We've banned the bag, but what about plastic bottles?
Following news that Australia’s two biggest supermarkets have banned plastic bags, the plastic pollution conversation is intensifying each day.
Woolworths alone provided 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags last year, so the ban on plastic bags is a major win in the fight against unnecessary plastic, but it’s not the end of the war. We need to also highlight the plight of single-use plastic bottles.
A staggering one million single-use plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute — that’s about 20,000 bottles each second. Closer to home, a recent report from Roy Morgan Australia found that 5.3 million people, or 27.1% of the Australian population, drank bottled water in any given week.
We recently partnered with Clean Up Australia and were shocked to hear that plastic amounts to a staggering 35% of all rubbish picked up by volunteers on Clean Up Australia Day.
Although the majority of these single-use plastic bottles are recyclable, the sad reality is that mountains of plastic end up in landfill or washed out to sea, taking up to 1000 years to break down.
The fight against single-use plastic bottles can’t just be left to governments or supermarkets; we as business leaders and consumers shouldn’t be scared to push big plastic polluters to take responsibility.
In December 2016, SodaStream was issued a letter from the International Bottled Water Association, a front for major plastic manufacturers, demanding that we immediately cease and desist from airing a tongue-in-cheek plastic Walk of Shame video. But we didn’t back down. We wanted to highlight the fact that single-use plastic bottles represent a real threat to the environment.
Sadly, we’re not the only ones who have felt the wrath of big plastic’s team of lobbyists and lawyers. For more than five years, Coca-Cola Amatil was vehemently opposed to a container deposit scheme. They even took the Northern Territory government to court over it.
This is why we need to take action against big plastic’s influence and help change consumer habits, because without change our kids will be swimming among dirty old Mount Franklin and Pure Life water bottles.
Changing drinking habits
We can’t just leave the fight against plastic to environmental groups like Clean Up Australia and Greenpeace alone, consumers need to be empowered to make a change to their bottled water drinking habits.
Simple and easy changes to how we stay hydrated can have a drastic and welcomed effect to the number of single-use plastic bottles that are thrown away every day. The first, cheapest and most effective option is drinking tap water. It’s that simple. Australia has some of the cleanest and best-tasting water in the world.
These preventive measures are good but to really make the change that we need to protect the environment in the future we need to ban the single-use plastic bottle. A small behavioural change will protect the millions of creatures and habitats impacted by plastic pollution each year and will improve the quality of life for humans now and in the future.
Return and earn
A real incentive for recycling plastic bottles is the only way we’ll be able to effectively move the needle.
Clean up Australia and SodaStream are strong advocates of a national container deposit scheme, which rewards people with 10c when single-use plastic bottles are returned via collection mechanisms such as vending machines.
The scheme has been effective in reducing litter and increasing recycling rates, with South Australia now having the lowest proportion of beverage containers reported at Clean Up Australia sites.
Victoria is the only state government which resists community pressure to adopt a scheme. According to The Greens, a Victorian Cash for Container scheme would save ratepayers approximately $48 million a year; and earn $15 million a year for charities.
So what’s the problem, Premier Daniel Andrews? You will happily ban plastic bags, but single-use plastic bottle waste in our landfill and oceans is OK?
The town of Bundanoon, NSW, showed what is possible when it voted to ban the sale of bottled water within the town precinct in 2009. Nine years later, the ban still exists and it’s working. Businesses have available for sale re-usable drink bottles and chilled filtered tap water, whilst both free filtered water stations, and water fountains or ‘bubblers’, provide for the general public and for local primary school children.
If an entire town can make this change and ban the bottle, I’m confident all of Australia can come together in our ongoing fight against the plight of single-use plastic bottles.
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