Plastic is ubiquitous in the modern world. In some ways, it is perhaps mankind’s greatest and worst invention.
For Redlands Kayak Tours, we can’t escape the benefits of plastics, after all, our sit-on-top kayaks are made of it. But unfortunately, we are also constantly reminded of the down-side – the plastic rubbish we see floating in our waterways.
What is clearly changing is how the world is regarding, using, re-using and (hopefully) responsibly disposing of plastic.
On a recent trip, a comment made by one of our guests turned into a group discussion. One of our guests, a scientist at the University of Queensland, was able to tell us about two very interesting research projects, directly related to our own experiences.
The first project, and one we were asked for some assistance with, is the potential for plastic recovered from the ocean to be recycled. The fundamental question is whether exposure to the sun and elements changes the plastic structure in some way that either improves, or worsens, the potential for the plastic to be recycled. Where do we come in? On the trip we all collected whatever plastic we could find (mostly plastic bottles) for the university researchers to use. Whilst they can simulate the oxidization effects in the laboratory, part of the testing is to see if there is any differentiation between outdoor “real” oxidization and the laboratory simulated kind.
The second piece of research is into peoples’ feelings about and behaviours towards plastic. Our customers are clearly concerned about the down-side of plastics, especially those polluting our waterways (both locally and globally). As our own practices have improved (e.g. we no longer issue disposable water bottles, but ask people to bring their own), we have noticed a similar change in the attitudes of our customers. Just as our guides do, many of our guests pick up rubbish as we paddle up our creeks.
During our tour discussion the other day, we remarked how our regular tour sites had all improved over recent years. In part that is because we are regularly removing items, but we like to think it is also because fewer items are entering our waterways, and that indicates real change might just be occurring.
On the same trip, one of our guests was pleased to tell us that the Queensland Teacher’s Union had recently decided to stop using balloons at any of their functions or celebrations, their practical approach to helping reduce the amount of plastic which inevitably finds its way into places where it is not wanted.
So, what can you do to help? Here’s some practical ideas:
• Avoid buying products that have unnecessary packaging
• Use re-usable shopping bags rather than the single-use plastic bags
• If available, choose products that can be recycled, even better, choose products that have been made from recycled materials
• Avoid single use plastic water bottles (we are lucky in Australia, our tap water is perfectly safe to drink), use re-fillable bottles
• Dispose of re-cyclable plastics in a recycle disposal unit, e.g. your yellow-top bin
• Don’t contaminate your yellow-top bin with non-recyclables
• Don’t leave plastic items, especially rubbish, lying around where the wind and rain can put them into the waterways
• Pick up and properly dispose of any rubbish that you find – even if you weren’t the one who put it there
Together, we can make a difference.
Enjoy your paddling.