Tuesday 1 November 2016

Drain Stenciling At My School

Today me and my class participated in the drain stenciling with CAFNEC I had organised.
We stenciled five drains and had a lot of fun.


Monday 17 October 2016

Plastic Pollution Facts

  • The ocean is one of the most critically endangerd habitats on Earth, and plastic pollution is one of the major threats.
  • Every year an estimated 8 to 9 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean.
  • Thousands of marine animals and sea birds die each year from swallowing or getting entangled in plastic trash.
  • Millions of marine creatures and birds die each year from swallowing or getting entangled in 
  • plastic trash.
  • Plastic is not biodegradable but breaks down over time into tiny pieces called microplastics.
  • Microplastics absorb toxins from the environment, get swallowed by zooplankton and 
  • accumulate in the food chain.

Image result for Bag it movie

The Puzzle

I decided to call my project the Plastic Puzzle because it really puzzles me why we use a material that lasts for hundreds of years and has such a huge impact on our environment for things that are only meant to last for one single use!

To find out if plastic litter was a problem around my school, I did a clean-up around my school. As you can see in the picture, I found a lot of plastic rubbish -most of it single-use plastics like plastic drink bottles, straws, single-use food wrappers and cling wrap. There are 15 storm drains and one creek leading to the ocean in close vicinity to our school so plastic could easily end up in the ocean!

My family and I participated in Plastic Free July organised by the CAFNEC Marine Response Team as part of their "Plastic: It All Adds Up campaign".

Plastic Free July was all about avoiding single-use plastics - either all single-use plastics or just the TOP 4 Plastic Pollutants:

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Water bottles
  3. Take-away (coffee) cups
  4. Straws

We decided to try and avoid all single-use plastics where ever possible!

We went to some of CAFNEC's fantastic workshops and learned lots of cool ways to avoid plastic such as making beeswax wraps, your own mozzie repellent and toothpaste as well as many tipps on how to avoid plastics in our everyday lives.

Here is a link to the CAFNEC website:

Here is how to make some of the things we learned.

Beeswax wraps

You need: Some 100 % cotton fabric, beeswax, baking paper, a pair of scissors, a grater and an iron.

  1. Cut out a piece of fabric large enough to wrap around your sandwich or cover a bowl to store food in the fride. 
  2. Put the piece of fabric on a piece of baking paper. 
  3. Grate some natural beeswax and sprinkle the grated beeswax evenly over your piece of fabric.
  4. Cover with another piece of baking paper.
  5. Iron until all the wax has melted and distributed evenly.
  6. Let dry and cool down. 
  7. Your beeswax wrap is now ready to use!

Home-made Mozzie Repellent:

You need:

Coconut oil
Eucalyptus oil
Tea Tree oil
Citronella oil

For a 50 ml bottle of repellent:

  1. Fill the bottle to 90 % with coconut oil.
  2. Add 10 drops of citronella.
  3. Add 4 drops of each eucalypt and tea tree oil.

Plastic-free toothpaste:

Toothpaste doesn't only come in a plastic tube, but it can sometimes also contain Microbeads. These are tiny plastic particles are added tothat get washed down the drain and will end up in the ocean.

Here is how you can make your own plastic-free toothpaste:

You need:

Bicarb soda
Coconut oil
Peppermint essential oil
A jar and and spoon.


  1. Mix bicarb soda and coconut oil to create a paste.
  2. Add a couple of drops of peppermint oil.
  3. Use like normal toothpaste!

Most toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles, a metal staple to hold the bristles in place and the plastic handle. All need to be separated before being ready for recycling. And the plastic is not recyclable.

A great alternative are bamboo brushes. We got ours from the Evironmart Cairns.

I also learned about upcycling which is turning old things into something new. Upcycling is even better than recycling since no additional energy is used. I made a coffe mug out of a jam jar and old electrical wire.

As part of their Plastic Free July campaign Cafnec hosted a film screening  of Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? This is a 2010 American documentary film exposing the effects of plastic bags and other plastic consumer merchandise, and its effects on land ecosystems, the marine environment and the human body. Check out their website at: http://www.bagitmovie.com

One of the facts I learned is that one plastic bottle uses this much oil to make:

This is how much crude oil - a non-renewable natural resource - is used to produce a single plastic bottle and transport it to the shop: 25 % of the capacity of the bottle for the production and another
15 % for the transport. In addition, three times the capacity of the bottle in water are needed for its production! All that for a single bottle of water!!!

Fete Stall

I ran a stall at my school Fete with some posters and display about plastic and how you can avoid it.

Here are some pictures of my stall.

Radio Interview

I got the opportunity to visit the ABC Far North radio station and speak about my project on the radio.

Posters at the library

I had the opportunity to speak a the Senior Parade about my project and  put up some posters about plastic pollution and how to avoid single-use plastics in your lunch box in my school library.
At school, I especially wanted to contribute to the school's Litter-free Lunchbox campaign.

I spoke to Bess Murphy from Cafnec and am currently organising a drain stencilling session in term 4 at my school in Freshwater to raise awareness and teach people about this topic and I hope that many people from my school will participate. I will keep you posted about dates for this.

Here are some photos from a drain stencilling session with Cafnec in Yorkey's Knob I participated in as part of Plastic Free July.

One shop that is especially useful for avoiding plastic is the bulk food shop The Source in Cairns.
You can buy pretty much everything other than fresh food: from rice, pasta, flour, muesli, snacks etc.
You can even refill your soap, dish detergent, washing powder, hair shampoo, conditioner containers.

One of the things that you just can't buy in Cairns without plastic is milk and dairy products. Even the card board boxes a lined with plastic and some even have a plastic screw on lid.

I wrote to Mungali Creek and asked them if it was possible for them to put their products in glass bottles and jars.

Here is an excerpt from their reply:

Thank you for your enquiry and we would have to agree with you that we would love to see our milk bottled in Glass.

We have done research into this and there are many reasons we cannot use glass at this present time. A few of these reasons are a very large cost increase both for the bottle and the equipment to bottle and steralise, for a small local company like ourselves. There would have to be a recycling plant set up as we would not want glass going to our landfills either and all increased costs would then effect the sales price of our milk quite dramatically. Transport of the glass bottles is also costly due to the weight and breakage possibilities. There are also food safety with the recycling process that would have to be administered and many more requirements that would have to be looked into.

So unfortunately we won't have access to dairy products in glass bottles/jars for the time being. But I am hoping that this will be possible some time in the future since it already is in some other countries like Germany (see picture below). 

More tips on how to avoid plastic when shopping:

Bring your own container when buying meat or fish.

Here is a great alternative to conventional scourers. These are made from coconut husk and work really well.

Buy fruit and veg loose or use reusable produce bags, or consider subscribing to a weekly or fortnightly fruit and veggie box with seasonal, local produce.

Today I talked in my class about my project. Here is my presentation...

I have organised a drain stencilling session for my entire class in Freshwater for the 1 November. Just waiting for approval by the city council. Picture of the event will follow.

Saturday 9 July 2016

Plastic Free July Family Day at Yorkeys Knob

Plastic Free July was all about avoiding single-use plastics - either all single-use plastics or just the TOP 4 Plastic Pollutants:

Sunday 1 May 2016

The Plastic Puzzle


Hi, I'm Oliver Spray from Freshwater State School.
At the start of this year, I was among a group of year five students from schools around Cairns selected to participate in an environmental sustainabilty project with the Holloways Beach Environmental Education Centre.

As part of the project we went to Green Island and participated in a beach clean-up with Tangaroa Blue.  We found a lot of rubbish, and most of it was plastic, so I decided to make my project about plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.