Australia's Plastic Problem Is Getting Urgent Says Jon Dee - Hope 103.2

Australia’s Plastic Problem Is Getting Urgent Says Jon Dee

If you’ve got a body scrub with plastic microbeads, Jon Dee wants you to throw it away. And use less plastic bags. They're ruining the environment, he says.

By Clare BruceWednesday 27 Jan 2016NewsReading Time: 4 minutes

Listen: Jon Dee talks to Nick Bennett about the devastating levels of plastic polluting our oceans.

If you’ve got a facial or body scrub in your bathroom that contains microbeads, please—do the planet a favour. Check if the beads are plastic, and if they are, throw the product in the bin, instead of washing any more of it down the drain.

That’s the plea being made by environmental campaigner Jon Dee, who urged Aussies to love their country by using less plastic.

While some cosmetic companies use organic ingredients in their scrubs, such as natural seeds and crushed shells, others use microbeads, and Mr Dee has been campaigning to have them banned.

Plastic Microbeads Entering Australia’s Food Chain

woman washing face

Chatting with Hope 103.2’s Nick Bennett in the leadup to Australia Day, he said the miniature beads were a blight on the environment.

“Just in a single container of facial scrub, you have thousands of tiny bits of plastic beads about the size of a grain of sand,” he said.

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“All of those go down the plug hole when you shower or wash. They’re too small to be captured by the wastewater treatment plant and it’s all ending up out in the ocean and our waterways.

“Once they’re there, it just keeps building and building because it takes so long for that material to biodegrade in the ocean.

“Unfortunately, companies have been deliberately putting this stuff in products, knowing full well that it ends up in our oceans.”

Supermarket chains Aldi, Coles and Woolworths have all agreed to remove the products from their shelves by 2017 in response to public pressure, while the Australian government may ban them by 2018.

Australians Still Use Too Much Plastic

Plastic bag floating in the air

Mr Dee said the problem of plastic was now getting urgent, with more and more of the stuff ending up in our oceans.

“In Australia alone we’re using about 8 billion plastic bags a year still, even though some have been banned in certain states and territories,” he said.

“We spend half a bill a year on bottled water when we have great tap water. We tend to use plastic in a throwaway manner, and we’re not recycling it.

“Even if you put empty plastic bags in the garbage bin, when they end up in landfill, you can lose thousands on a windy day. And in Sydney, so many end up in the ocean.”

Australia’s Coastal Treasures Are Under Threat

Plastic bottle on the beach

When you’re using plastic products in your home, it’s hard to image where they might end up once they’ve been discarded.

Tragically, a lot ends up in our waterways, oceans, and in the stomachs of our nation’s wildlife, said Mr Dee.

“On Lord Howe Island they’re now finding little piles of plastic pieces,” he said. “I asked the local wildlife expert what it is. He said they were [the remains of] baby chicks.”

Mr Dee explained that parent birds go to the ocean and collect what they think is food, often bringing back small pieces of plastic and feeding them to their young. The baby birds die of poisoning, choking or malnourishment, and once they have decomposed, the plastic inside them is revealed.

“A lot of marine life are now eating plastic,” he said. “The concern now is that all the tiny [pieces of] plastic we see in the ocean are getting in the food chain and into the fish that we eat.

“I helped edit a video of a dead baby chick, and there was over 100 pieces of plastic inside it,” Mr Dee said. “And that’s in a really remote pristine national park, of an island hundreds of kilometres from civilisation, and yet baby chicks are dying in big numbers.”

He said the problem was being repeated around the world.

On a recent trip to Dili in East Timor, Mr Dee saw tens of thousands of used water bottles on the beach, which nobody is concerned about removing.

“If you go to Sydney Harbour, you’d be amazed how much plastic debris is on the floor of the harbour,” he said.

Call To Australians: Use Less Plastic

Mr Dee is calling on Australians to reduce their use of plastic, from bags to packaging to products in the home and workplace.

“It’s really important we find ways to stop that pollution happen in the first place,” he said.