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The Age of Plastic

The Age of Plastic


By: Garry Knox

When you think of Australia you think of the sea, coral and other elements of marine beauty but all is not as it seems…

The use of plastic is starting to have a huge impact on the marine environment and all who live near it or indeed in it.

Litter is probably a universal problem but three-quarters of the trash found off Australian beaches is plastic, a new study says, warning that the rubbish is entangling and being swallowed by wildlife.

Researchers surveyed the vast Australian coastline at intervals of about 100 kilometres, compiling the world’s largest collection of marine debris data, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said.

The report, part of a three-year marine debris research and education program developed by Earthwatch Australia with CSIRO and energy group Shell, found there were two main drivers of the pollution – littering and illegal dumping.

Rubbish found included glass and plastic bottles, cans, bags, balloons, pieces of rubber, metal and fibreglass, as well as fishing gear and other items lost or discarded in or near the sea.

The report said this marine debris not only posed a navigation hazard but could smother coral reefs, transport invasive species, harm tourism and kill and injure wildlife.

It warned that litter impacted wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, but also indirectly via the chemicals it introduced into marine ecosystems.

Smaller turtle species in particular ingested the debris, possibly because soft, clear plastic resembled its natural prey jellyfish. They also estimate that between 5,000 and 15,000 turtles have been killed in the Gulf of Carpentaria after becoming ensnared by derelict fishing nets mostly originating from overseas.

So what can we all do? As businesses, we can look to reduce the amount of plastic that we use for packaging, from garment poly robes to carrier bags and doing what you can to influence customer behaviour; without appearing to preach. As consumers, it’s as simple as not littering.

There is usually a greener option in life (like choosing GreenEarth® over perc) but it is just a case of making the effort to take that option.

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