Stop plastic pollution: Why #plasticfreetravel is a movement we should all be behind

Single-use plastics are sooooo 1976. The Queensland Government’s ban on single-use plastic bags comes into effect today.

That’s right, a state-wide ban, which applies to all retailers, including takeaway outlets, pharmacies and markets, is being rolled out just a few weeks after Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains – Woolworths and Coles – introduced bans on single-use plastic bags in their stores nationwide. The move will also be coupled with a recycling refund scheme of 10 cents that will apply to most drink bottles between 150 mL and 3L, just one more step in the right direction for our oceans and the Great Barrier Reef.

With crazy stats of up to 2.4 billion recyclable drink bottles and 1 billion lightweight single-use shopping bags used in Queensland each year – ending up as plastic pollution in our waterways – it’s time to get serious about #plasticfreetravel.

Here’s what some Queensland councils and operators are doing to help.

A bright outlook on the Sunshine Coast

Tourists flying into Sunshine Coast Airport have been given complimentary reusable bags for use during their visit in the lead-up to the #Qldbagban. Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said the organisation was taking part in the initiative to help educate visitors on reducing their plastic waste in preparation for the single-use plastic bag ban being introduced on July 1, 2018.

University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer in animal ecology Dr Kathy Townsend will be tracking the ban on plastic bags by monitoring the marine debris found inside dead sea life in waters off the Fraser Coast.

“Plastic bags are notoriously dangerous for turtles and seabirds who mistake them for food and choke or get tangled among them until they cannot swim or fly,” Dr Townsend said.

Cairns City Council agrees it’s the last straw

Ten-year-old Molly Steer has also jumped on the #saynotoplastics bandwagon, helping to convince Cairns City Council to phase out the use of plastic straws in its operations for the first time in Queensland’s history.

Molly has been running the Straw No More campaign in her hometown in Tropical North Queensland, which is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, for more than a year. The plucky tween also presented a TEDx talk on the subject at James Cook University entitled “Straws Really Do Suck”.

Molly says she was motivated to push for the ban after seeing a movie called A Plastic Ocean, where she learned that “single-use plastic never breaks down and our oceans are filling up with plastic and killing marine life”.

Founder of a similar campaign called The Last Straw, marine biologist Nicole Nash has managed to convince 30 tourism operators in Cairns and Port Douglas to ban plastic straws.

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort agrees #strawssuck and has eliminated them from the resort in order to reduce the island’s environmental footprint. Lady Elliot is also the first island on the Great Barrier Reef to eliminate selling bottled water full-stop.

Off the coast of Gladstone, the Pumpkin Xpress vessel is the 100th vessel to jump on the bandwagon, committing to never using straws again.

Communities Caring for our Coastlines

Tim Silverwood, CEO of Take 3 for the Sea, says he’s heartened by initiatives such as the #QldBagBan. Silverwood’s not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009 started out as a clean beach initiative to encourage Australians to ‘take three bits of rubbish for the sea’.

The organisation also delivers education programs to Queensland schools and community groups that inspire locals to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations.

“Take 3 has always been about people collaborating and not one single force. It’s about locals feeling empowered to start their own activities,” he says.

“I’m going back up to southeast Queensland soon to help launch a new project called Ocean Hearts in Mooloolaba where the guy who started it said he was inspired by the work Take 3 is doing. He has decided to take it upon himself to clean up his local beach and he is inspiring others to join him. That’s what Take 3 is all about,” he says.

Up in The Whitsundays, Libby Edge’s Eco Barge Clean Seas program has also been removing plastic waste from the Whitsunday Islands for almost 10 years, helping to save the lives of marine animals, as well as educating locals to reduce land-based litter in the tropical north.

What to pack for a plastic-free holiday:

Plastic-free travel kit  | Stop plastic pollution

Photo by @biomestores

  • A refillable BPA-free drink bottle
  • Eco bags
  • A reusable Keep Cup for takeaway coffee/tea
  • Food wraps made from beeswax
  • A reusable bag or basket for your groceries
  • Always BYO plastic lunch boxes

What to say ‘no’ to:

  • If you do have to order a takeaway coffee, say ‘no’ to the lid
  • Many bakeries package their bread in plastic. Ask for a brown paper bag, instead.
  • When you’re at a supermarket, you don’t need to put vegetables in plastic.
  • Say no to beer and soft-drink rings that aren’t eco-friendly
    When ordering takeaway food, BYO containers
  • If you’re ordering sushi, refuse the plastic fish and BYO soy sauce

How are you travelling plastic-free? Share your tips with us below.