The exhibition called “Mural By The Sea” which can be seen in the coastal town of Margate in England places in the spotlight the amount of junk that all of us contribute to the planet.
One of those is British man Daniel Webb, who contributed 4,490 pieces of plastic waste to the giant billboard.
That said, here are a few easy-to-do changes that we can all practice to one day transform landfill mountains into mole-hills.
The goal of reducing plastic waste can be attained by making a change with the little things such as your toothbrush. It might seem like nit-picking, but according to research, Australians throw out around 900 tonnes of toothbrushes every year.
There are now a range of biodegradable options to pick from, mostly made from bamboo. According to the people behind The Environmental Toothbrush, the first eco-friendly toothbrush in the world was designed here in Australia.
“It was invented in Brisbane by a lady dentist back in 2008,” said director James Wilson.
Bamboo is fast-growing and strong, making it a renewable alternative for plastic, and it can be thrown in the compost when you’re finished.
Composting food scraps rather than throwing them in the bin can be up to 25 times better for the world we live in. When your food scraps get buried in landfill, they breakdown anaerobically into methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the potential for warming compared to carbon dioxide.
By composting our food waste in aerobic conditions such as a compost bin, they still generate carbon dioxide as they break down, but methane is restricted.
According to Gardening Australia researcher and horticulturalist Patrick Hona, you can start an outdoor compost with as little as one square metre of space. The key lies in balancing the ratio of nitrogen and carbon. This sounds all complex but is actually pretty straightforward if you follow some basic rules.
Household waste such food leftovers, tea leaves, and things like chicken manure are all high in nitrogen, whereas as things like lawn clippings and straw are high in carbon. Add these to your compost pile in a ratio of one part nitrogen to around 15 parts carbon, keep the pile moist but not waterlogged, turn it occasionally and you’re away.
Ditch the coffee pods
Billions of aluminium and plastic coffee pods can be found in landfill each year. Australians consume an estimated 3 million single-serve coffee pods every day, says the University of Melbourne’s sustainable campus advice, and the mixed plastic and aluminium kind are unable to be sorted at our recycling facilities.
The problem is so troublesome that former Nespresso boss Jean-Paul Gaillard appealed people to stop utilizing them two years ago. He even wrote to Nespresso’s advertising celebrity George Clooney, letting him know of the environmental effects of the pods, but said he didn’t receive a response.
So what are the alternatives? If you’re really into the pods, select the 100% aluminium variety, which can be returned to some stores and participating florists for recycling. There are some compostable pod options on the market. But there are also user-friendly home coffee machines that do not at all require pods at all. Some will automatically grind beans into standard shots, ready to be poured.
Woolworths Group says it hands out over 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags every year, with another few billion coming out of Coles and independent supermarkets. But the bag bans are set to be implemented: Every state and territory except New South Wales and Victoria will have single-use plastic bans by July 1, and Woolies and Coles are launching their own nationwide bans.
They’ll still be offering heavy-duty plastic bags for a nominal fee, but those thicker bags take around four times the energy to produce, and still end up breaking down into harmful microplastics in the ocean.
The best option, says Professor Sami Kara from the University of New South Wales, is to buy multi-use bags made from cotton or other biodegradable materials, or even make them yourself.
If you’re only going to make a change to just one thing, going plastic bag free is arguably the single biggest way you can reduce your waste today.