June 5 - 11, 2016: Issue 266

World Environment Day and World Ocean Day 2016: Taking Action for a Living Ocean and Living Earth Locally

 White-face heron in Carrel Creek, Pittwater.

World Ocean Day is June 8th each year. The 2016 theme for World Ocean Day is 'Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet' with a focus on plastic pollution, not only the clean up which must be ongoing but stopping this from occurring at its source. Plastics are choking our oceans, all they are home to and all that finds their home beside and around them. As the planet's oceans produce most of the oxygen we need to breathe, as just one item at the top of a long long list, not using microbead products, not buying disposable bottles or using plastic bags, will begin to stop this pollution at its source. 

This parallels the 2016 theme for World Environment Day, June 5th each year, Go Wild for Life. This theme is to encourage everyone to celebrate all those species under threat and take action of your own to help safeguard them for future generations. This can be about animals or plants that are threatened within your local area as well as at the national or global level.

At least two generations in Pittwater will remember when their shopping was packed in brown paper bags or cloth-string bags brought from home. That's how quickly this form of pollution has been in its disastrous effect on our oceans. 

On 27 February 2015, at the Meeting of the Environment Ministers, the then NSW Minister for the Environment, Rob Stokes, member for Pittwater, proposed developing a national approach to plastic bags. EPA investigated options, producing preliminary findings in Plastic shopping bags options paper which also outlined policy options that were presented at the Meeting of the Environment Ministers in December 2015. The outcome here was to convene a 'Ministerial Roundtable', its purpose being 'to inform a harmonised approach to reducing the environmental impacts of plastic shopping bags and review experiences of jurisdictions who have implemented plastic shopping bags bans'. The meeting was held on February 29th, 2016. The outcome there was a decision to establish a steering committee, 'to continue working towards a harmonised approach to reducing the amount of plastic that makes its way into our marine environment. '

In the NSW Environmental Protection Authority's 2016 published Plastic shopping bags options paper  the Introduction states, "based on 2007 data, approximately 3.9 billion single use light weight plastic shopping bags are used annually. In 2003, 86% of Australians said they recycle or reuse plastic bags, primarily re-using them as bin liners around their homes.  Given population, consumption and the end of the Australian Retailers Plastic Bag Code of Practice, plastic shopping bag consumption appears to be steadily increasing.

In New South Wales, it is estimated that two billion plastic bags are consumed each yearwith only 14% being recycled. The average useful life of a plastic bag is 12 minutes before it is discarded, either for disposal at landfill (1.72 billion bags) or as litter." [1.] 

Tasmania, South Australia and the Territories have already banned the use of those grey shopping bags we still find in our supermarkets. The NSW Government, along with Queensland and Victoria, are still dragging their feet. Interestingly the Victorian representative to the above convened Feb. 2016 meeting, in announcing their concurrence to 'continue working towards' approximate double the amounts of plastic bags being consumed - or "Approximately 7-8 billion plastic bags are consumed nationally each year."

The current cost each one-use plastic bag is estimated at 2-3 cents.

2005 Case Study,  ... our future, is in the bag” of the Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils aimed to reduce plastic bag use by exchanging plastic bags for calico bags resulted in 400 thousand plastic bags being diverted from landfill in three months.The members of REROC are/were the councils of: Bland, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Greater Hume, Gundagai, Junee, Lockhart, Temora, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Urana, Wagga Wagga, Goldenfields Water and Riverina Water. REROC covers an area in excess of 43,000 sq. kms and a population of approximately 140,000.

The NSW Government has taken a much speedier approach to turning the tide on plastic bottles though, announcing on May 8th 2016 the long awaited Container deposit scheme, wherein "Beverage suppliers (manufacturer, importer, wholesaler or retailer) that bring eligible containers into NSW will be responsible for funding the refund as well as associated costs."

Once again there are at least two generations in Pittwater who will fondly remember collecting cans for cash for pocket money for lollies, ice creams and other associated childhood health foods, or for your local club - Scouts, Girl Guides, Sailing, Surf Life Saving. 

Living Ocean, who lead the local charge to decrease plastic bottle use, and clean up the insidious return to our creeks and beaches on a regular basis of all rubbish, mostly these (and straws, plastic bottle caps), are also the residents whose members have joined with the Surfrider Foundation to establish Avalon Boomerang Bags. Boomerang Bags are hand made reusable returnable cloth bags. Their aim - make Avalon plsic bag free and then extend it out from this village to those that surround Avalon Beach. 

Weekly sewing bees are held on Tuesdays from 11am to 5pm at Avalon Recreation Centre. Donations of materials or getting involved is welcome. You keep up to date on the Avalon Boomerang Bags facebook page.

Living Ocean, through their ongoing 'No Plastic Please' initiative aims  "to create a positive behaviour change within our community by encouraging more sustainable consumption of items such as: plastic bags, bottles and coffee cup lids."

On Monday the 6th of June Living Ocean will be sharing the film Racing Extinction at Cranzgots Pizza Cafe. An eye opening, inspiring, and life changing documentary that discusses the destructive impact we as a human species are having on the planet. From the same film makers that made 'The Cove', Racing Extinction is a must see. Tickets are $20 which includes delicious Vegetarian Pizza.

The next Living Ocean/Wander Lightly beach clean up organised is at Newport on Sunday,19th June. 

Last Sunday, May 29th, Living Ocean, with Wander Lightly and over 30 of their supporters collected; 113 Plastic Shopping Bags, 183 Glass Bottles, 145 Plastic Bottles, 230 Cigarette Butts, 271 food wrappers, 60 plastic food containers, along with larger items - retrieved from Living Ocean from Facebook page - all of this was then sorted into recyclable piles and disposed of by those doing the work.

Pollution of this sort can also be stopped at its source too of course, or when spotted (take action), picked up. Healthy Oceans and a Healthy Planet must come from a Living Ocean.

1. © State of New South Wales and the Environment Protection Authority 2016.