact including entanglement and ingestion. CSIRO estimates that there are more than 115 million bits of rubbish on Australia’s coastline. This averages about 5.2 pieces for every person in the country! 74% of all waste we find is plastic. 50% of the top items of ocean debris are associated with beverages. But by using your own drink bottle, takeaway cup and reusable straw (or refusing one) we can all become involved in the solution to reduce plastic consumption and waste.

How to Get Involved

You can register for Plastic Free July here. The website is really informative with lots more information and links to the issue, tips, recipes, tools, and even events in your area. Also, check them out on facebook and twitter. Why not take up the challenge, and see how your planetary footprint can be reduced.

Good luck! And thanks for caring 😀

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Plastic Oceans, Plastic Diet

I’ve seen, heard and thought a lot about plastic in the oceans recently.

The ABC programme Catalyst showed a 12-minute documentary last week which I was fortunate to catch (if you’re in the right internet zone you can view it here).  In it, the researchers showed how large amounts of small pieces of plastic can be found in almost any animal in the ocean, even down to zooplankton. They showed how CSIRO has been working around the Australian coast, documenting how much plastic is on our beaches and figuring out which currents brought it there in the largest marine debris study ever undertaken.  We were shown how seabird populations on Lord Howe Island especially have been declining rapidly, due to plastic ingestion by chicks (up to 150 pieces of plastic can be found in the birds’ stomachs, most from local sources).

It’s estimated that 3.5 million pieces of new plastic enter the world’s oceans daily.  Over 270 species worldwide are known to be affected by marine debris, including nearly half of all seabird species. But did you know how much it affects you?

Here is what Dr. Jennifer Lavers had to say in the programme:

The plastic itself inherently contains a wide array of chemicals that are used during the manufacturing and processes. When the plastic is put out into the marine environment and it floats around in the ocean for let’s say ten or forty years it really does last forever, it basically acts like a little magnet or a sponge and it takes all the contaminants that are out there in the ocean environment that are really diluted in the ocean water and it concentrates it up, onto the surface.

Plastic itself has up to a thousand times a higher concentration of contaminants on its surface than the surrounding seawater from which it came. And when the animal, whether it’s a turtle or a seabird takes that into their body, those contaminants leach out into the blood stream and is incorporated into the tissues.

There is now a huge range of studies that are coming out almost every month that are showing marine species at the absolute base of the food chain are ingesting these plastics and these contaminants.
Anything really that comes out of the ocean.. you cannot certify that as organic any longer.

It’s estimated fish in the North Pacific now consume up to twenty-four thousand tonnes of plastic a year. As one predator eats another contaminants biomagnify. This means the most vulnerable animal to the effects of toxic plastic contamination is the one at the very top of the food chain: us.

If you eat seafood in any fashion whatsoever the plastic pollution and corresponding contaminant problem has relevance to you.

That certainly hit home for me.

More than a billion people rely on fish as their primary protein source in daily diet.  The average Australian eats around 18kg of seafood every year, and this figure is growing.  We are confronted daily with newly discovered carcinogens and products that aren’t good for you.  But just imagine how much plastic you’ve ingested through eating a seemingly harmless (and also seemingly healthy) seafood diet?

And we all play a role in getting it there.

Another blogger, OceanicExplorer, recently shared this infographic about where plastic in the ocean comes from.  Whilst focussing on North American issues, similar rules apply to Australia. Click the image for a bigger picture.

Courtesy One World One Ocean. Click for larger version.

So what can we do to help?

Reduce your plastic use.  That’s not a particularly helpful thing to say. Pure Organic has a nice poster though:

9 Easy Ways to Use Less Plastic

If we all did just a few of these things, and thought a bit more about the plastic we use, maybe we would have a chance at cleaning up the ocean.  As it is, all plastic that has ever been produced is still here, on this planet… (and that’s a thought for another post, methinks).

I for one don’t want it in my body as well. Do you?

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Inky fingers

Or, how to reuse your ink cartridges without getting dirty

Recycle for a greener planet

Recycle for a greener planet

It’s amazing how many people still don’t recycle.  I mean seriously, how difficult is it to separate out your plastic, aluminium, and paper from everyday waste?  It’s not a messy or dirty task; all you have to do is place it in a different bin for someone else to whisk away.  Plus you get to feel good about saving planetary resources at the same time.  Who doesn’t like to feel good about everyday things in life?

Sadly, the answer to that is too many people.

If, however, you are someone who does know the difference between ‘recycle’ and ‘chuck-it-in-a-landfill-to-destroy-the-environment’, you may find, like me, that it’s still difficult to be recycling conscious of everything.  Take printer cartridges, for example.  I’ve been doing a lot of printing recently.  Turning over the pages manually helps save paper, but what to do when your ink runs out? (Apart from loudly venting your annoyance, of course.)

  1. Throw away the cartridge, rush to the shops, and buy a new one for an exorbitant price because you just need to keep printing, right now.
  2. Keep hold of your cartridge, rush to the cartridge shop, and swap it for a reduced price refilled one because you just need to keep printing, right now.
  3. Keep hold of your cartridge, rush to the cartridge shop, and wait whilst they refill and clean it for you, for less than the cost of buying a new one.  Then rush home to keep printing.
  4. Rush to wherever it is you store your new cartridges, install one, and sigh with relief as you keep printing.  Then take your old cartridge along to a recycling point at your leisure.
  5. Rush online to order a new cartridge, preferably at a ridiculously low price from Asia, then wait by the mailbox for two weeks until delivery, then rush off to continue printing.  Forget about the old cartridge in the meantime.
  6. Cry.  Because you really wanted that [insert here] and have no means to do it.


My first reaction upon ink running out was number 1, quickly followed by number 6.  And a lot of loud venting of annoyance at the houseplant.  Given a few moments to breathe, however, and I turned to number 4.  I really don’t like paying a lot of money for things that you can buy So Cheaply online. And my print job could wait a bit, honestly.

Wait a minute. Where do these Mega Cheap cartridges come from?  How much oil and power and carbon emissions are used to produce them?  Who is benefiting?  Is it really worth the extra cents to produce another new cartridge when there are other means out there of producing my essential printing item?  Shouldn’t my recycling poster/Justin Bieber pinup be made with green ink, not dirty black?  (I’m sure even JB would prefer that. Maybe.)

  • It’s estimated that over 80% of used cartridges go straight to landfill.
  • Australians throw away more than 18 million printer cartridges per year.
  • Printer cartridges are made up of a complex combination of plastics, metals, foam, ink and toner. Throwing them away represents a waste of resources and contributes to the growing problem of electronic waste.
  • Material resources, water and energy (and therefore carbon emissions) are used to manufacture new printer cartridges.  Metals mined from the earth’s crust, plastics derived from petroleum.  These resources are finite – there are limited amounts of them that can be extracted.  The plastic in each new laser toner cartridge takes three and a half quarts (approx. 15.91 litres) of oil to produce, while each new inkjet cartridge requires 70 ml of oil.
  • Some kinds of toner dust contain hazardous materials.  Inkjet inks can also contain a range of chemicals that are harmful to the environment.  These materials pose no threat while they are contained within the cartridge.  But they can escape when cartridges are pulled apart in poorly managed refilling or recycling operations or when dumped cartridges start to deteriorate in landfill.  Toner dust is also extremely fine (5 – 15 microns), so it can easily leach from landfill into nearby waterways, ground water and ultimately the oceans.
  • Landfill is not a long term solution – it just leaves the problem for future generations to deal with.  Some cartridges can leak toner dust and residue ink in landfill, contributing to pollution. The plastics and metals are not readily biodegradable – a laser cartridge (more than 90% of cartridges thrown away are this type) can take up to 450 years to decompose in landfill. That’s long enough to forget who even Justin Bieber is.

Simple solution

Reuse or recycle your cartridges.  Reduce waste, save water and energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make better use of our resources.

And the thing is, it’s so easy to reuse your old cartridges.  You can’t give them to your ordinary household recyclers because of all the different components.  But in Australia, Cartridge World can swap you a newly refilled ink cartridge for less than the price of buying a new one.  The main brands are stocked on shelf so you can just waltz in and give them your old cartridge to clean out and refill for the next guy. Some brands can be refilled while you wait.  If they can’t reuse your cartridge, it gets sent off to be recycled.

If you’d rather have new ink, but want to recycle, you can drop off your cartridges at a recycling point. Now that sounds like effort…  But it’s not, honestly.  The Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program has recycled over 18 million printer cartridges so far, and is aiming to reach 20 million by 2013.  You can drop your cartridges into all Officeworks and JB Hi-Fi stores, and at participating Australia Post, Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, Tandy and The Good Guys outlets.  Pretty convenient.

Plus – and here’s my favourite bit – recycling is free.  In the Planet Ark program, leading cartridge brands pay for the running costs including collection, transport, sorting and recycling.  Businesses actually being environmentally responsible, well that’s pretty cool.

But if you want to get your hands dirty..

Well, that’s OK too.  Why not get an ink cartridge refill kit?  Do it yourself, kind of thing.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Sometimes these things are best left to the professionals.

My houseplant can attest to that.

Turn your black printer cartridges green. Cartridge World Ad.
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