Innovation and community engagement to address plastics

Innovation and community engagement to address plastics

#Act for the Wild, #Conservation, #Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Posted on 04th March 2020 by Media Relations

The environmental and human health impacts of single-use plastics have rapidly gained prominence over the past few years. Plastic products we use every day can persist in the environment for anywhere from 20 to 500 years. An estimated eight million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans every year, damaging and smothering our marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Marine animals such as turtles, dolphins, whales and sea-birds mistake bits of plastics floating in the water as food and ingest them.

Even when plastics break down into smaller micro-plastics, they can be a significant environmental and human health challenge.

While the challenges posed by plastics are significant, there are also great opportunities to capitalise on new ideas and solutions.

Here are five local inventions and community organisations to get excited about, taking on the global plastics challenge to the benefit of both local communities and the planet.

Seabin Project

The Seabin Project is a fantastic Australian invention that started with a simple idea. Pete Ceglinksi and Andrew Turton and their team developed Seabin to capture oil, trash and fuel from ports and marinas. In 2016, Seabin went viral and raised US$276,000 through crowd funding and in 2018, it was included in Time Magazine’s list of best inventions (honourable mention). Today, there are more than 850 Seabins deployed around the world, helping to remove over 3,500kg of litter from oceans daily.

Bio-degradable plastics

At 16-years old, Sydney based Angelina Arora invented a biodegradable alternative plastic bag to save the planet. After lots of experimentation in a lab using different organic waste products, she created a biodegradable plastic that completely breaks down within a month, using chemical components from prawn shells and spider web silk. Angelina has also identified a species of algae that may assist in cleaning up marine and coastal oil spills.

Seaside Scavenge

Seaside Scavenge is a community conservation organisation and past Taronga Green Grant winner. The organisation’s aim is to help educate and empower people to eliminate waste from entering the oceans. Seaside Scavenge incentivises people to collect trash, for which they receive tokens, that can then be traded in for second-hand goods. So not only does this help clean up local beaches and parks, but also helps to divert waste from entering our landfills. Seaside Scavenge has run more than 50 community events and removed over 10,000kg of litter from our environment.

Take 3 for the Sea

Take 3 for the Sea is another great community conservation organisation that was the inaugural winner of the Taronga Green Grants. Their message and ask is simple – to encourage everyone visiting the beach, waterway or natural area to take three pieces of litter with them when they leave. This year Take 3 is celebrating its 10th anniversary. What started as a simple idea has now grown to community events in 129 countries and helps to remove 10 million pieces of rubbish annually.

The Last Straw

The Last Straw initiative started in 2015 to address one of the key contributors to ocean plastic pollution. The aim of The Last Straw is to work with venues to remove the use of plastic straws. In 2018, the program worked with over 470 venues including Grill’d, and helped save over 13 million plastic straws from entering the environment.

Above are some great examples of community driven ideas and products to help tackle the pressing single-use plastics challenge. If you or someone you know has a brilliant idea for the planet, apply now for the HATCH: Taronga Accelerator Program. Applications close 24 March 2020.


Image credit: Lesley Small