Welcome to Plastic Free July! Originally a small initiative starting in Australia, Plastic Free July is now a global event, with over two million people from159 countries taking part in the challenge to live without single-use plastic for a whole month.
Although in its eighth year, 2018 feels like the first year that Plastic Free July is representing a truly mainstream movement. From the EU looking to get approval by May 2019 to ban ten of the most common single-use plastic items, to India’s huge announcement that they are seeking to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2022, plastic pollution is firmly on the global political agenda.
After years of campaigning by charities, NGOs and the public, it’s amazing to see governments and global organisations taking real action. But you only need to look around you in every shop, street and home to see that single-use plastic is still very much embedded in our day-to-day lives, which is why challenges like Plastic Free July are so important. Political change is necessary but SLOW, and although I will always advocate for systematic change, as individuals we can take steps right now to prevent unnecessary plastic pollution and waste.
So to kick things off, I’ve made a list of simple swaps you may want to try, one for each day of July:
- Carrier bags for canvas bags
- Plastic drink bottles for reusable bottles
- Plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes
- Disposable takeaway coffee cups for reusable mugs
- Plastic straws for no straws (or reusable straws!)
- Shower gel for bar soap
- Washing up sponges for wooden dish brushes
- Plastic-wrapped kitchen roll for washable cloths (an old t-shirt cut into squares works fine!)
- Facial wipes for flannels or muslin cloths
- Single-use bottles of cleaning sprays for DIY recipes or refill-at-home products like Splosh
- Plastic bottles of mouthwash for mouthwash tabs in glass jars
- Little flimsy supermarket plastic bags for produce bags
- Bottles of shampoo for shampoo bars
- Tubes of makeup remover for glass bottles of almond oil
- Plastic-wrapped toilet roll for Who Gives A Crap or Ecoleaf
- Tea bags for loose leaf tea
- Synthetic fibre clothes for natural fabrics
- Pre-packed bags of fruit and veg for loose single items
- Plastic bottles of laundry liquid for refill stations or large boxes of powder
- Plastic milk and juice bottles for delivery in returnable glass bottles
- Ice cube bags for reusable ice cube trays
- Plastic bags of pantry staples like rice, nuts and lentils for refills in your own packaging, or compostable bags.
- Plastic cutlery for reusable bamboo or metal utensils
- Plastic wrapped shop-bought sandwiches for making your own in a reusable sandwich bag
- Plastic bottles of soft drink for DIY infusions
- Coffee pods for bags of ground coffee and a cafetière
- Shop bought dips and spreads for simple DIY recipes
- Pre-packed supermarket deli products for refills in your own containers
- Shop-bought compost for home made (this one will definitely take longer than a month!)
- Disposable razors for razors with replaceable heads, or a safety razor if you’re feeling brave
- Plastic pens for refillable cartridges and pencils
If you’re thinking this seems like a lot of effort, and you aren’t really sure if it’s worth it, I promise you that it is! Plastic is infiltrating our environment to such an extent that it’s thought that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight. Plastic fragments are found in the stomach of nearby every seabird on the planet. We don’t even fully yet know the long-term effects of plastic, either in the environment, or in the thousands of bits of plastic we humans consume every year.
If you’d like some further reading about how and why to reduce your own plastic footprint, please have a look at some of my previous posts here:
- Why Small Actions Matter
- A beginner’s guide to (mostly) living without single-use plastic
- The psychological problem with plastic
- A Plastic Ocean (and how you can start doing something about it): Part 1
- A Plastic Ocean (and how you can start doing something about it): Part 2
So whether you want to try one idea, a few, or all 31 from my list, I really hope you’ll join me and the Plastic Free July community over at www.plasticfreejuly.org!
Cover photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Photo for graphic by Eric BARBEAU on Unsplash