.

  • Written by Elizabeth Sinclair, Senior Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences and The UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia
Delegates at this week's marine science conference in Fremantle take a plastic-free coffee break. Alicia Sutton/AMSA

What did we use before single-use plastics became ingrained in our everyday lives? Before the 1980s, plastic bags were a rarity in our supermarkets. In 2019, excessive plastic use feels not just normal, but necessary to sustain our hectic lifestyles. From takeaway containers and supermarket packaging to cheap, low-quality goods, plastic permeates our daily lives.

However, with every passing year the scale tips further against the immediate convenience of single-use plastics, and towards the extreme inconvenience of piles of waste. The true cost to society and the environment of a “disposal economy” is becoming increasingly stark.


Read more: Will the discovery of another plastic-trashed island finally spark meaningful change?


Finding solutions to eliminate plastic waste in everyday life presents challenges, particularly during large events such as professional conferences. At some time during our careers as academics, scientists, researchers, or industry professionals, we may be part of a conference organising committee. Back in the 1990s, conferences proudly tallied how many coffee cups they used – how times have changed.

As organisers of this week’s national conference of the Australian Marine Sciences Association, we took on the challenge to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk – by holding a plastic-free conference for 570 marine science professionals, academics, and students. But how do you cater for so many people while limiting waste and using no plastic at all?

Turning the tide – be part of the solution

We started this journey 12 months ago, once we knew the challenge we were facing: a marine conference, themed around the blue economy, during July, in the Western Australian port city of Fremantle – the birthplace of the Plastic Free July movement.

From day 1, we were clear we wanted to eliminate plastic and reduce overall waste – everything from day-to-day rubbish to plastic take-home novelties that feature at so many conferences but inevitably make their way into landfill.

Recycling is only a small part of the solution. We need to “refuse, reduce, and recycle” to really tackle plastic.

What we did

We began by selecting a like-minded event organiser to work with us. Then we looked for non-plastic alternatives for obvious conference items. Here’s what we came up with:

No plastic here at AMSA 2019. Angela Rossen, Author provided
  • stiff cardboard name badges with no plastic pockets

  • bamboo lanyards with metal clips

  • 100% natural conference tote bags

  • no printed envelopes for registration packs, and no printed conference abstracts

  • all necessary printing was done on sustainably sourced paper, by a company using a solar-powered printer

  • delegates were asked to bring their own reusable water bottles and coffee cups, or pre-register to buy a reusable coffee cup at the conference

  • coffee carts with returnable cups that can be washed and reused

  • water jugs with glassware (or to refill personal water bottles) at the back of each presentation room

  • no packaged mints or lollies

  • sustainably sourced pencils instead of pens (with sharpening stations provided!)

  • plates, silverware and glassware for all meal breaks

  • vegetarian catering for tea breaks

  • all exhibitors, workshop organisers and additional functions (such as the student night and public lecture) were committed to reducing plastic waste for free giveaway products and catering.

Most importantly, we delivered these changes without increasing the budget or impacting the bottom line.

What we learned

Plan early. Going against the grain can take a bit of work, but there are usually plastic-free options available. Take the extra time and file the solution away for your next event.

Work with everyone. Create a shared goal with your whole team: event organisers, venue, exhibitors, caterers – more ideas make for better solutions. This creates a ripple effect, not only for the event, but in developing more sustainable practice for other events.

Do a site visit. Identify potential problems and devise solutions ahead of time. Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, founder and executive director of Plastic Free July, visited our conference venue and provided valuable insights.

Don’t assume. At another marine conference we attended, plastic water bottles were replaced by jugs of water (great!) and polystyrene cups (not so great!). Not all suppliers are knowledgeable about sustainable materials, so make the effort to talk through what plastic-free and zero-waste really mean.

Removing ‘hidden’ plastics

No matter how much planning you do, there will always be “hidden plastics” in the supply chain. It is impossible to control every aspect of operation of the conference venue, their suppliers (food, linen services, waste removal), and the other hotels used by delegates (who may provide guests with water bottles, drinks, and personal hygiene products in rooms).


Read more: Climate change: seeing the planet break down is depressing – here's how to turn your pain into action


Early buy-in by all service providers can help reduce this, but remember the goal is to change people’s attitudes towards waste, not to reinvent the entire events industry in one conference.

But if we can do it for 570 people, then everyone can start making similar changes at their own home and workplace too.


AMSA will host its annual public lecture, sponsored by the UWA Oceans Institute, in Fremantle on Wednesday July 10 at 6.30pm. It addresses the issue of plastic pollution and what can be done about it, both globally and locally.

Elizabeth Sinclair receives funding from the Australian Research Council and is a member of the WA branch of the Australian Marine Science Association board.

Charlotte Birkmanis is the Secretary and Student Representative of the Australian Marine Sciences Association of Western Australia.

Robert Pemberton is the vice-chair of the Australian Marine Science Association of Western Australia.

Authors: Elizabeth Sinclair, Senior Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences and The UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/we-organised-a-conference-for-570-people-without-using-plastic-heres-how-it-went-120157

'Making up games is more important than you think': why Bluey is a font of parenting wisdom

Bluey is not just a TV success story - it also contains important parenting wisdom. IMDBBluey is a ground-breaking Australian children’s television series and the most downloaded show in ABC iV...

Koa Whittingham, Psychologist and Research Fellow, The University of Queensland - avatar Koa Whittingham, Psychologist and Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

Teeth 'time capsule' reveals that 2 million years ago, early humans breastfed for up to 6 years

The teeth in these _Australopithecus africanus_ skulls contain important evidence about the nutrition of these individuals as they grew up. Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Author providedHumans’ distant ...

Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Senior research fellow, Southern Cross University - avatar Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Senior research fellow, Southern Cross University

Four Corners’ forced labour exposé shows why you might be wearing slave-made clothes

Target, Cotton On, Jeanswest, Dangerfield, IKEA and H&M are among the brands in Australia sourcing cotton from Xinjiang. www.shutterstock.comWith China’s western-most province of Xinjiang be...

Yvette Selim, Interim Deputy Director, Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Yvette Selim, Interim Deputy Director, Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney

Hand sanitisers in public won't wipe out the flu but they might help reduce its spread

It's quicker to use hand sanitiser than soap and water, which means people might be more likely to use it. ShutterstockThis year’s flu season is off to an early start, with 144,000 confirmed ca...

Trent Yarwood, Infectious Diseases Physician, Senior Lecturer, James Cook University and, The University of Queensland - avatar Trent Yarwood, Infectious Diseases Physician, Senior Lecturer, James Cook University and, The University of Queensland

Wind and solar cut rather than boost Australia's wholesale electricity prices

Power failure. It's gas, not wind, that's pushing up electricity prices. ShutterstockWholesale prices in the National Electricity Market have climbed significantly in recent years. The increase has co...

Zsuzsanna Csereklyei, Lecturer in Economics, RMIT University - avatar Zsuzsanna Csereklyei, Lecturer in Economics, RMIT University

Reading and writing assistance increases the chance of getting a Disability Support Pension

One in eight disability support claims rejected are because the applicant is unable to supply the requested information. ShutterstockThe 2019 Australian Conference of Economists is taking place in Mel...

Nary Hong, PhD candidate in Economics, UNSW - avatar Nary Hong, PhD candidate in Economics, UNSW

Meet the endangered Bunyip bird living in Australia's rice paddies

Endangered species are living happily in rice fields. Bitterns in Rice/Matt Herring, Author providedThe debate around the Murray-Darling Basin is often sharply polarised: irrigation is destroying the...

Matt Herring, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin University - avatar Matt Herring, PhD Candidate, Charles Darwin University

Regional cities beware – fast rail might lead to disadvantaged dormitories, not booming economies

Many commuters already travel from regional cities to work in capital cities like Melbourne so what impacts will fast rail have? Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-NCGovernments are looking to fast rail services to ...

Todd Denham, PhD Candidate, School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University - avatar Todd Denham, PhD Candidate, School of Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University

Curious Kids: can people live in space?

People do live outside Earth – on the International Space Station! But humans have had to find a way to make the conditions there more like what we’re used to at home. Flickr/NASA's Marsh...

Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland - avatar Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland

Extremist mobs? How China's propaganda machine tried to control the message in the Hong Kong protests

When protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong, China's state media had several tactics for how to describe it: some outlets ignored it, while others railed against 'extremists'. Jerome Favre/AAPAs ...

Joyce Y.M. Nip, Senior lecturer, Department of Media and Communications; Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney - avatar Joyce Y.M. Nip, Senior lecturer, Department of Media and Communications; Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney

Top Beach Outfit Ideas Inspired by Fashion It Girls

Whether you are going on a beach vacation or just spending a lazy afternoon lying on the beach and listening to the waves crash the shore, the only thing that could make a carefree summer day even b...

Brigitte Evans - avatar Brigitte Evans

Southeast Asia was crowded with archaic human groups long before we turned up

The ancestral population of modern humans appears to have split as it moved across Asia. ShutterstockAround 55,000-50,000 years ago, a population of modern humans left Africa and started on the long t...

João Teixeira, Research associate, University of Adelaide - avatar João Teixeira, Research associate, University of Adelaide

Curious Kids: did the velociraptors have feathers?

Was velociraptor a feathered friend? Here's one artist's impression. ShutterstockCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curious...

Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland - avatar Caitlin Syme, PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology, The University of Queensland

Voice evidence in trials: can a criminal suspect be identified just by the sound of his voice?

Prosecutors should be required to consult forensic linguistic experts on cases involving voice evidence, rather than solely relying on 'ad hoc' experts. ShutterstockA few months ago, I received a call...

Ahmar Mahboob, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney - avatar Ahmar Mahboob, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney

1 in 10 patients are infected in hospital, and it's not always with what you think

Drips and other medical devices were potential sources of infection. But no-one expected to find hospital-acquired pneumonia and urinary tract infections. from www.shutterstock.comMost people expect h...

Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University - avatar Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University

It's a bad year for flu, but it's too early to call it the worst ever – 5 charts on the 2019 season so far

The impact of the flu on a population can be measured by looking at figures including cases, hospitalisations and deaths. From shutterstock.comFrom early this year it’s been apparent the 2019 Au...

Ian Barr, Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza - avatar Ian Barr, Deputy Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza

The long history of gender violence in Australia, and why it matters today

In 2015, the Australian federal government proclaimed that violence against women had become a national crisis. Despite widespread social and economic advances in the status of women since the 1970s, ...

Alana Piper, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Alana Piper, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Technology Sydney

Explainer: what Western civilisation owes to Islamic cultures

Sculpture of ninth-century Persian scholar Al-Khwarizmi in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Latin discovery of Al-Khwarizmi's work introduced the numerals 0-9, one of many ways in which Islamic cultures have contri...

Constant Mews, Director, Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University - avatar Constant Mews, Director, Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University

Making deer fair game for unlicensed hunting is the right step for New South Wales

The fate of deer carcasses is a crucial consideration in monitoring the success of future culling. Emma Spencer, Author providedThe New South Wales government last week revealed plans to ease shooting...

Thomas Newsome, Lecturer, University of Sydney - avatar Thomas Newsome, Lecturer, University of Sydney

How to choose a Weber Q Barbeque

There are several barbeque brands in the Aussie market today, and it can be quite challenging to find the right one for you. Weber Q is a reliable, barbeque brand that comes in a wide variety of products to choose from. This article investigates th...

News Company - avatar News Company

6 Reasons Why Fresh Content Benefits Your Brand and SEO

When it comes to content marketing, most guides focus on the part where your content needs to be relevant, well-written and well-formatted, all of which are true. However, while all of them speak about quality, most of them forget to mention just...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

LifeStyle

The Gas Fireplace VS the Wood Fireplace

It’s that time of year again when the weather has turned chilly, everybody is putting out their ...

How to Revolutionize Your Beauty Experience

Being concerned with beauty and cosmetics used to mean frequent visits to the salon and sitting in...

8 Cool Yet Romantic Things to do in Australia

Australia is a wonderful place for vacationing this summer and you can beat the heat as they have ...

How to Banish Dark Circles without the Need for Cucumber Slices

Dark circles can be downright annoying, especially when you are getting enough sleep. So, what cau...