Thousands of the region’s plastic straws will be recycled and repurposed into a bench seat at Mon Repos as part of the Less is More project.
Local businesses have been embracing positive environmental change and swapping plastic straws for paper straws in their thousands.
The initiative, funded by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and driven by the Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC), aims to support businesses through the Queensland-wide single use plastic ban which takes effect on 1 September 2021.
LMAC Chair and Less is More Project Manager Sue Sargent said 150,000 paper straws were available to be ‘swapped’ with local businesses.
“A lot of businesses have been holding onto their plastic straws because nobody wants to chuck them away,” Sue said.
“And a lot of businesses have also been contacting us because they want to make a good choice for the environment.
“The challenge, I think, is … what are you going to do with those plastic straws? You don't want to chuck them into the bin.
“What we've done is provided a really simple mechanism that any plastic straws that an organisation has, we've been able to swap those for paper straws instead.
“We're calling it a Plastic for Paper Straw Swap.
“So far we've had over 70,000 straws swapped with that program.”
Sue said what was even better than taking the onus of recycling the plastic straws away from businesses was that, thanks to the Less is More project, the straws would be recycled for the benefit of the local community.
“Aside from the fact that government set a deadline of 1 September to get rid of plastic straws here in Queensland, we're actually collecting all the straws that we have been given and those will be sent off to a plastic manufacturer and they will be repurposed into a plastic bench seat.
“We're buying a plastic bench seat, which will be permanently situated out of Mon Repos
“That way we're closing the loop, closing the cycle of the plastic that's been given to us.
“The bench seat actually represents 500,000 plastic straws. So that's even more than we'll be collecting but that's all repurposed plastic.
“So we're actually helping close the cycle for other people as well.
“That's plastic that won't end up in our oceans.”
This week the Bundaberg Services Club, through both the RSL and Sandhills Sports Club, participated in the Less is More project’s biggest swap to date, handing over 25,000 plastic straws in exchange for their paper counterparts.
Operations Manager Julie Harris said the massive stockpile of straws had been sitting in storage after the organisation made the decision to no longer use the single use plastic straws.
“Originally with COVID, we weren't allowed to give out straws because of cross contamination,” Julie said.
“We actually stopped using straws when we came back from COVID … we made a point of not actually putting them out because we wanted to stop them anyway.”
She said a passionate manager at the Sandhills club had already started phasing out plastic straws.
“And that just shows you how much people use them and how much businesses have in their little stores out the back.”
Sue said the LMAC’s target for the Less is More project was to encourage 5% of the region’s residents to instigate one positive change for the environment – a target that was reached in just its first year.
“It's exciting and it's really positive to feel that you can do something that is really a catalyst for change,” she said.
“I think that people are always looking around for well, how can I do something simple?
“If somebody gives you something and says, well, this is a simple solution, this is just one thing, why don't you do that?
“And then that leads into more steps and more positive actions that people can do. So it's been great.”
To apply to swap plastic straws for paper straws through the Less is More project, fill out an expression of interest here.