Plastic Free July is a campaign led by the Plastic Free Foundation. Each year, millions of people around the globe take the challenge and choose to refuse single-use plastics. Their vision is for us to live in a world without plastic waste. This is such an important movement.
The idea of Plastic Free July is to avoid single-use items where you can, by choosing longer lasting, reusable alternatives. The focus on these choices makes you stop and think and brings your decisions about single-use consumption, to the forefront. You can then implement changes in your life for the future, not just for July. This includes ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ alternatives – these are terms without a single definition, have wide ranging meanings and often don’t break down in the environment. The UN Environment Program has concluded that biodegradable plastics are not the answer to reducing marine litter.
Plastic in itself is not the enemy here and this is just one of the many complex environmental issues facing us as a planet. Many plastics are needed in our lives and many plastics are even saving lives. It is the mindless, throw-away attitude of single-use plastic items that are the problem here.
We are not 100% plastic free. I have type 1 diabetes and live attached to an insulin pump which requires plastics, changed every couple of days, to stay alive. I have multiple disabilities that require medications, some of which, come in plastic. I require to eat a particular bread that helps manage my health, that comes in plastic. I buy some packaged foods. We tried bamboo toothbrushes but they all went dank and mouldy too fast, the bristles weren’t compostable and the dentist said my teeth weren’t as clean – so we are back to electric with replaceable heads. I have scalp psoriasis and the only thing that has helped is a particular coal tar shampoo in a bottle.
We have solar panels and a storage battery, we have rainwater plumbed to the house, we buy 90% of clothes, 100% of furniture, 80% of household goods and gifts, secondhand. We do some bulk food shopping and take produce bags and green bags to the supermarket. I have driven a hybrid car for 15 years. We refuse single-use items and take cups, bottles etc everywhere we go, use thrifted Tupperware for lunches and storage, recycle and compost as much waste as possible, grow some fruit and vegetables, and, when we need items, we look for ethically made, sustainable and eco friendly. We use earth friendly, palm oil free soaps, washing products, scrubbers, makeup, skincare etc.
Some Tips for Plastic Free July (and beyond)
- Avoid as much plastic packaging as you can.
- Choose loose products when shopping for fruit and vegetables – do not use their soft plastic bags. Just take them naked to the check out or use a reusable bag – old pillowcases even work!
- Always remember your reusable shopping bags – keep a stack in the car and some in the house. Take them back to the car when emptied.
- Shop at the deli counter or butcher or fishmonger for paper wrapped cuts or BYO reusable container – just be aware not everyone will let you do this. I have had arguments in stores! Seek out those who will allow this and stick with them. Use your spending power.
- Bring your reusable cup or sit and enjoy a real cup of coffee or tea.
- For take-away, support places offering compostable alternatives for containers such as bamboo or card, BYO reusables or sit and enjoy dine-in.
- Always fill a reusable bottle from the tap – one of the easiest things you can do.
- Reduce the amount of bottled soft-drink you consume, or make your own with a soda maker/carbonator, or if you must, choose glass bottles or aluminium cans – and then always send for recycling.
- For your bins, compost or green waste food scraps – keep a container on the sink and empty at the end of the day. Use nothing for your kitchen bin, or line with paper. Recycle any packaging you do have.
- Use a reusable lunch box to store food, store food in containers, or use beeswax wraps, or use another plate over the top in the fridge to keep food fresh. We find many reusable containers in garage sales and op shops.
- If you are still a smoker, dispose of cigarette butts in the bin (they are plastic and wash into the ocean environment). Do not use balloons anymore and if you must, never release them into the air.
Do as much as you can, at each moment of your life and try to feel empowered by that, instead of suffocating underneath guilt about what you can’t do. I will never put all my waste in one jar for the year. But I am having a bloody good go at living a good, gentle, positive life. Remember that as you go through each day, this July, and every day from here. This movement is an opportunity to stop and think. It is not for a month, it is about a change for a lifetime and beyond. Do what you are able. Do what you can. Every step matters xx