Pressure is mounting on FMCG companies and supermarkets to address plastic bottle waste, with new research revealing that the containers are one of the most dominant waste categories in the country.
Research released by Clean Up Australia and Sodastream yesterday, marking the annual Clean Up Australia Day, found that plastic bottles accounted for 35 per cent off all rubbish removed in 2017.
That figure is expected to grow again this year, after more than 32,000 plastic bottles were reported by volunteers in 2016. Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan AO is now calling on consumers to purchase less products sold in disposable plastic bottles.
“Every year we see more and more beverage containers in storm water drains, local parks, beaches and playgrounds,” he said. “As well as responsibly disposing of their rubbish – preferably by recycling – Australians can help by simply reducing the number of bottles they buy.”
According to Roy Morgan Research, 5.3 million Australians, or 27.1 per cent of the population, purchased plastic bottles last year. Sydney’s water authority said bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water yet more than one million plastic bottles are collected in the city’s waterways every year.
Awareness campaigns could signal headwinds for several large FMCG suppliers, such as Coca-Cola-Amatil, who are increasingly relying on bottled-water revenues. Drinks giants PepsiCo and Asahi holdings also rely heavily on single-use plastic bottles for their manufacturing. Yesterday ‘Beat the Bottle’ campaigns were held in Manly and Woolongong in NSW.
“We don’t like seeing litter in our walkways and we don’t want to be fighting with straws and bottles and plastics in the beach,” Sydney Water process engineer Shona Fitzgerald told AAP. “Bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water so it’s a bit of a no-brainer when you think of the cost to the individual and the cost to the environment.”
Fitzgerald said NSW is one of the country’s biggest plastic bottle tossers, with more than one million bottles picked up by Sydney Water every year before they reach the ocean. The UN estimates by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish with Fitzgerald urging supermarkets to start moving away from plastic bottles. But for supermarkets to shift consumers need to change their behaviour and avoid buying bottles and instead start using tap water, she said.
SodaStream Australia managing director, Mark Fenton said the research reaffirms his stance against the single use of plastic bottles and the responsibility of big plastic producers, such as Coca-Cola Amatil and Nestle. While Waterways were the most popular site surveyed in 2017, Parks recorded the highest percentage of total waste across the country. Shops and Malls recorded the highest average count per site type with 812 items.
“We’re not shy about speaking up against the plight of single use plastic bottles and are emboldened by the fearless and persistent work Clean up Australia has done in this area over the past 28 years,” said Fenton.
Sustainable Organisations of Manly spokeswoman Alicia Lloyd was hopeful yesterday’s event brought the community together and inspire people to change their behaviours.
“Everyone can make a difference and by ditching single-use plastics we can stop this pollution at the source,” Lloyd said.