Picnicking with purpose

To stem the rising tide of single-use plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and landfill, Plastic Oceans Australasia’s Picnics Unwrapped campaign urges people to picnic plastic-free.

Written by Paul Cumming – Editor Plastic Oceans Australasia

27 October 2021


Plastic Oceans Australasia’s Picnics Unwrapped campaign urges people to picnic plastic-free.

There’s nothing like gathering with family and friends for a casual picnic, whether in our backyard, at a park or out on the water. Feeling the warmth of the sun, the sound of waves breaking and enjoying good food and the company of great friends.

Whether entertaining on water or land, a lavish event or pleasant picnic, eating food outdoors actually adds a certain element to the overall experience. But enjoy these things as I do, I have to admit these gatherings are not without their problems.

The key problem with our traditional get togethers is that they tend to come with uninvited guests: plastic bottles and packaging, plastic wrappers, straws and foam. Around 50 percent of all plastic consumption is single use – items that are used once, momentarily, but live on in our oceans and waterways for hundreds of years.

And the waste from our plastic habit is astronomical, with an estimated 10 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean every year. Plastic use here in Australia is projected to double by 2040, and has risen sharply worldwide since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


But all this plastic shouldn’t put you off your gathering, wherever you choose to have them. Because whether it’s in your backyard, down by the water or, better yet, on the water, there are a multitude of ways to picnic plastic-free.

And what better way to celebrate the ocean than with a plastic-free picnic while out on the water? It’s like supporting the ocean while it’s supporting you.

But going plastic-free can be tricky at first – production and consumption of single-use plastic has become so normalised that it takes a conscious breaking of old habits to create a feast that’s both kind to our oceans (and ourselves).

So, here are five ways you can take the plastic out of your picnic before you take it all aboard.

    1. Play for keeps. Instead of their disposable counterparts, consider filling reusable water bottles, sipping out of a reusable straw and picking up a set of reusable cutlery. 
    2. Buy fresh. Buy and bring fresh, loose produce instead of pre-packaged fruit and salad ingredients, they’re plastic-free and your tastebuds will thank you for it.
    3. Don’t be clingy. Avoid plastic food wrap. As well as some biodegradable alternatives, there are great reusable solutions to cling film such as wax paper that will keep sandwiches firm and fresh, without the throwaway soft plastic. 
    4. Do it your way. Avoid pre-packaged foods and make your own tasty treats. Picnic favourites such as slices, muesli bars, chips and even icy poles are all easy snacks to make at home and will make your picnic stand out, in the best possible way. 
    5. Bowl over your guests. Instead of disposable plates and bowls, tell your fellow picnickers to BYO. There’s also a range of innovative personalised solutions to eating outdoors like storing and eating salad servings out of glass jars or keeping a store of camping crockery on hand.

Salad in a jar is a perfect option for an on-deck nautical side dish, and far easier to manage than a plastic plate!

These ideas (and many more) have been flooding in from participants in Plastic Oceans Australasia’s Picnics Unwrapped competition.

Initiated as a way to address the way we consume plastic, particularly during outdoor recreation, Picnics Unwrapped has been a fun way – even through lockdown – that we can spend some time together (whether digitally or in real life) and enjoy picnics plastic-free.

With half the global population living within 100 kilometres of a coastline, our choices around plastic make a difference, so we’re showing just how easy it is to change for the better.

The Picnics Unwrapped movement is being championed by people all around the world, with campaign ambassadors ranging from marine scientists and company founders to artists and media personalities.

But despite their diverse talents, everyone involved is united by common goals: to reduce single-use plastic consumption and stem the rising tide of pollution making its way into our oceans and waterways.

The cost of our recreation is very realPackaging accounts for around 40 percent of total plastic usage and beverage containers account for 14 percent of all litter globally.

The working life for most single-use items is astoundingly short – around 15 minutes – but they can last in marine ecosystems for hundreds of years, breaking down into microplastics and spreading further.

Enjoying a picnic on the water plastic-free is a perfect way to enjoy the company of those closest to you while celebrating and supporting the ocean that gives all oceangoing racers and recreators such joy.

Want to find out more or take action?

    • If you wish to be part of the conversation sign up and join the It’s a Wrap webinar on 9 November: It’s a wrap webinar booking. 
    • You can also visit the  Picnics Unwrapped website and enter to win some great prizes for your crew members and sailing buddies by posting a picture on board your vessel showing your plastic-free picnic tips! Entries close on 15 November.
    • Visit Plastic Oceans Australasia to find out more about what we do in schools, with community groups, in business, and of course, on boats to create a wave of change for future generations.



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