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Sustainability Expert Alex McDonald On How To Improve Your Plastic Footprint

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Sustainability expert Alex McDonald explains the importance of doing your part for a waste-free world, one small step at a time starting with plastic.

It’s been a rough start to the year and it’s fair to say that the word pandemic has likely become the most important P in your vocabulary. Plastic, and indeed, the reduction of it in your household, may have taken a back seat. We get it – in a world of home working, home schooling, sanitisation, and keeping your sanity(!), it’s understandable that ‘protecting the environment’ may have slipped off the to-do list.

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It’s a paradoxical reality we’re living in at the moment. While lockdown-driven cleaner air and flourishing natural habitats are being celebrated in our Instagram feeds, it seems there could be a bit of a wasteful little secret hiding in our bins. From home deliveries to supermarket spikes to more time indoors – lockdown, and perceptions of sanitation, has potentially contributed to plastic creep in the home, and plastic seep into our bins.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t be. Unilever’s Head of Sustainability, Home, Beauty and Personal Care, Alex McDonald gives us some simple tips to improve our plastic waste footprint this Plastic- Free July, and set you up for sustainability success in our New Normal.

First step, get waste savvy. Make reduce, reuse, recycle your mantra, and consider these simple switches:

  • Talk to takeaway food outlets about options for using your own containers (where safe to do so under COVID-19 restrictions) and refuse disposable cutlery or napkins with deliveries.
  • Take the time to upskill your coffee-making at home rather than buying it in a takeaway cup.
  • Consider refill pack formats, or concentrated solutions that give you more bang for your buck.
  • Support local – buy from local fruit and veg markets straight from the farm.
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Contrary to the name, there’s nothing sweet and innocent when it comes to virgin plastics.

“Virgin plastic is produced using natural gas or crude oil and puts an incredible amount of pressure on our environment in order to create brand new plastic products,” says Alex.

“The amount of virgin plastic that goes into our shopping carts can be phenomenal, but being aware of the better alternatives can make a huge difference.

“Companies like Unilever are taking great leaps in the recycled plastics space, and in providing consumers with the option to buy better. We’re particularly proud that TRESemmé, Toni & Guy, Surf and OMO are now made from Australian-sourced recycled plastic* – a first for a mass consumer company. With between 25% to 100% recycled plastic in our bottles, it’s fantastic to be able to help close the loop on plastic waste in our own backyard.

“Looking out for packaging labels that highlight that they are made from recycled plastics (such as the Comfort gold neck, or TRESemmé Australian map label) are some of the simple ways you can address plastic waste in the home – before you even take a step in the door.”

Reduce your Plastic Footprint: Recycle like a pro

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Just because you might have more plastic in the house, doesn’t mean you don’t have a role to play when it leaves your four walls. Battle of the bins no more – there are handy tools out there to help you get disposal savvy.

“The Australasian Recycling label provides Aussies with easy-to-understand recycling information, making it easier for you to put the right packaging in the right bin. Easy graphics that are clear of confusion, and save you time – it gives you all the info you need at the point of disposal.

“By the taking the time to recycle properly, you can help give old plastic the opportunity to become something better and brighter, like the recycled plastics bottles available on your supermarket shelves. That’s what we call closing the loop on plastics,” says Alex.

* recycled High-Density (HDPE) and PET plastic

alex mcdonald
Alex Mcdonald

Alex McDonald has over ten years’ experience supporting businesses to create positive environmental and social change. She serves on the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Sustainable Practices Committee, the Marketing Advisory Committee for the Australasian Recycling Label, and is a participant in the eXXpedition Round the World mission, an all-female voyage mission that explores the impact of plastic and toxic pollution in our ocean.

As part of her current role as Head of Sustainable Business & Communications, Home Beauty & Personal Care for Unilever ANZ, Alex helps drive the reduction of plastic waste in Australia through product innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

Written by Robyn Foyster

With over 30 years experience as a journalist and TV producer, Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites TheCarousel.com, GameChangers.com.au and WomenLoveTech.com.

Robyn was voted one of the 30 most powerful women in media at the 2015 B&T Women In Media Awards.

Previously, Robyn was the Publisher and Editor of Australia's three biggest flagship magazine brands - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea.

Robyn won Editor of the Year at the 2007 Magazine of the Year Award and under her helm The Australian Women's Weekly won the inaugural 2008 Australian Magazine Award for Australia's best mass market magazine and New Idea won the MPA's coveted Magazine of the Year award.

She can be contacted on [email protected]rousel.com.

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