Madonna Quixley is crying as she speaks about seeing a photograph of a young bird found with 276 pieces of plastic inside its body.
“It is really hard to see, especially if you do have kids. You think ‘what the hell are we leaving them?’,” she says, while wiping the tears from her eyes.
Ms Quixley has always been conscious of her impact on the environment, but seeing images of wildlife filled with plastic and tonnes of waste washed up on beach shores ignited her drive to make positive change.
She has created new plastic-free habits in her own household and is organising a workshop to explore practical strategies to respond to plastic pollution in Ballarat.
The A Plastic Ocean, Positive Possibilities Workshop is a free event that will be held at the Eastwood Leisure Complex on January 26.
The film A Plastic Ocean will be screened during the workshop, before a discussion on positive possibilities for changing attitudes and habits by focusing on the practice of gratitude.
Watch the trailer for A Plastic Ocean below.
Workshop facilitator and Plastic Oceans Australasia board member Alex Fearnside said the workshop was designed to help participants realise their role in caring for nature.
“At Plastic Oceans Australia we are about getting the right education and knowledge to people, getting accurate science into the conversation and solutions coming from all part of society at a political, individual and business level - we all have a role to play in this,” he said.
More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are manufactured annually, half of this is for single use, according to Plastic Oceans Australia.
Single use plastic has an average useful life of 12 minutes.
“When you see what we are doing, landfills in small island countries and the impact all over the world you can’t help but have a light bulb moment and start thinking about what you can do,” Mr Fearnside said.
You think 'what the hell are we leaving them?'Madonna Quixley
“We are not prescriptive in providing solutions but we explore what it means for them. People commit to simple things like people picking up plastic they see on the ground all the way through to writing letters, lobbying and taking on personal actions, thinking about what you are buying and looking for alternatives.”
Melbourne resident Carlo Napoli was inspired to make change within his organisation after attending a Plastic Ocean workshop.
The manager of 12 aged care sites has helped improve his organisation’s recycling efforts from 18 to 35 per cent through staff training and has eliminated the use of single use plastic cutlery and dinnerware.
“Whenever we go into a gastro or influenza lockdown we immediately switch to using disposable crockery and cutlery. Doing lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon tea and breakfast, we were getting up there to 500 to 600 plastic items a day in at one site. Plastic straws was a big problem for us as well,” Mr Napoli said.
“After the video I was thinking about what I could do, the plastic was concerning me. I did some research and now all our disposable items are made from either sugar pulp or paper.”
Plastic Oceans Australiasia aims to change the world’s attitude to plastic within a generation.
Ms Quixley recommends taking change to reduce plastic one step at a time. Making small changes over time has worked for her family of six children.
“Having a big family of six kids meant that you look for shortcuts… and you tend to stock up on things. I used to have all of these plastic toothbrushes and plastic shampoos,” she said.
“For me last year was the first time I heard of Plastic Free July and I thought about what I could do. I started buying bar shampoo instead of bottle. It might seem like something small but for me it was a step. My most recent thing is I have started making my own toothpaste.
“Just try to do what you can. It is about what fits in with your lifestyle, there are so many ways to reduce plastic use.”
While public awareness about the impact of plastic is rising, state government is working to introduce plastic free policy and large corporations are establishing plastic free initiatives.
A ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags is set to come into place in Victoria by late 2019. Meanwhile, IKEA has announced it will phase out all single-use plastic in its stores and McDonalds will phase out plastic straws across Australia by 2020.
READ MORE: Supermarket giants step up war on plastic
Mr Fearnside said he was hoping to see a major supermarket chain launch a packaging free store by 2025.
“Packaging free businesses like the Source Bulk Foods are growing and showing it is possible and the large corporates are putting a real commitment behind what they are promising,” he said.
“I am really excited that one of the major chains might start a zero plastic packaging store.
“We are at the beginning of the journey, there has been a lot of action at the early stage and we want to get more people engaged so we can accelerate actions to reduce single use plastics.”
The A Plastic Ocean, Positive Possibilities workshop will be held at the Eastwood Leisure Complex on January 26 from 2pm to 4.30pm. Visit Eventbrite to register for a free ticket.