PRESSURE is mounting on manufacturers to change the design of juice boxes because of a growing “epidemic” of plastic straws and their wrappers finding their way into Perth’s parks, rivers and oceans.
Cockburn Labor MLA Fran Logan took part in a bush and beach clean-up day at Woodman Point in July where volunteers found thousands of the plastic sleeves from the straws stuck under bushes and in the dunes.
The park is home to blue wrens, bandicoots and a host of other rare or endangered fauna and wildlife experts warn the plastic’s making its way into the food chain.
“Unfortunately this has become an epidemic in Western Australia — juice boxes, the straws and wrappers around them are found everywhere, but especially in and around public parks and spaces,” Mr Logan says.
He says manufacturing companies need to change the design so that when pulled off the box, the wrappers don’t easily detach and blow away.
The boxes are marketed specifically at children, which makes parental attitudes important, and Mr Logan says the Barnett and Turnbull governments need to reboot advertising campaigns to educate people about the effects of litter.
“Past government advertising has shown to have created an anti-littering culture that led in past years to Perth being known internationally as a ‘clean’ city; this type of promotion has to be re-introduced with a new flavour and in a number of languages,” Mr Logan said.
But the federal environment minister’s department handballed the problem, saying waste management was the responsibility of local and state/territory governments.
“Those straw sleeves, even if people don’t intentionally mean to litter, it’s really hard to pull one of those straw sleeves without it blowing away, so even if you’re not meaning to they can quite easily end up as litter…” Plastic Free July co-creator Rebecca Prince-Ruiz says.
“I think manufactures changing the designs that they’re using is certainly important, we have lived on this planet without drinking through a straw,” said Prince-Ruiz.
She also criticised supposedly “biodegradable” plastics, saying they simply broke down into tiny pieces of plastic which were still toxic and being sucked by fauna, which meant they were in the food chain and finding their way on people’s dinner plates.
Data from last year’s Sea Shepard’s Marine Debris Campaign showed 2973 plastic packaging food wrappers, packets and containers were found at Fremantle’s beaches last year.
Managing director of Clean Up Australia Terrie-Ann Johnson says despite the increased awareness of the problems plastic creates, the message isn’t sinking through to Sandgropers; at 51 sites monitored by CUA in WA, 30 per cent of the rubbish was plastic – an increase of 4 per cent from last year.
At an international level Five Gynes found that between 1.8 to 5.4 million kilos of plastic is being dumped in the ocean each year, with a total of 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating around already.
Ms Johnson says juice-boxes are a problem because they aren’t easily recycled, and the straw and the straw wrapper cannot be recycled.
She wants the juice box companies to innovate and produce a new product that doesn’t need a straw.
She’d also like to see juice boxes included in WA’s new container deposit scheme, where consumers get 10c in return for the bottles or cans.
The Ocean Conservancy released an International report in 2014, showing that out of the top 10 items found in the ocean, five were associated with drinks. The OC suggested reinventing packaging to make the products more eco-friendly.
Over in California, EarthTeam SanLorenzo has also started agitating about juice box straws and their wrappers, asking Apple & Eve to change the design after scores of the plastic sleeves started making their way into the local high schools gardens and play areas.
The two big manufacturing companies of juice boxes other than Coles and Woolworth’s are Heinz which produces Golden Circle and Lion which pumps out Just Juice and Prima.
Both were asked for comment and said they would respond but never did.
by KORO BROWN
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THE Chook’s started its first online petition to help rid our parks and bushland of this plastic scourge: Kick it along with your moniker at: https://www.change.org/p/australian-juice-box-straws-i-ve-still-got-scars-from-cleaning-them-up