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Colby College

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action

Abstract

Plastic debris is a global threat to the natural environment. The accumulation of plastic debris has resulted in the destruction of marine habitat as well as a threat to marine wildlife. Single use plastics, including plastics associated with single use food and beverage containers are contributing to a considerable amount of debris and other litter in the world’s oceans. As awareness of this issue spreads, both large corporations and small businesses are beginning to transition to plastic alternatives for their single use beverage containers. In Byron Bay, Australia, an area of increasing environmental awareness, businesses are beginning to reduce single use plastics. The purpose of this study is to investigate barriers to the elimination of plastic in single use beverage containers, to formulate a better understanding of the current issues around this transition and to further aid businesses in their elimination of single use plastics.

To identify these barriers, I first inventoried the materials for single use beverage containers currently in use among Byron Bay businesses. I then interviewed businesses and relevant organizations in Byron Bay to understand their business practices and discern any potential barriers to the elimination of plastic in their single use beverage containers. Additionally, I examined the environmental impact of bioplastics commonly used as plastic alternatives among Byron Bay businesses.

After speaking with businesses and relevant organizations, three main barriers to businesses were identified: increased price of plastic alternatives, customer demand, and working with a wholesale distributor/ business hesitancy. Additionally, after a review of the environmental impact of bioplastics I determined that while the production of bioplastics may contribute less to the effects of climate change than traditional petroleum based plastics, there are still significant impacts created upon the disposal of bioplastics due to a lack of proper infrastructure.

These results suggest that bioplastic implementation may not be the best plastic alternative given the current infrastructure for bioplastic disposal. Instead it may be more beneficial for businesses to continue trying to reduce single use beverage containers all together to reduce the amount of inputs to litter and debris in the natural environment.

Disciplines

Environmental Health | Environmental Health and Protection | Marine Biology | Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health

 

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