Last week, fellow B Corp Patagonia put on an evening of drinks, films, and community discussion around the systemic problem of plastics in our oceans. Often these discussions revolve around the gyres such as the Pacific garbage patch, however this get together was very local, focusing on the work of the Bay Keepers and Take3, with local Greens MPs, council reps, and folks from the Plastic Bag Free Torquay initiative, all gathered cosily inside the Patagonia store.
Tim Silverwood of Take3, an organisation which aims to encourage beach goers to take 3 pieces of garbage off of the beach on every visit, spoke of the key environmental issues revolving around plastics in Australia, and his rather encouraging take on the situation.
The key takeaways were:
National ban on plastic bags
Like the state of California and other regions of the world, Australia must take action and ban bags nationally. The duopoly of Coles & Woolworths will not take this initiative on their own. Countless campaigns have tried, however unfortunately these large corporations wish to be part of the problem, instead of the solution – without government intervention, the biggest producers of single-use plastic bags will continue to give them away to consumers. It’s unfortunate the government has to take a big brother approach on corporate activities like this, and it’s disappointing these organisations can’t innovate and lead with their own initiative for the betterment of the community and our environment.
National ban on the use of micro-beads
If you haven’t already heard about micro-beads, they are an incredible mis-use of resources and the epitome of short term thinking. Large cosmetics manufacturers insert tiny balls of plastic as exfoliation elements into their products. These tiny pieces of plastics go down the drain, and straight into our waterways. In the documentary trailer for BAYKEEPERS below, you’ll see how this is impacting local areas such as Port Phillip bay in Melbourne. Manufacturers who are culprits of micro bead manufacture include Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oréal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and others. Many companies have vowed to discontinue micro bead use, however giants such as Unilever have no intention to stop until well into 2017.
National bottle refund program
In many countries, the return of recyclable bottles is rewarded – in Germany, bottles can be returned at supermarkets, where dockets are printed and immediately available for use within the supermarket – you can effectively trade bottles directly for food.
In Australia, we have no such program except in South Australia, where bottles can be returned and rewarded at up to 10cents per return. As a kid I remember asking my dad whether we could fill a trailer up with cans and drive to Adelaide…
This lack of a refund scheme which rewards people for returning cans and bottles is both disappointing and nonsensical. Again, this issue falls into the political sphere, and requires government intervention to help resolve – as the slow wheels of political change move, bottles continue to float swiftly out into our last remaining wild areas.
Tim Silverwood speaks passionately about change, and gives off an aura of positivity which can sometimes be lost in environmental campaigners – campaigning is almost always an uphill battle. Tim thinks these key issues and more can be solved within 5 years, and I actually believe him – which isn’t something I often feel!
Following Tim’s intro, we watched the really excellent local documentary BAYKEEPERS from filmmaker Michael J. Lutman – not only is the story and message engaging, but the editing and production value of the film is exceptional – if you can, be sure to find a full version of the documentary.
We see again and again, that in a world dominated by corporatism, a fundamental change in the very DNA of business is required – we cannot only rely on our governments to guide us – they have had, and will continue to have a significant role, however business is often operating one step ahead and with greater agility – let’s make that step the right one.
In a recent talk I will blog about another day, a representative from Bankmecu spoke about our biggest communicator: The money in our pockets. Use this communicator to communicate your values, and fight to support the individuals and businesses which have foresight, insight and a purpose which reaches beyond the simplistic notion of profits for stakeholders.