A New Plastics Plan for Australia

Plastics have become a less desirable part of our society over recent years and now the Australian Government have come up with a National Plastics Plan (NPP) to try to address some of the more wasteful plastics in our economy and the effects they are having on our waterways and oceans.

The NPP focusses on reducing plastics that are being marketed as biodegradeable, but in fact just give us microplastics, which accumulate in the environment and in animals. It also seeks to address ocean pollution, reduce expanded polystyrene (EPS) and PVC packaging labels, like the crunchy plastic on some drink bottles.

One big push is for the plastics in our economy to be more easily recycled. Less composites. Less lower value plastics. So what are the different plastic types and how can we alter our purchasing to avoid them?

Plastics are commonly categorised into 7 types:

  1. PET or polyethylene terephthalate - most commonly found in single use water bottles

  2. HDPE or high density polyethylene - like your milk containers

  3. PVC or polyvinyl chloride - used in plumbing, electrical and toys

  4. LDPE or low density polyethylene - in the ubiquitous plastic bag, cling wrap and food bottles

  5. PP or polypropylene - for hoses, thermal underwear, plant pots and furniture

  6. PS or polystyrene - takeaway food and beverage containers and packaging insulation

  7. Other - a growing category that includes all sorts of common, composite, niche and new plastics. A few widely used are polycarbonates (sunglasses), polylactic acids (PLA - takeaway food containers and ABS (computer casing).

So the government are starting to take some action to reduce our dependency on plastic and the waste it generates. How can we do the same in our own households and workplaces? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

  1. Shopping - take reusable textile bags to carry your shopping in.

  2. Food - buy products that are not packaged in plastic, or at least avoid multiple layers of packaging for starters

  3. Kitchen - use glass or ceramic containers with lids, or wax wraps to store food instead of plastic bags or cling wrap

  4. Drinking - carry a reusable long-lasting metal water bottle with you everywhere to avoid using a plastic water bottle

  5. Don't buy plastic stuff - so many products around us have plastic as a major component, from clothing to toys to tech products to car products to building materials. Buy products made from natural materials, sustainably sourced and buy products that are durable to reduce the frequency of your purchase.

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