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Environmental campaigners challenge Australians to ditch plastic

The Plastic Free July Foundation is launching a campaign to reduce the 20 million tonnes of waste being sent to landfills every year

Environmental campaigners are urging Australians to stop using plastic ahead of a new movement to reduce plastic consumption.

Despite there being a single-use plastic bag ban in all states but NSW, Australians are being urged to take personal action to reduce their plastic use in an effort to stop the increasing production of waste every year.

Founder of Plastic Free July Foundation (PFJ), Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, said that virtually every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists in some form today.

“Plastic, particularly single-use plastic or ‘throw-away’ plastic items, are not getting recycled effectively and are having a detrimental impact on our environment.”

It is estimated that each Australian produces around 565 kilograms of waste every year and 20 million tonnes goes to landfill in this country alone.

PFJ’s campaign, now in its seventh year and a global movement, is challenging all Australians to find new ways to reduce their plastic consumption. The foundation is launching its ‘Choose to Refuse’ campaign next month.

Consulting Behavioural Economist, Colin Ashton-Graham, is supporting the challenge, saying: “Plastic Free July works because it connects our shared desire to protect the environment with strong social norms around avoiding litter and waste.”

The campaign is also receiving support by Aussie celebrities. Maroons State of Origin winning coach, Mal Meninga, is supporting Queensland’s move to ban plastic bags. Under the changes, no retailer will be able to provide customers with single-use plastic bags, under penalty of $6,000.

“We cannot afford to stand by and let the damages caused by plastic shopping bags continue to happen,” Meninga said. “I’m calling on everyone to pick up the ball and play their role in making Queensland’s plastic bag ban a success.”

The National Retailers Association is also urging shoppers to be aware of the changeover date of July 1 for both Queensland and Western Australia’s plastic bag ban and is asking people to be customers to be patient during the transition.

Recent images taken on Lord Howe Island illustrate the detrimental affect plastic has on the environment. The images show local birds that have been found dead on the beach with a stomach full of plastic waste.

Prince-Ruiz said: “Those visuals shock everybody, but people don’t make that connection with their behaviour.”

Plastic Free July started in Western Australia in 2011 and is one of the world’s only foundations tackling the prevalence of single-use plastic consumption reduction. The awareness campaigns have the support from millions of people in 159 countries.

“Although the size of the plastic waste is frightening, the numbers tell us that small actions can make big impacts,” Prince-Ruiz said.

The 2017 campaign saw participating households reduce their landfill waste rates by nearly 10 per cent, accounting for 10,400 fewer tonnes in Western Australia.

“By asking people to ‘Choose to Refuse’ PFJ participants are empowered to make a difference on one plastic item and then to notice all the other plastics they could act upon on a daily basis,” Ashton-Graham said.

“Simply, our commitment to making a difference when we engage our ‘hands’ in taking personal actions.”

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