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What did we use before single-use plastics became ingrained in our everyday lives? Before the 1980s, plastic bags were a rarity in our supermarkets. In 2019, excessive plastic use feels not just normal, but necessary to sustain our hectic lifestyles. From takeaway containers and supermarket packaging to cheap, low-quality goods, plastic permeates our daily lives.
However, with every passing year the scale tips further against the immediate convenience of single-use plastics, and towards the extreme inconvenience of piles of waste. The true cost to society and the environment of a "disposal economy" is becoming increasingly stark.
Solutions - Waste - Life - Presents - Challenges
Finding solutions to eliminate plastic waste in everyday life presents challenges, particularly during large events such as professional conferences. At some time during our careers as academics, scientists, researchers, or industry professionals, we may be part of a conference organizing committee. Back in the 1990s, conferences proudly tallied how many coffee cups they used—how times have changed.
As organizers of this week's national conference of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, we took on the challenge to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk—by holding a plastic-free conference for 570 marine science professionals, academics, and students. But how do you cater for so many people while limiting waste and using no plastic at all?
Journey - Months - Challenge - Conference - Economy
We started this journey 12 months ago, once we knew the challenge we were facing: a marine conference, themed around the blue economy, during July, in the Western Australian port city of Fremantle—the birthplace of the Plastic Free July movement.
From day 1, we were clear we wanted to eliminate plastic and reduce overall waste—everything from day-to-day rubbish to plastic take-home novelties that feature at so many conferences but inevitably make their way into landfill.
Part - Solution - Recycle - Plastic
Recycling is only a small part of the solution. We need to "refuse, reduce, and recycle" to really tackle plastic.
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