There has never been a greater sense of urgency around the need to significantly reduce our plastic consumption. Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems. (1)
Why is Plastic Free July Important?
From the deepest depths of the ocean to the most remote and isolated mountain tops, our food, and our air, plastic pollution is everywhere! In fact, a recent report by the University of Newcastle in Australia suggests that each of us is eating, swallowing, or breathing in about 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic each week! That is equivalent to the weight of one full credit card! (2)
As we have written about previously, only 9% of all the plastics EVER made have been recycled! The vast majority - 79 percent- are accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. These are staggering statistics!
How Can We Get Plastic Free in July?
There is no simple solution to the problem of plastic pollution. There is, however, a wide range of actions that we can all take to make a difference to the amount of plastic waste we produce month by month.
This month, we are joining the Plastic Free July challenge, a global movement that encourages us to rethink our consumption of single-use plastics.
In the spirit of Plastic Free July, we want to offer some practical suggestions for going plastic free this month, that you can imbed into your routines and build into lifelong sustainable habits.
1. Buy Less
This is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your plastic waste and general consumption is to buy less. Choose a day a week to start with, and commit to buying nothing that day. If you already do this, try doing the same for two days, or three! No consumption, no plastics. In the words of one wise Meerkat, it's ‘simples!’
2. Plan Your Day
As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. From the ‘grab and go’ sandwich to that last minute, ‘crap I’ve got nothing for dinner!’ food shop, much of our single-use plastic is acquired because of a lack of planning. Take a short 5 minutes at the start of the day to think about your potential receptacle needs and arm yourself accordingly.
Plan your meals and shopping trips before you go to the stores (a good way to also reduce food waste), and try to take advantage of your local zero waste shops where possible, or find out about your local fruit and veg markets, which tend to have a wider variety of loose produce.
3. Find on-the-go alternatives
Following on from planning, get in the habit of keeping reusable alternatives to plastic with you at all times, either in your handbag or car, to avoid those last-minute single-use purchases. From reusable shopping bags to water bottles and coffee cups, many places will have discounts and promotional offers on plastic free items during July, so now is a great time to stock up!
4. Slowly Replace your Plastic Items
Following a challenge like Plastic Free July, can really open your eyes to the amount of plastic we consume without even realising it. Once you notice how ubiquitous plastic is, trying to switch to alternatives can feel overwhelming and expensive. To tackle this, take small steps and replace items one at a time. It’s a good idea to start with the items you use the most and make the sustainable switch once they need replacing.
When it’s time to replace that shabby old toothbrush, look for a plastic free alternative, like this one. Do the same with your toiletries as they start to run out. Once those high street socks - which probably contain plastic microfibers - become threadbare, replace them with a pair of soft bamboo socks. From teabags to toiletries, all can be easily replaced with plastic free alternatives.
5. Leave Excessive Plastic In The Shop
Excessive plastic packaging at supermarkets can feel frustrating and unavoidable. Where it is unavoidable, some shoppers have taken the novel approach of leaving the plastic wrapping at the checkout. This bold move makes a clear statement to the supermarkets that their customers want change.(3)
6. Join a Plastic Free online community
Many UK towns and cities have thriving online communities to support individuals with low waste, plastic free living. They offer support, advice, and a space to share ideas and events.
7. Demand Better!
As well as Plastic Free July, many other ongoing campaigns are calling on the Government and industries to ban, phase out, or significantly reduce single-use plastics. Below is a list of links to get you started!
Greenpeace- Tell supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic
Change. Org- Get Amazon to Offer plastic free packaging options
Friends of the Earth- Demand a new law to end plastic pollution
National Geographic- Plastic pollution facts and information
USA Today-You’re eating a credit card’s worth of plastic
Country Living-Can you leave plastic at the till in supermarkets?