Reusing plastic waste

February 11, 2021

This article is part of the Consumer Council of Fiji’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) Campaign themed “Eliminating our plastic print”. The 2021 WCRD campaign will focus on 7Rs: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair and Replace. This 7-week campaign aims to help influence consumers to re-evaluate their consumption habits to minimise plastic use, refuse unnecessary plastic where possible and demand more sustainable alternatives from businesses and governments. This week the Council is focussing on how consumers and businesses can REUSE plastic and its associated products to combat plastic pollution.

We use plastics in virtually every shape and form in our daily lives. It carries our drinks, holds our shampoos, and keeps our veggies fresh. According to the UN Environment Programme, humans are consuming resources and producing waste at a greater scale than ever before, and per capita consumption levels are projected to increase with continued development. Data indicates that during the 20th century, global material resource use (mainly comprising of plastics) rose at about twice the rate of population. Plastic is everywhere! We love it because it is waterproof, relatively cheap, durable, and versatile. Plastic makes our lives incredibly convenient, disposable, and easy, but most people rarely think about the effects it has on the environment. Unlike other materials, it never really goes away. Plastic does break down, but in a landfill, it takes up to 400 hundred years; worse, it does not ever become other materials, it just breaks into microscopic pieces of plastic that are still non-biodegradable. From there, plastic fragments most often find their way into the oceans. But it is not just the end of a plastic’s life cycle we need to worry about. When plastic is produced, it is made from toxic materials such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, and the manufacturing by-products contaminate our air and soil.

As there has been millions of tonnes of plastics which has already been produced, we cannot just make it disappear with the wave of a wand or by just dumping it into our oceans. While there are collective efforts to control plastic pollution, one mechanism which we can employ to control plastic demand is reusing the existing ones.

If you are like most people, it is difficult to make it through your day without acquiring some form of plastic! That is where reuse comes in. Once the plastic is in your possession, it is your chance to be creative and find different usages for it.

REUSE the plastics you have already. Here are a few tips;

  • Top up your reusable water bottle. When you buy a bottle of fizzy drink or even bottled water; DO NOT just discard it – reuse it as water bottles instead of buying those expensive ones.
  • Do not be shy to decline a plastic straw when you are out in a restaurant or refreshment bar. Or better yet, get a reusable one. Standard bar plastic straws cannot be recycled and can take 200 years to break down. Many businesses are now providing paper made straws which are much more sustainable.
  • Enjoying that container of ice-cream you bought? Remember such containers are also made up of plastics so, instead of discarding it, reuse it to store left over food, spices and other household products. You can get a little bit more creative and use it for your pot plants.  
  • Going out for shopping to buy products such as meat, vegetables, fruits, onions, potatoes? Take the plastic bags you already have stored away in that drawer. This way you will also save up by not paying for single use plastics.
  • Go create; reuse plastic products such as wrappers to make new products such as ornaments, jewellery and maybe a valentine’s day card for that someone special.
  • Do not throw away those single use plastic cutleries which you already have – wash it and reuse it. Not only will you help save our planet, but you will also save money.
  • Reuse those single use plastic bags as many times as possible. Instead of buying those large garbage bags, use those single use ones to cater for the waste materials
  • Do not throw away those decorations after parties. Store it away and reuse it for future events.

 Role of Businesses

Businesses also have a very important role in combating plastic pollution and eliminating our plastic foot print and todays businesses have taken note of the plastic problem and many have responded with efforts to reduce excessive plastic or launch market products made of recycled plastic. Some businesses have also capitalized on plastic reduction efforts by reusing plastic waste to create marketable products. One such example of this is luxury goods such as sunglasses made with recovered ocean plastic. These products and initiatives are examples of what businesses can do to provide an environmental service while also generating revenue. These are examples of sustainable business models which entrepreneurs must adopt to do their part in saving our planet.

For any consumer issues or more information on our campaign against plastics, consumers are encouraged to contact the Consumer Council of Fiji on toll-free number 155 or email complaints@consumersfiji.org. Alternatively, complaints can be lodged via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App available for download on Google Play Store.


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