Wendy’s war on plastic

WENDY SMITH is 74 years old and collects plastic.

Over the past five years Ms Smith has patrolled Port Beach each day picking up rubbish and putting it in a plastic jar.

When the jar is full she twists on the lid and on the side writes, “Port Beach Preservatives. Would you eat this?”

Although she refuses to call it art, the vibrant jars sit in a number of community spaces and small businesses in Fremantle as a sobering reminder of the toxicity of plastic.

“I just love watching the fairy terns return each year from Broome,” she says.

“The thought of them choking on plastic kills me.

“I hate watching birds and fish die from it. It really tugs at the heart.”

• Wendy Smith wearing a jumper she found on the beach. Photo by Jayden O’Neil

Between 5 – 13 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic—by weight—than fish, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Fremantle resident and founder of Plastic Free July, says that the enormity of the problem is due to the ubiquitous nature of disposable plastic and the habits of modern consumerism.

Alongside the surge in the amount of plastic production is the amount of people actively refraining to use it.

More than one million people, in over 159 countries, participated in Plastic Free July this year.

Beginning in 2011 with just 40 Perthites, Ms Prince-Ruiz attributes the growth of the movement to the personal stories of change that have brought people together and inspired others.

“There’s been a shift in Fremantle this year,” she says. “The behaviour is becoming mainstream. We saw this year that businesses were actively encouraging customers to reduce the use of plastic.”

“We’ve reached a tipping point.”

Manna Whole Foods was one of a number of community groups and businesses in Fremantle that openly embraced the challenge.

Although Manna has not used plastic bags for 10 years, they continue each July to come up with new creative ways to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic.

By JAYDEN O’NEIL 

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