Stop plastic pollution: Why #plasticfreetravel is a movement we should all be behind

Single-use plastics are sooooo 1976. The Queensland Government banned single-use plastic bags in July 2018, which was a huge step forward in the fight against plastic pollution in our oceans. But there’s still more that can be done.

The state-wide ban, which applies to all retailers, including takeaway outlets, pharmacies and markets, was rolled out just a few weeks after Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains – Woolworths and Coles – introduced bans on single-use plastic bags in their stores nationwide. The move was also coupled with a recycling refund scheme of 10 cents for most drink bottles between 150 mL and 3L – just one more step in the right direction for our oceans and the Great Barrier Reef.

With crazy stats of up to 2.4 billion recyclable drink bottles and 1 billion lightweight single-use shopping bags used in Queensland each year – ending up as plastic pollution in our waterways – if you haven’t already, it’s to get serious about #plasticfreetravel.

Here’s what some Queensland councils and operators are doing to help.

Cairns City Council agrees it’s the last straw

Ten-year-old Molly Steer was an early adopter of the #saynotoplastics movement, helping to convince Cairns City Council to phase out the use of plastic straws in its operations for the first time in Queensland’s history.

Molly has been running the Straw No More campaign in her hometown in Tropical North Queensland, which is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, since 2017. The plucky tween also presented a TEDx talk on the subject at James Cook University entitled “Straws Really Do Suck”.

Molly says she was motivated to push for the ban after seeing a movie called A Plastic Ocean, where she learned that “single-use plastic never breaks down and our oceans are filling up with plastic and killing marine life”.

Founder of a similar campaign called The Last Straw, marine biologist Nicole Nash managed to convince 30 tourism operators in Cairns and Port Douglas to ban plastic straws.

Tourism businesses putting a stop to plastic pollution

Riley Cairns | Stop plastic pollution

Riley Cairns

Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort agrees #strawssuck and has eliminated them from the resort in order to reduce the island’s environmental footprint. Lady Elliot is also the first island on the Great Barrier Reef to eliminate selling bottled water full-stop.

Off the coast of Gladstone, the Pumpkin Xpress vessel was the 100th vessel to jump on the bandwagon, committing to never using straws again.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve in Port Douglas did a clean sweep of the property, removing all single-use plastic bottles, take away coffee cups and straws. Guests now receive a complimentary re-useable stainless steel water bottle filled with filtered water from Thala’s underground spring.

Recycling is taken to the next level at Cairns’ newest hotel, Riley, with keycards made from recycled wood, coat hangers from recycled cardboard and water in compostable cartons.

In Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, 150 hospitality and tourism businesses have gone plastic free with the help of Tourism Noosa and Plastic Free Noosa, eliminating over 1.6 million single-use plastics since February 2018.

Communities Caring for our Coastlines

Tim Silverwood, CEO of Take 3 for the Sea, says he’s heartened by initiatives such as the #QldBagBan. Silverwood’s not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009 started out as a clean beach initiative to encourage Australians to ‘take three bits of rubbish for the sea’.

The organisation also delivers education programs to Queensland schools and community groups that inspire locals to help create a cleaner planet for wildlife and future generations.

“Take 3 has always been about people collaborating and not one single force. It’s about locals feeling empowered to start their own activities,” he says.

Up in The Whitsundays, Libby Edge’s Eco Barge Clean Seas program has also been removing plastic waste from the Whitsunday Islands for almost 10 years, helping to save the lives of marine animals, as well as educating locals to reduce land-based litter in the tropical north.

What to pack for a plastic-free holiday

Plastic-free travel kit | Stop plastic pollution

Photo by @biomestores

  • A refillable BPA-free drink bottle
  • Stainless steel straw
  • Eco bags
  • A reusable Keep Cup for takeaway coffee/tea
  • Food wraps made from beeswax
  • A reusable bag or basket for your groceries
  • Always BYO plastic lunch boxes

What to say ‘no’ to:

  • If you do have to order a takeaway coffee, say no to the lid
  • Many bakeries package their bread in plastic. Ask for a brown paper bag, instead
  • When you’re at a supermarket, you don’t need to put vegetables in plastic
  • Say no to beer and soft-drink rings that aren’t eco-friendly
    When ordering takeaway food, BYO containers
  • If you’re ordering sushi, refuse the plastic fish and BYO soy sauce

How are you travelling plastic-free? Share your tips with us below.