Drowning the planet in plastic


Left to right: food scraps, glass, general waste and recycling

We have had two new rubbish receptacles delivered and our rates (local council taxes) have increased accordingly. I am grateful that we have a large, double carport where we can hide these in the deepest recesses – I pulled them out to pose them with a pretty background – but I can see that the sheer amount of space they take up must be a real problem for many urban dwellers, particularly those in small units or with minimal outside space.

One size must fit all. Our council has lofty zero waste ambitions but all I can see is a redistribution of waste to different containers and nothing about a reduction overall. In vain did I submit to Council, pointing out that rural dwellers do not need a food waste collection. I even directed them to the Australian system many councils have opted in to where there is a project to educate residents to deal with food waste on site, via the supply of no-charge options of a worm farm, a bokashi composting system or a black compost bin. Our apartment-dwelling Sydney daughter has a worm farm in her carpark space to deal with her food waste. But neither councillors nor council staff were listening and so our food scraps bin (that is the smallest of the three bins) arrived this week and we will pay for its weekly collection even though we will never use it.

Times past

Some readers will be old enough to remember old-time rubbish collection. Why, we still have one of those old rubbish tins here – we retain many such handy old relics from times past. About 40 years ago, multi wall paper bags came in, to be replaced soon after by more capacious, thin plastic bags. And now heavy duty plastic bins. With every change, the capacity has increased and so has the volume of household waste. Murphy’s law. Not our household waste, I hasten to add. We have gone all out to reduce waste and minimise how much enters our place in the first place. We are meticulous at sorting it and it’s really only the blue bottle bin that needs to go out regularly on account of our wine drinking habits. Out there on the verge for everyone to see is evidence that the Jurys prefer drinking Pinot Gris but generate very little waste other than the bottles. I hope they, at least, are actually recycled.

A lifetime supply of left-over plastic pots 

and cartons of left-over planter bags from PB2s to PB 90s which we will almost certainly never use now

Back when we had the nursery in production, we were aware of how dependent the nursery trade is on plastic. It was many years ago that we heard talk from Germany of making suppliers responsible for taking back the inorganic packing and waste generated in the supply of their product and we dreaded having to deal with that. I see the comment in the annual sales report we received this week from our agents who handle the international sales of Mark’s cultivars: “there is also pressure on the use of plastics in the industry which will impact on containers and packaging as we identify more sustainable options”. That is the use of ‘we’ in the royal sense, meaning the whole industry. It needs to happen but it will take a whole lot more pressure by customers to force the pace of change. The garden industry is not as good for the environment as many like to think. While we continue to use and reuse the hard plastic pots and cartons of planter bags left over from our nursery days, the fact remains that at an individual level, we are continuing to smother our planet in plastics.

It is local body election time here. These are rarely exciting events, so dominated are local politics by older (rather too often, just old) middle class, white men, many of whom have held their office for decades. Readers may be faintly amused – or aghast – at our local council’s attempt to convince the younger generations to vote with a campaign featuring the poo emoji with a smile superimposed on top and the byline ‘I give a shit’. Mark groaned and pointed out that the yoof of today are way more sophisticated than we ever were and maybe still are. I am not at all convinced that the sight of the fairly well-paid Council CEO – and presumably other staff – out and about wearing ratepayer-funded tee shirts with a smiling turd and declaring that they give a shit (don’t we all? Literally) is going to woo a younger voting demographic when the problem is more likely that they look at the candidate line-up and see a majority who resemble white great uncles or grandfathers.

As my daughter says upon occasion, “you can’t polish a turd”. But you can apparently, smother it in glitter.

7 thoughts on “Drowning the planet in plastic

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I am sure it is but the issue with recyclable plastics is that it requires some measure of standardisation and regulation in an industry to make them the norm. The horticultural industry has never been unified. And the recycling of plastic is highly specialised and not widely carried out, as I understand it.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Some of the jurisdictions in Sydney do it and I think when I did a search, Adelaide and Melbourne did too. It is an outside company, of course, contracting to the councils.

  1. tonytomeo

    At a time in history when we should be recycling MORE, our county closed recycling facilities because they are no longer profitable, and are actually a minor expense (relative to what they generate). I can not believe how quiet society is about this. Before it happened, I could not believe how unpopular recycling was! I mean, we have all the fancy bins to separate trash into, but they all get used to dump mixed trash as well as recyclable into! When I lived at the apartment building in town, tenants dumped their trash into the first lid they encountered in the trash yard, which was that of the ‘cans’ bin. I needed to rearrange the bins to put the trash bin closest to the gate, but then everything got dumped as trash, and nothing went into the recyclable bins.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I think bottles, cans, paper and cardboard are fairly easily recycled. It is the plastics that are the issue – even those designated “recyclable” which, to the West simply meant *crate it all up and ship it off to another country to deal with* – first China til they got sick of being the world’s dump and now Indonesia where people living in poverty burn it. We MUST take responsibility for our own waste and reduce it at source, not after it’s all too brief lifespan. The world is drowning in plastic.

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