Social Justice

A Plastic Ocean

On Tuesday 1 August, six members of our Green Team took up the invitation from Wenona School to attend a screening of the documentary A Plastic Ocean at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney. We were accompanied by Mr Patrick Lai who successfully navigated the pitfalls of public transport to ensure that we arrived in time for the film, despite cancelled and delayed trains.

A Plastic Ocean was an enlightening and educational film which explored the significant impacts of plastic on the ocean and aquatic life. One of the most impactful parts of the film showed scientists cutting into the carcasses of dead sea birds and finding their stomachs full of plastic. The birds had died because they had mistaken the indigestible plastic for food which had then caused a blockage in their stomachs. It was truly eye-opening to see the impact of human actions on the innocent aquatic animals.

The film also explained the dangers of micro plastics which are commonly found in health and beauty products such as face scrubs and toothpastes. Though they seem insignificant, these pieces of plastic are eaten by small fish species and then make their way up the food chain where they can be eaten by humans.

The film also discussed the problem of single use plastic bags and how these are regularly ingested by marine animals. One startling fact presented in the film was that 1,000,000 plastic bags are used every minute. Many of these are not responsibly disposed of and become pollution in the ocean. In one instance a turtle had been brought into a marine animal rescue centre because it had ingested plastic. This had caused a build-up of gas in the turtle’s stomach which prevented it from diving properly.

As well as exposing the damage caused by plastic, the film also featured some of the positive work being done in this area. One example is the Plastic Bank which allows people to exchange plastic for money. For many people this can act as a pathway out of poverty by providing a source of income. The organisation sells the collected plastic to recycling companies so that it can be repurposed and does not end up in the ocean. The Plastic Bank has currently prevented over 3 million kg of plastic from entering the ocean. Another example of positive progress is the development of plasma guns which are used for waste management on US Navy ships. These are able to convert plastic back into its original elements so that it can be disposed of safely. Both of these programs are doing their bit to help the ocean and will have positive long term impacts.

The film highlighted the importance of community involvement in order to overcome the current plastic crisis which has enveloped the ocean. As much as possible we need to limit our consumption of single-use plastic. This can be implemented in small acts such as buying unpackaged fruits and vegetables from supermarkets and bringing reusable bags. We also need to dispose of waste thoughtfully so that it doesn’t end up in the oceans. Through working together, we can reverse some of the damage caused to the ocean so that marine life can prosper and the ocean can be a place enjoyed by humans for generations to come.

If you would like to watch this film, it is currently available on Netflix.

 

Dominica Leaver

Social Justice Captain Elect  

 

Plastic Bag Ban

As identified above, plastic-bag litter is a disaster in the marine environment. They also contribute to landfill and the energy used in their manufacture and transport carries a significant carbon footprint. It is necessary to convince the NSW Government that a state-wide ban is still required despite promised corporate action  by Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm.

Even if Coles/Woolworths/Harris Farm bags do account for 80 per cent of the plastic bags used by Australians, this leaves 20 per cent unaccounted for. The maths is quite simple: 20 per cent of 4 billion per year is still over 2 million bags PER DAY.

Conscious consumers are increasing in number, but until there is no mandatory alternative, too many people will continue to use single-use plastic bags and some of those people will not dispose of them appropriately. The culture needs to shift across the planet and as it is already in so many countries and other states; NSW is currently dragging its feet and needs our voices to force its hand.

You may have already signed a petition to “Ban the Bag”. Writing letters and making phone calls can sometimes be more effective. If you need to understand the problem with plastic bags more fully, please check out this PDF from Greenpeace.

  • Letter Writing to Members of Parliament –  if you would like a letter template, please email me
  • Making a telephone call: 
    • Click on this link for “how to” make a powerful phone call and facts/details to support your argument to ban single-use plastic bags across all sectors.
    • Call 8574 5000 when you are ready between 9am and 5pm (AEST)

For information about alternatives to using plastic bags, click here

 

Mrs Elizabeth Cranfield

Ecology Coordinator