July 29 - August 4, 2018: Issue 369

Community Celebration Of Living A Plastic Free Life Sounds All The Right Notes In All The Right Directions

For some of us paper bags were what the groceries were carried home in - those and wicker baskets or string bags - plastic bags did not exist. There was Tupperware, but that was 'indestructible' even if time has proved it will fade in colour and not fit lids as the once sharp edges round, and then there were plastic buckets measured in gallons for those used in washing cars instead of that old steel version. Garbage bins were lined with newspapers - organic scraps went back into the garden or fed the chooks. The sandwich for school lunch was wrapped in paper too.

There was a completeness to the cycles of everything going on inside and outside the home - dirty water went into the garden to grow vegetables and trees, old clothes were cut up to make brilliant coloured quilts or, if rags, became polishing items used for making shoes, floors and cars shine. Wooden pegs used to hang out washing never wore out, nor did jute string, and if they did deteriorate, it was back into the earth they went, as food to grow more dirt, more fresh air, more clean water- as these things are all made from natural products.

There was a completeness to the cycles of everything fitting neatly into everything else - as everything is connected - with no bump in the cycles or machine, and no falling out from the edges into a massive landfill pit that must grow and grow as more and more falls out of those turning cycles that cannot break back down into its first grains and feed the earth. 

This began before many of us were born, in bakelite phones, then all the inventions that came as part of WWII and followed until 'booms' in items that were not natural came in successive waves through the 1950's and 1960's.

Plastic bags were first encountered in childhood showbags filled with goodies in the late 1970's and then they began appearing in supermarkets in the 1980's and within a few years people began noticing and talking and writing about:

In light of the recent publicity on television on the damage plastic bags can cause wildlife, I'd just like to remind all your readers as to how important it is to collect plastic rubbish from our beaches.
Remember, every plastic bag you collect could save the life of a seabird or sea mammal.
A fellow plastic collector
Plastic (1989, May 12). Times (Victor Harbor, SA : 1987 - 1999), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190891874

Too much had fallen out of the once fitting into each other completely cycles by then, while the clunking of the machine now sounding a note of amiss continued and grew faster and faster - only now it had grown to a cacophony of loud off-key to just plain wrong and jarring notes.
The landfill pits were having to grow larger and deeper to keep pace with receiving this other 'opera house' of song. 

A generation of 'yeah-but's, who left it up to others to pick up the rubbish 'everybody else is doing it' had arrived so that by the mid 1980's Palm Beach would have rubbish on its sand and green reserves every single half foot, in all directions - and not just paper - but shiny silver plastic chip packets and lolly wrappers, and then, as the glass bottle for soft drink and milk fell to the plastic version (as that didn't require being collected, washed and reused and thereby increased the mighty profit), a tide of plastic bottles and plastic caps would get blown into the ocean with some of it returning on the very next tide until the bays of Pittwater and the beaches had a rim of plastic pollution.

That which didn't come back........was already destroying the wildlife so many who live here would point to as the best part of this place - living side by side with what has long been here, in an urban and still green bush and water nature reserve or park.

The Plastic Collectors grew in number - as did those who knew and know 'the situation is not sustainable and that someone must do something about it. They might even be willing to make an occasional donation to an environmental charity. But ask them to take action themselves, especially if that involves even a low level of inconvenience, and the Yeah-buts sound their call.'

The Plastic Collectors were joined by the 'How to turn waste into a design opportunity' inventors - new ways to break down once unbreakable down plastics were being sought and found - as were microplastics - once found in cosmetics (Vanity, vanity - all that is just vanity!) - in the deepest depths of all oceans.

The Collectors, Inventors, and those seeking to Restore the complete cycles - the surfers, the gardeners, the scientists, the old and the young. They all knew the someones who must 'do something about it' was them - the someone who must do something about this is you.

So, instead of spending all their time wringing their hands, and sitting down and crying with their heads hung low - they got up and got to work - they cleaned and clean the beaches, knowing those tides will come in for years yet. They made their own bags, like those of old, from cloth, from string, and refused plastic. They went back to sipping ice cold cool clean water from a glass cup.

They started Living Ocean - for a Living Ocean. They started the Surfrider Foundation - for a plastic free ocean. They started Avalon Boomerang Bags, for a future free of plastic bags. They started the Av. Green Team and then changed it to the The Green Team so that everyone knew that everyone is welcome and all belong in claiming back the parks and beaches.

They had those who came before to look to - the Annie Wyatts who were planting trees from the 1930's while so many were being cut down during the 1940's -1950's house build boom around here. They had the example of Angophora Reserve - set aside for all flora and fauna so that could remain a place for the wildlife and plants to live. They had for an example another lover of the oceans and bush in Mr. Kiernan and an Australian legacy to the world that began as Keep Australia Beautiful to Clean Up Australia.

They may not have inherited the earth from their ancestors as they would like it - but they are determined to safeguard it for the future generations and turn this plastic tide.

Yesterday, as a Plastic Free July celebration a fully fledged festival took place that sounded out more than few notes of the old accord of complete cycles and harmony being restored. 

For the first time, ocean conservation charity LIVING OCEAN hosted a HUGE day of beach cleans, great food, live music, workshops, face painting, films, a discussion panel of community and environmental leaders, to showcase all the great work our community is doing in order to live a Plastic Free Life.

Held on Saturday 28 July as part of the Plastic Free July initiative, Living Ocean partnered with Ausmap and Surfrider Foundation for a mega Avalon Beach Clean. They were joined by Mark and Maria, just travelling, just house-sitting in Avalon Beach and deciding they'd come along and help out the community they're guests in. 

"Apart from the usual – glass & plastic bottles, straws, cigarette butts and straws - we also found a couple of scissors, the lid of a chilly bin, some weird contraption covered in plastic and packing tape (it looked like a home made seat of some sort), a “welcome mat”, and a bird’s house.

"We like getting involved whenever we get the opportunity in the places we visit (and we get to visit a lot whilst house-sitting). Tomorrow morning we’re heading down to Collins Beach to help with their cleanup at 10am. We’ll see what we find there!" - Maria & Mark Atkins*

As that was finishing people could Wander Lightly over to Barrenjoey High School and hear how they can make a difference and take part in some genuine ‘citizen science’ or got hands-on Bees Wax Wraps workshop, learn how to make your own non-plastic food wraps or even a shopping bag from an old t-shirt.

It was good - it was great - reminded you of the Sustainable Alley that used to be a feature of some events around here not so long ago. In fact this plastic-free celebration will stand as one signpost along a journey of many thousands of steps in showing we are determined to get back to our original state of 'home'.

Some pictures that speak louder than all these aforementioned words....clearly the future's a lot brighter since these individuals and these groups came along.
NB: there is No legislated phase out and ban in New South Wales on plastic bags. That which is happening now is people-power driven and commercial entities responding to that.

Elsewhere in Australia:
Ban since 2009 (South Australia)
Ban since 2011 (Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory)
Ban since 2013 (Tasmania)
Ban from 2018 (Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria)

Report and images by A J Guesdon, 2018.
* Can someone hire the Atkins so they stay here please - we need visitors like these!
Maria & Mark Atkins - International House & Pet Sitters and Cat Sitting Specialists - Our service is FREE! - Find out more atwww.housepetsitters.com