The 'Big 4' Plastics

The 'Big 4' Plastics

#Act for the Wild, #Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Posted on 19th December 2017 by Media Relations

When plastic came along in the 1900s, it revolutionised packaging. Plastic is durable and cheap to manufacture. But these same reasons are exactly why it’s so harmful to our planet.

When used in the right situation plastic can be an environmentally sound choice. But it’s when items designed to be used just once are made of plastic that we face some big problems.

Single-use plastic is plastic destined to be used, well, just once. Once they’ve served their purpose, they’ll either end up in landfill, or worse, our environment, where they’ll take hundreds of years to degrade.

Around 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into oceans around the world every year.  This is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the sea every minute. If there is no action taken, this figure will increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.   

Statistics like this emphasise how important it is to reduce the amount of single-use plastic we each individually use. Luckily, some of the most harmful plastics – known as the ‘big 4’ – are the easiest to replace.

Take away coffee cups

The common misconception is that these can be recycled because they appear to be made of paper. However, take-away coffee cups usually have a plastic lining that makes them un-recyclable.

Takeaway coffee cup
Takeaway coffee cup

Every year, Australians use 2.7 billion takeaway coffee cups! Imagine the impact we could have if we all chose to bring our own coffee cup when we grabbed our daily dose of caffeine?

Buy your own Taronga keep cup.

Plastic water bottles

Billions of plastic water bottles are used every year. Only 1 in 5 of these bottles gets recycled.  NSW now has a Container Deposit Scheme, where you can return your PET bottles in exchange for a small reimbursement!

But while recycling is great, it should always come second to reducing. Instead, bring your own reusable bottle with you and choose to refill it when you’re out and about.

Plastic bottles
Plastic bottles

Plastic bags

The lifespan of a plastic bag is on average 12 minutes, and Australians use over 4 billion of these every year. Globally, a trillion plastic bags are used on an annual basis.  

Marine turtles love to munch on jellyfish, and often mistake plastic bags for their favourite food. Hundreds of thousands of animals have died after ingesting plastic.

Reusable bags like this fold up to the size of a post it note, so are great for popping in your handbag when you’re out and about.

Plastic straws

Plastic straws are one of the top ten most picked up items on beach cleans.  Australians use 2.7 billion plastic straws every year.  Because straws are too small to be easily recycled, they often end up as litter on our beaches and in our oceans.

Avoiding these is easy – just ask for no straw thanks next time you’re grabbing a drink. If you love to slurp out of a straw, buy a reusable stainless steel or glass straw and keep it on you so you’re never caught without it.

Plastic water bottles, straws, bags and coffee cups are four big problems for our oceans. But, fortunately, there are four easy solutions for them we can opt for every day!

Use our impact calculator to see how much plastic you could save every year simply by replacing the big 4 with reusable alternatives.