The winter weather will see many of us wrapping up our swimming pool for a couple of months. This often leads to a not-so-spring clean of all things pool-related.

The pile of swimwear that’s seen one season too many…even if they’ve only seen the one season. The Mount Kosciuszko of swimming goggles, despite having gone half the summer unable to find a single pair. 

And, of course, the must-have floating flamingo that had a blowout after one too many dive bombs landed.

Sadly, though, this latter Aussie pool party icon (and its wide array of inflatable friends) poses quite the plastic pollution dilemma. Most are made of PVC and are therefore not suitable for household recycling. So, what do you do with your not-so-floating flamingo now?

Well, the easy answer is to send it off to landfill. 

But is that really the right answer?

With Plastic Free July acting as a friendly trigger to consider how we can be a little more environmentally friendly, we’ve done a little googling to see just how much it matters to ditch our deflated friend into the red bin.

On average, Aussies send 2.5 million tonnes of plastic to landfill each year. 47% of that comes from households. PVC is pretty low on the plastic waste audit list, but this is mostly due to it being used in hard form more than soft, and therefore usually more durable. 

The bad news? Inflatable toys are a known plastic problem. 

The good news? Overall, we’re improving year on year! Plastic waste has dropped by 3% in just a couple of years, and there are now fantastic plastic stewardship programs designed to keep the stuff out of our landfills.

So, here are some tips on how you can be a part of the plastic pollution solution.

Patch it. 

Ok, so this one might be a bit of a “state the obvious” moment. But… we figured it worth the plug just in case. If it’s just a small puncture you’re worried about, you can pick up a PVC patch pack for $3 or less and you’ve got your favourite inflatable friend back again!

Remember – before packing away any of your pool toys, make sure you dry them out completely to avoid mould. You’ll also want to pack them up well so you don’t do it a re-puncture when it’s time to pull them back out again.

Give it away.

Does patching seem too much of an effort? We get it! Life’s busy and finding time to patch up a pool toy might not be high on your list of priorities. But, as they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure! Take a quick snap of your deflated friend and throw it up on your local Buy, Swap, Sell page (yes, you’d be surprised what people will snap up for free). It’s a win/win! You save the extra room in your red bin and they get their hands on a crafty patch project and score themselves a free floaty friend in the process! 

Send it for Upcycling.

This one takes “give it away” and “crafty patch project” to a whole new level.

Yep, there are now several clever enviro-cookies rescuing failed inflatables and upcycling them into bags, pouches, carry cases, and even keychains!

Here are a few upcyclers we found pretty cool…
(And no…these are not paid plugs…we just think they’re really cool!)

Whyatt and Jack

Originally kickstarting their sustainably-minded brand back in 2010 with their first product line, I Was a Bouncy Castle, this innovative duo expanded into their inflatable pool toy range, Inflatable Amnesty, back in 2018, allowing the general public to contribute their unwanted pool toy collection to be repurposed into fun accessories. 

I Used to Be

Inspired by Whyatt and Jack during a UK trip, Kiwi ocean lover, Nina, returned home with a mission to divert plastics from New Zealand landfills. She set up shop in her dad’s garage, giving inflatable toys a second life as waterproof accessories, and has been blown away by the market response. Check out her range here.

Ploys Design

The first two were so cool, we just had to share. But, of course, it’s a little impractical (and not so great on your carbon footprint) to go shipping your unwanted inflatable overseas, so we’re wrapping up with an equally cool pool toy upcycler a little closer to home. As their purpose statement says, Ploys shares the same purpose – to give new life to old pool toys, and while there are currently no collection points in or around Port Macquarie, they offer a $10 voucher for every donated punctured pool float.

So…before you go filling up your red bin with all that unwanted and damaged plastic…

Check if you can offer it a second life. Mother nature will be happier, you’ll be happier, and your wallet will be happier next swim season!

Are you keen to learn more about Plastic Free July and perhaps even sign up to the #ChooseToRefuse pledge? Check it out here. If we all commit to just one small change at a time, together we’ll create a pretty powerful plastic-free ripple!

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