By Donna Carman
GREAT Southern plastic-free campaigner Rachael Pontin has recently been named one of the City of Albany’s Sustainable Heroes.
Awarded for her work in reducing plastic use, Ms Pontin began with simple changes in her own life and after eliminating single-use plastic for Plastic Free July in 2013, quickly began working towards more comprehensively reducing plastic. Ms Pontin supported Dr Harriet Paterson on the recent South Coast Plastics and the Ocean Workshop roadshow. Dr Paterson is associated with UWA Albany and her current work focuses on the plastic turning up on beaches and how it gets there. The roadshow was designed to provide some understanding across the region of the oceanography that is showing the south coast as becoming a plastic waste hotspot.
Dr Paterson stressed that it was important not to judge residents of countries from which much of the plastic came because they didn’t have first-world waste management systems. She said plastics which enter the oceans from rivers in those countries were similar to those which we have in our homes. The modelling of ocean currents predicts accumulations of plastic building up on southern shores, with the south coast showing up as becoming one of the most concentrated areas on the planet, despite low local contribution and no nearby swirling garbage patches.
While animals endure starvation and suffocation from plastic debris, even worse might be the poisoning from oceanic plastic which are highly adsorbent of toxic chemicals, making them up to a hundred thousand times more toxic than the adjacent seawater. It has the potential to be turned around, with global collaborative efforts on the cusp of targeting the worst rivers, and entrepreneurial opportunities abounding. According to Dr Paterson, most of the items turning up are classed as frivolous, including toys. A separate management issue is the monster loads of white nurdles turning up on beaches.
Following Ms Pontin’s lead, things you can do to reduce plastic use include trying a plastic-free July, getting creative with using plastic waste and getting even more creative by substituting plastic purchases, becoming involved with organised winter beach clean-ups.
The next Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Beach Clean is at Anvil Beach at 9am on Sunday July, 14