Make no mistake about it: plastic is bad. And plastic in the ocean is about as bad as it can get.
As far as plastic pollution is concerned, Australia is far from innocent. In fact, 75%of all coastal debris in the sunburnt country is plastic (again – 10% plastic bottles!)
This is a problem that has vexed Richard for three decades.
Surely, in a sunburnt country whose population adores the beach so much, this endless flow of plastic bottles is staunched before it’s dumped in our coastal water, ready to wreak havoc on the local marine life? The sad answer is: no.
In 1977 political legend Don Dunstan introduced a container deposit scheme into South Australia. By returning used bottles, South Australians earn themselves cash rewards (currently 10 cents per bottle). Over the decades, this has resulted in an80% improvement in the recycling of plastic bottles, translating into a huge reduction of bottles taking a dip in the ocean.
Incredibly, it took over three decades before another part of Australia followed suit – with the Northern Territory introducing a container deposit scheme in 2012.
But the most densely populated area in Australia is the east coast. That’s where most plastic bottles are consumed. And where plastic bottle pollution is greatest.
Earlier this year, the New South Wales government indicated it finally wanted to go ahead with a container deposit scheme. And Richard is keeping a keen eye on how that plays out. But the Victorian and Queensland governments seem to be playing a dangerous waiting game – endlessly avoiding the issue.
Clearly, this isn’t good enough. If the east coast of our beloved country has the opportunity to increase the recycling of plastic bottles, it must do so immediately. This is a matter that can wait no longer.
Which is why, at the age of 50, Richard is putting his livelihood on the line – and pushing himself to the limits of human endurance – to swim the entire coastlines of Victoria and Queensland in a giant bottle made of re-purposed plastic bottles.