Welcome to Plastic Free July, an initiative and challenge to stop the use of single-use plastic. #PlasticFreeJuly started in Western Australia in 2011 and has successfully grown to include 150 countries participating today. When I heard of it, I was thrilled that someone is bringing this topic to the public consciousness as single-use plastic is such a big pollutant that impacts us all.
The effect of single-use plastic on our environment is seen both on land and in our oceans. As single-use plastic is not biodegradable, it won’t biodegrade when placed in landfills or when it’s floating away in the ocean. Instead, discarded single-use plastic slowly degrades into micro-plastics. It’s during this process, that chemicals that are harmful to animals and humans alike are released. So we're left with harmful chemicals and microplastics that won’t disappear and that are now found everywhere in human life. In everything from the food we eat, the water we drink to the air we breathe. Animals, on the other hand, are in danger due to consumption as well as entanglement. The effects of this are already affecting life as we know it, but what we should remember is that it’s not too late to make a difference. It’s also easier than it seems!
Single-use plastic can be found in everyday items such as straws, plastic bags, coffee cups or lids and in synthetic fibres. In synthetic fibres, microplastics are released during wear and tear and wash cycles which is why opting for natural fibres in fashion is a great choice to reduce your impact.
At work and with BYEM, we don’t use single-use plastic and we only work with natural fibres for our garments. But personally, I think we all felt we had something to improve so we committed to making personal changes to stop our use of single-use plastic during July with the goal to reduce or stop it in the long-term too.
So 13 days ago, on July 1st, I set out to change the way I use single-use plastic and suddenly I realised that I do use them. A lot. And that they are everywhere. My first day, I packed two extra tote bags for groceries later, filled my refillable water bottle and set out for a day of work. It wasn’t that hard until I went grocery shopping and realised how many of the organic vegetables and fruits were sealed in plastics and not sold individually. I did my best with what they had on offer and decided to try out more farmers markets later that week. As such, the days have progressed and for most of it it’s been easy and quite informative, I’ve remembered (99% of the time) to ask for no straws, to bring my travel mug with me for coffee on the go and to pack an extra tote bag every morning for anything extra one might carry home later during the day. So far, these two weeks have given me some much-needed inspiration on how to reduce my use of single-use plastic and also convinced me that it actually isn’t as hard as I thought it would be! There’s still half of July to go, so if you haven’t yet, join #PlasticFreeJuly so that we can make a change together!
I’ve listed some great items & actions here that have helped me to stay plastic free during the first half of July and that will sure help me the second one too!
- Reusable Cups to bring with me for coffee and tea on the go.
- An extra tote bag or two in your handbag in the morning has helped me carry any extra items added during the day.
- Don’t forget to bring a set of cutlery and a reusable food container if you know you’re grabbing takeaway or leftovers.
- Ask for alternatives to plastic straws (bamboo or paper) or no straws when you’re out and about for a drink.
- Shop at markets to avoid single-use plastic in the grocery store. My area has a farmer’s market on Sundays so I try to buy most of my groceries there without packaging. Plus it’s extra yummy.
- If you’re at the supermarket and need bags for your fruit or veggies, make sure to bring your own reusable produce bags to pack in.
If you have any tips feel free to chime in, it’s a long journey and we’re just getting started!