Feature

Living without plastic

After learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Tim Silverwood realised we can all prevent the problems with plastic.

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Credit: LisaLowenborg.com

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“Ever since I learnt about this issue of plastics in the ocean four or five years ago, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, like most people that hear about it I wanted to know more,” says Tim Silverwood, who visited the North Pacific Gyre in July 2011. He’s since made a lot of personal sacrifices to raise awareness of the issues with plastic; “the trip set me about on this incredible new chapter in my life.”

Having studied environmental management in conservation at university, Silverwood says his true “connection with the ocean is actually from being a surfer”. He feels the major problem with marine debris is that the plastics are now resembling a food source. “There are so many animals interacting with plastic that it is a part of the ocean system now, and it needs to be recognised as a component of the food chain.”

Silverwood says “the solutions to this problem have to happen on many levels but it has to start with legislation change. Research from the CSIRO shows that one third of all global marine debris can be sourced back to the beverage industry. A solution is to introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS), a refund system so people are rewarded for recycling the used container instead of littering them or sending them to landfill. In South Australia (and recently in the Northern Territory) there’s a ten cent refund that has a profound effect; the small incentive nudges people into doing the right thing, and the results are through the roof. We’re now in the throes of trying to convince our government to bring about a CDS; a decision will be made on that in April 2013.”

Silverwood spends a lot of time promoting Take 3 (www.take3.org.au), an initiative that encourages people
to take three pieces of plastic every time they visit a beach or waterway. “I love the concept of devolving the responsibility back onto everyone, and that’s what the idea is – realising everyday that you can make a difference, as insignificant as three pieces of plastic might seem, you’ve made some change that day.”

Passionate about educating a new generation of future change makers, Silverwood and the team from Take 3 have been giving talks to school-aged children. “We need a new generation of people who are concerned and are ready to enter our society and our economy with their eyes open to the issue of plastics.”

He and his mother have also started Rechusable (www.rechusable.com) to offer alternatives to packaging such as glass straws and portable bamboo cutlery. “It’s about people that recognising the simplest thing they can do everyday is refuse disposable plastics and packaging. It gives people tools to tackle the challenge of living a day plastic-free, which is difficult, but also very rewarding. When I pull out my bamboo cutlery or my reusable coffee cup or my glass straw, I feel good about this little change.”

Silverwood's hard work was recently awarded a nomination for 2012 Citizen of the Year in Wyong Shire's Australia Day Awards. He's also running an event at the Bondi Open Air Cinema next Wednesday 6 Feb, 2013, where there'll be a raffle full of great prizes, including the chance to win a one-year subscription to Green Lifestyle; check this link out for more info: http://www.gmagazine.com.au/3612/ocean-love.