Plastic Free July 2018: 31 ways to reduce your plastic footprint

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 from 159 countries signing up to take 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 European Union 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 slow, whereas we as individuals 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:

  1. Carrier bags for canvas bags
  2. Plastic drink bottles for reusable bottles
  3. Plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes
  4. Disposable takeaway coffee cups for reusable mugs
  5. Plastic straws for no straw (or reusable straws!)
  6. Shower gel for bar soap
  7. Washing up sponges for wooden dish brushes
  8. Plastic-wrapped kitchen roll for washable cloths
  9. Facial wipes for flannels or muslin cloths
  10. Single-use bottles of cleaning sprays for DIY recipes or refill-at-home products like Splosh
  11. Plastic bottles of mouthwash for mouthwash tabs in glass jars
  12. Little flimsy supermarket plastic bags for produce bags
  13. Bottles of shampoo for shampoo bars
  14. Tubes of makeup remover for glass bottles of almond oil
  15. Plastic-wrapped toilet roll for Who Gives A Crap or Ecoleaf
  16. Tea bags for loose leaf tea
  17. Synthetic fibre clothes for natural fabrics
  18. Pre-packed bags of fruit and veg for loose single items
  19. Plastic bottles of laundry liquid for refill stations or large boxes of powder
  20. Plastic milk and juice bottles for delivery in returnable glass bottles
  21. Ice cube bags for reusable ice cube trays
  22. Plastic bags of pantry staples like rice, nuts and lentils for refills in your own packaging, or compostable bags.
  23. Plastic cutlery for reusable bamboo or metal utensils
  24. Plastic wrapped shop-bought sandwiches for making your own in a reusable sandwich bag
  25. Plastic bottles of soft drink for DIY infusions
  26. Coffee pods for bags of ground coffee and a cafetière
  27. Shop bought dips and spreads for simple DIY recipes
  28. Pre-packed supermarket deli products for refills in your own containers
  29. Shop-bought compost for home made (this one will definitely take longer than a month!)
  30. Disposable razors for razors with replaceable heads, or a safety razor if you’re feeling brave
  31. Plastic pens for refillable cartridges and pencils

Continue reading “Plastic Free July 2018: 31 ways to reduce your plastic footprint”

The psychological problem with plastic

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. I can’t imagine I’m the first person to think of it, but it struck me as significant at the time.

I was at work, and we had some leftover birthday cake in the office. Some people wanted to take a few slices home, but didn’t have any containers with them. “I’ve got a spare container you can borrow” I said, offering a colleague my metal lunchbox (pictured above, minus the lunch). “I can’t take that” they replied, “it’s far too nice to borrow!”

Searching further in my desk drawer I found a plastic box, the type that takeaway food comes in. “That’s perfect”, my colleague said, “I’ll bring it back tomorrow.”

And that’s when it hit me – the problem with plastic isn’t just that it’s disposable, but that it somehow intrinsically embodies the quality of ‘disposable’-ness as well. Plastic represents something that doesn’t require care or preservation – it looks as though it was made to be discarded. Continue reading “The psychological problem with plastic”