It’s estimated there are trillions of pieces of plastics in our oceans. We see it filling our waterways, killing marine life, and littering our beaches.
But hope is not lost. Communities around the world are applying creative and innovative solutions to reducing plastic waste. We’ve highlighted some of these inspiring stories in a new book by CSIRO Publishing, Ending Plastic Waste: Community Actions Around the World.
The book presents a collection of stories, advice and information from experts in the fields of waste management, plastic pollution and environmental finance. They provide a broad outlook on how 19 programs from 15 different countries are protecting our planet. By sharing these stories, the editors, including our researchers Britta Denise Hardesty, Kathryn Willis and Justine Barrett, hope to encourage others to take a community approach to ending plastic waste.
Here's a peek at some of these stories.
1. Turning footwear into fine art
In Kenya, one million thongs are collected as litter along its coastline each year. The issue was so bad that turtles could no longer use some beaches to lay eggs.
Not-for-profit Ocean Sole wanted to change this. So they began transforming discarded thongs into works of art.
Since 2006, Ocean Sole has recovered and upcycled over 559 tonnes of thong pollution. They have used these thongs to produce 65,000 artworks.
They now have 15 coastal communities collecting thongs, which has brought economic benefits and cleaner beaches to Kenya. They are looking to scale-up this creative enterprise to other countries too.
2. Resource recovery in remote communities
The Plastic Collective is a social enterprise educating and equipping remote communities across Australia and South-East Asia with facilities to turn plastic waste into a resource.
Their Resource Recovery Stations are helping communities turn plastic waste into sellable recyclable material using a Shruder machine, which shreds the waste.
Each station has a target to recycle 200 tonnes of material per year. This empowers communities with knowledge, particularly those with poor infrastructure and high transport costs, to manage waste.
3. Reusable products in the face of extreme events
When a cyclone hit Vanuatu and supplies were cut off, Belinda Roselli pondered how women could manage through menstruation. This inspired Mamma’s Laef (pronounced "life").
The organisation creates reusable hygiene products for women, offering a dignified and plastic free solution.
Local women manufacture reusable menstrual pads, incontinence aids and baby nappies. These are distributed to the local community across the island.
4. Recycling marketplace for plastic
Quality recyclables were going to waste in countries across Asia. So The Plastics Circle created an app – PlastX – to connect businesses to post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.
The app creates a circular economy model so plastic can be used again, rather than going to landfill or ending up in our oceans. It creates a market for PCR plastics with information on the plastic type, colour, condition, location and price, so it can be used again.
PlastX was trialled in India, recovering almost 4000 kilograms of plastic over 67 collection days. This equated to almost six kilograms per person per day.
Want to dive into these stories and more? Grab your copy of Ending Plastic Waste: Community Actions Around the World for more inspiring stories from around the world. The book aligns with our Ending Plastic Waste Mission, which has a goal of an 80 per cent reduction in plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 2030.