Single-Use Plastic, Not So Fantastic

Single-use plastic items pose a big threat to the environment in Australia as well as on a global scale.

Items such as single-use plastic bags, coffee cups, and plastic wrap for lunch items such as sandwiches all contribute to a growing waste problem around the world.

What's the problem?

In some years, Australians have used up to 3.9 billion, or sometimes more, lightweight single-use plastic bags. These are the kind you get at supermarkets, fast food outlets, petrol stations and other shops.

The large majority of these end up in the landfill after they're used, with some being recycled. Many of the bags end up as litter polluting waterways and other parts of the environment.

The making of

Plastic bags also take energy to create, which produces greenhouse gas emissions. Driving a car one kilometre emits the same amount of energy as manufacturing 8.7 plastic bags. 

Manufacturing a reusable, eco friendly shopping bag can cut energy waste as it consumes only  nine per cent of the energy and produces only ten per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions compared with using a traditional plastic bag.

The figures

Every year, organisation Clean Up Australia (CUA) holds a litter collection day, where various groups and individuals around Australia volunteer to pick up rubbish across the country.
They record the kinds of rubbish they come across which are then collated and analysed.

The 2012 Rubbish Report reveals that volunteers gathered approximately 16,346 tonnes of rubbish as part of the campaign.

The amount of plastic items collected increased from 33 per cent in 2011 to 38 per cent in 2012, including plastic bags, drink containers, bottle caps and lids, as well as food packaging and miscellaneous plastics.

Changing attitudes

This shows that Australia still has a significant waste problem. At any given opportunity, switch to reusable products in order to avoid having to use plastics.