REAL LIFE

I’m An Eco Mum

Simona is on a plastic-free mission
  • When Simona Paganetto, 45, relocated to Australia, she knew she needed to do something to protect its beauty.
  • Discovering a beach clean-up group, she decided to join. 
  • Now Simona is on a plastic-free mission.

Here Simona tells her story in her own words.

Gazing at the pristine beach and sparkling, blue ocean before me, I was awestruck.

‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ I cooed to my four-month-old bub, Alessio, who was nestled in his baby carrier.

It was 2014 and my husband Dominic and I had relocated to Queensland from Switzerland, where we’d met.

While I’m originally from Italy, Dominic is a true-blue Aussie and had been yearning for home.

‘It’s beautiful. You’d love Australia,’ he’d told me.

So we’d taken the plunge and moved to Airlie Beach.

I’d instantly fallen in love with its sparkling shores and clear blue skies.

Being new to the country, I was keen to meet people and explore.

Discovering there was a volunteer beach clean-up group, I decided to join.

That weekend, I left Alessio at home with his dad while I hopped on a boat with the rest of the volunteers.

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I want a better future for my children (Credit: Supplied)

As we cruised out to the Whitsundays to pick up the litter, I wondered if there would even be much for us to do. After all, the beaches I’d visited so far had seemed pretty clean.

But my heart sank as we approached what looked like mountains of rubbish blanketing the shoreline.

How can this be? I thought, horrified.

The contrast of gorgeous white sand against piles of cigarette butts and plastic bags was devastating.

Picking up a sack, I got to work, and we all combed the beach, filling our bags with trash.

At the end of the day, we rifled through the rubbish, recycling what we could before disposing of the rest in landfills.

Back at home, I told Dominic about what I’d seen.

‘If you think those beaches are pristine, think again,’ I sighed. ‘There’s kilos and kilos of rubbish.’

‘That’s terrible,’ Dominic agreed.

I’d naively thought only third world countries had waste problems.

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Me cleaning up a Darwin beach (Credit: Supplied)

When I looked up the topic online, it wasn’t difficult to get more information.

Waste was washing up on shores all over the world.

I continued volunteering on a weekly basis, doing what I could to protect our slice of paradise.

One time we came across a sick turtle. Luckily, someone in the group managed to rescue it, but it was awful to think of all the other poor animals we couldn’t help.

In 2015 Dominic and I relocated to Darwin.

I got a job in marketing and, although it paid the bills, I knew I wanted to do something with more meaning.

Passionate about protecting the environment, I did what I could to live as sustainably as possible.

After giving birth to our daughter, Viviana, in 2017, my urge to bring more positive changes to our planet grew.

I couldn’t bear to think what kind of world my kids would have when they grew up.

‘I need to do something,’ I told Dominic.

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Some of the rubbish we collected (Credit: Supplied)

Researching online, I found I could import stainless steel straws from China to sell here.

So I ordered batches and put them up on Amazon.

They flew off the digital shelves – I was helping to reduce plastic consumption and making some extra cash in the process.

But soon the market became saturated with steel straws, and I realised we needed a bigger solution to the plastic problem.

We need to stop using so much plastic, but

it’s so difficult when it’s everywhere, I thought.

In 2020, I had a light-bulb moment – I could set up a directory website offering plastic-free alternatives.

Scouring the internet, I contacted plastic-free businesses across the world, asking if they’d like to be included, and created I’m Plastic Free.

It was so successful that in 2022 I relaunched as a global online marketplace, where people could go to purchase plastic-free products or things made with recycled plastics.

From shampoo bars to furniture, to undies free from plastics such as polyester and nylon – any plastic-free items I could find went on the website.

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The turtle we rescued (Credit: Supplied)

In time, it became a one-stop shop for people wanting to make sustainable purchases.

‘I’m so proud of you,’ Dominic smiled, as my business grew and more people began making better buying choices for the environment.

Nowadays, we have 10,000 people visit our website each month from all over the world.

And we’re hoping to get bigger and bigger!

I also still do regular beach clean-ups, to set a good example to Alessio, now 10, and Viviana, six.

If we all do our bit, I know we can protect our beautiful planet for future generations.

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I look for plastic-free products (Credit: Supplied)

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