This is a plastic bottle, just before it reaches your hand.
It’s come a long way to get here, already converted from oil into plastic, then reheated, moulded, transported, and filled with a flavour called ‘pineapple’—which tastes nothing like pineapple.
Here’s the plastic bottle leaving your hand:
And there it stays (for the moment at least). You don’t see it, but it’s carried by next week’s wind and rain into the stormwater drain and into the local creek. In Melbourne, almost all plastic washed into Port Philip Bay—around 95%—comes from our local streets.
This is a plastic bottle as it floats down a local creek after it’s been transported by the drain.
It skids and spins past the creek’s natural features: its smooth rocks, darting skinks and insects. As well as being unsightly, plastics that stop here reduce water quality and impact the habitat of resident birds and frogs. The litter traps can’t catch it all—including this bottle, which is swept into the flow of a larger river.
Here, the water rushes beneath tall, swaying gums. A lot of plastic gets stuck here, tangled in the riverbank’s mane of riparian plants – in its sedges, rushes and water ribbons. The Maribyrnong and Yarra rivers in Melbourne carry around 2.5 billion pieces of rubbish a year, most of it plastic.
This is a plastic bottle, or most of it anyway, 30 km away from where it first started. As the bottle breaks down, it continues to spread—into the ocean and sand, and eaten by the animals that live here. The bottle’s small pieces are called microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic that makeup around 80% of the plastic that enters Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay.
There is a lot of work that goes into cleaning up plastic in our rivers and oceans. But the best way to keep plastic out of our waterways is to keep it off our streets by reducing the amount of plastic we use. Visit Picnics Unwrapped to organise a plastic-free picnic and raise money to eliminate plastic from schools.
We can all be part in the wave of change to stop plastic at the source by following the 4Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.
Written by Paul Cumming