Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How we're killing Angie

This is Angie - a turtle who swallowed a plastic bag. War on Waste told us she has "floating syndrome". But what is that? Why is she stuck in turtle hospital? Why can't she go back to the ocean?

Here's a brief description from Fred Nucifora of Reef HQ Aquarium:

"Floating syndrome is caused by a build up of gas in the turtle’s body, which can happen after it has ingested marine debris that blocks its gastrointestinal tract and prevents food being properly digested. The body’s unreleased gas keeps the animal afloat which not only stops it diving for food, but also makes it more vulnerable to predators like sharks or boat traffic in the area."

The options aren't great for turtles that swallow plastic. They get eaten, hit by a boat, or starve to death. That's why she'll have to stay in turtle hospital probably for the rest of her life.

In Angie's case it was a plastic bag someone used for probably a few minutes. It really is obvious that we should reduce our use of disposable plastic and increase the amount that gets recycled.

PS. The episode also showed turtles with a drinking straw lodged up their nostril. In one case it seemed to be the entire length of the straw. Ouch.
Bonus link: More on buoyancy disorders

Friday, July 27, 2018

Would you pay $1000 for water?

A bottle of water a day costs a thousand dollars a year. So why do people do it?

Is it healthier?

Craig Reucassel (War on Waste) took several bottled water brands - and tap water - to the lab. No brand is really any better than tap water, and many are far worse for you.

Does it taste better?

Craig took to the streets to give people a taste test of tap-water (pretending it was bottled water) and people actually said they would switch to that "brand".

Perhaps it's all just a marketing con

The bottled water use nature-sounding words and lots of marketing. Perhaps that's why we buy it. To illustrate the point Craig made this satirical ad for Robinet Water:

Is it more convenient?

It makes it getting it easier. But without a nearby recycle bin it also makes waste easier - and that's not good. It also costs $1000 for that convenience.

Surely given the choice of having your own refillable water bottle or paying $1000 every year, the refillable bottle has to be the winner.

See the whole episode on iView now.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The biggest footprint I've ever seen

The War on Waste is back for a second series and this week they made a giant footprint from 1 tonne of plastic waste (in plastic bags).

Australia generates 666,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year - so this footprint is what we generate every minute (or 47 seconds to be precise).

For scale, that little thing in front of the big toe is a person.

They literally emptied a truck of these plastic bags onto the beach to visualise what 1 tonne of plastic waste looks like.

It's so much that it didn't even fit in the giant footprint - they had to pile it up.

While it took a few people quite a while to set it up, we generate this amount in under a minute. We've probably generated another footprint just while you've been reading this post.

To see it like this really is quite stunning. Surely we can get more of this recycled.

See the whole episode on iView now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

War on Waste Q&A

The new series of War on Waste starts tonight on ABC. Last night, panel discussion show Q&A was all about waste - how we can reduce it and how we can get more recycling happening in Australia.

Craig Reucassel (the host of War on Waste) was on the panel with people from social enterprises, a waste management expert and a representative from local government. Replay the conversation by downloading the episode or reading the transcript. You can also watch the QandA episode - and the first series of War on Waste in a special iView collection.

Stats on Waste

Here are some numbers that came from the episode:
- Last year Australia generated 64 million tonnes of waste. That's more than 2.5 tonnes per person.
- The average household wastes $60 each week on wasted food. That's 1 in 5 shopping bags.
- By 2050 there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
- 95% of plastic is used only once. (I guess that includes straws, plastic bags, water bottles, coffee lids, takeaway food containers etc)

Questions from the audience included topics such as what happens to the material we recycle, how to encourage people to use tap water instead of wasteful bottled water, how to reduce food waste and the role of government in reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Tune in to ABC tonight to catch the start of Series 2 of the War on Waste.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Re-usable bag from an old T-shirt (no sewing)

Reusable bags are great. Even better if they're unique. Here's one way to MacGyver yourself a unique reusable bag - and hold on to a fave T-shirt for a little bit longer.

Grab an old T-shirt that you like, but has been retired from public wearing. After 10 years, my New York one is a great example.

Take out the arms and the neck area. For speed, just cut along the inside of the seams. Or you can use a plate to trace a nice round curve. Up to you. You can always cut more off later, if you want to adjust the shape.

Now let's seal up the bottom. Turn it inside out. Decide how deep you want your bag to be and draw a marker line there. Cut slits up to that line. I did them about 1.5 - 2 cm apart, but it's up to you.

Tie each pair of strips together. Now you have a bunch of knots across the bottom with tiny holes in-between.

To strengthen the bag, and seal up those small holes, tie together a strand from knot 1 and a strand from knot 2. Keep going for knots 2 and 3, knots 3 and 4 etc. Now you've got a completed bag - but with a large fringe.

Cut off the excess strands and turn the bag back to the right way out. The bottom should look something like this.

Now you're ready to go. Mine turned out a little smaller than I thought - I cut the slits quite long. But this size is great for picking up a couple of things from the shops, and those other times you just need to carry a few items.

So there you go. That's how you can turn a T-shirt into a reusable bag with just a pair of scissors and a marker pen.

PS. If you like the fringe at the bottom - or you're making something for Country & Western Week - then ignore the bit about turning it inside out before cutting the slits, and just stop once you've tied all the knots.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The cleanest nation in soccer

With the quarter finals about to start, here are the greenhouse emissions (per person) of the nations competing.

Obviously I'm going to be cheering for the cleaner teams in each game. If all goes to plan Brazil will meet Sweden in the final and win. Three teams on my scoreboard are on 5 - but Brazil's 5.03 is slightly better that Sweden's 5.28 or Croatia's 5.49.

Having said that, I'd be OK with any of those three nations winning. They are all cleaner than the world average of 6.27 and far and away better than Australia's pathetic 25.

If only our emission could learnt a lesson from soccer - and take a sudden dive.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

How to take out the Top 4 of plastic pollution

Today is the start of Plastic Free July. You can take the pledge to be plastic free and one of the options is to eliminate the top 4 most polluting plastic items for the month (or ideally for longer).

Here are some tips for how do do that:

Coffee cups

Get a re-usable cup. These last ages and even though some are made of plastic the point is that instead of tossing hundreds of disposables into landfill, you can use just one - and you can put that in the recycle bin when it gets really old.

Check out Responsible Cafes - it's a map of great coffee places that give you a discount for using a BYO cup. That could save you hundreds of dollars.

Plastic Bags

It's really quite easy to bring your own bag. The green bags are about $1 at most places and last for ages (often years). If a dollar is too much for you, my bank is giving out canvas bags for free.

If upcycling's your game, it's quite easy to upcycle a t-shirt into a re-usable bag without even sewing. Check that out.

Plastic bottles

I still can't believe these sell. How can you put a free thing (water) in a bottle and charge money for it? What's next? Bottled air? Just use a glass at home or a water bottle or drinking fountains if you're out and about.


This is probably the trickiest because you have to be on your game. Sometimes when you get a drink the server (without asking) will put a straw right in there as a default option.

You just have to be quick. Add it to your order. "I'd like a ____ with-no-straw". I hyphenate it to emphasise how quickly you have to say it sometimes.

If you absolutely must have a straw - maybe you're under 3 (well done on reading my blog) or maybe you just really love the slurping sound at the end of a milkshake - you can also get re-usable straws made of metal. You know, like cutlery.

Bonus tip

If you're looking for some takeaway, ask if you can put it in your own container. Many places let you do this. If your local takeaway does, then add them to the Trashless Takeaway map.

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