Cairns Regional Council has found a use for its straws, the challenge for others is what to do with yours.
What was once over 500,000 plastic straws is now a stylish new seat on the doorstep to the Great Barrier Reef.
Thanks to the hard work of The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), millions of straws are now being saved from entering waterways and the environment.
The seat, located on the Cairns Esplanade, is not just for sitting – it conveys an important message about recycling and waste reduction.
The Last Straw on the GBR founder, Nicole Nash, said, “A circular economy is our future if we are to even begin to control the plastic problem the world is facing. There is plenty of plastic out there, both on the land and unfortunately in our oceans.”
Since launching The Last Straw on the GBR in January 2017, Nash has enlisted more than 120 venues in Cairns to ditch plastic straws and at least 350 venues over the entire Great Barrier Reef coastline have joined the campaign.
From nightclubs to cafés, gyms, reef boats and even food vans, business owners are feeling the pressure to make changes around waste in their venues.
With some venues committing to go plastic straw free as soon as they heard of the movement, it resulted in surplus amounts of unused straws in the region. Nash collected more than 500,000 plastic straws from local venues, stockpiling the items until a way could be found for them to be re-purposed.
With no soft-plastic recycling facility in north Queensland, the straws travelled almost 3000km to Melbourne where Australian owned company Replas transformed them from rubbish into furniture.
Nash said, “We need facilities like Replas to ensure our waste is recycled in Australia.”
A Replas spokesperson said, “For recycling to work, it is essential that the people who produce plastic waste take responsibility for the life cycle of the material.”
Replas chooses to partner with companies that understand and embrace the ‘Pull Through Effect’, meaning they take responsibility for what happens to the plastic waste they generate.
Replas recycles the soft plastic material collected and turns it into products designed for outdoor use within the community.
At Replas, waste is a valuable resource.
Facilities like Replas ensure that recycled plastic is bought back into viable, useful products that will better the environment.
In early 2016, ReGen Plastics launched a project to establish a facility to recycle plastics in Cairns, but require further funding in order to proceed.
“ReGen Plastics offers congratulations to the Last Straw on the GBR on demonstrating the power of recycling. This is exactly why we need the ability locally to process plastic resource that would otherwise end up in landfill,” co-founder of ReGen Plastics Lesley Van Staveren said.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning, who today joined with Ms Nash and Replas to officially unveil the seat, said the project represented a significant step forward in protecting the reef.
“It’s easy to take for granted the fact that we have the GBR on our doorstep.
“But the truth is that we all have a responsibility as the reef’s custodians to protect it from our actions.
“We know that plastic straws are a killer of marine life – it makes sense to remove them from circulation.
“Thanks to projects like The Last Straw on the GBR we have seen a real and tangible action to protect our marine life.
“This recycled plastic seat will forever serve as a reminder of this important step we’ve taken as a community.”