This July, the world is devoted to refusing plastics. Find out why we need a world free of plastic waste and what steps we can take to tackle the plastic pollution problem.
This month in the environmental calendar is an initiative with a simple premise: living without single-use plastic. Yes it sounds daunting, but with a little planning and persistence, we can collectively reduce our dependence on plastics to create a cleaner, healthier planet.
We’re challenging you to go plastic free for 1 day this month. Don’t worry – we’ll provide tips, tricks and ideas to help make it feel easier.
Is plastic pollution a problem?
Our plastic usage has been increasing rapidly in recent decades and has had a profound effect on the planet. Initially, it was a boon to modern life, but now it's doing more harm than it is good. Alarmingly, we are producing over 380 million tons of plastic every year, and some reports indicate that up to 50% of that is for single-use purposes(1) – needed for a brief moment but lasting a lifetime on the planet.
Plastic is a nearly indestructible material that is dumped into landfills and takes thousands of years to decompose whilst leaching toxins into the soil. It’s estimated that 10 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year(2) causing the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. It also threatens food safety and quality, with microplastic particles and hundreds of toxic substances breaking down into micro and nanoparticles and entering our waterways and soil. Both humans and animals can develop neurological and developmental disorders after ingesting plastic directly. It’s pretty scary stuff!
Who are the main culprits?
Plastic producers and consumers share responsibility for plastic use. Governments have the ability to make and enforce rules, while plastic producers and consumers have the ability to change the way they behave.
With a broader goal of eliminating all "avoidable" plastic waste by 2042, the UK government is pushing to “work towards” the reduction of plastic waste to only recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. Despite successfully banning microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and reducing the number of plastic bags (which is a start!), there needs to be more drastic action UK households throw away.(4)
What is Plastic Free July?
The Plastic Free July®, is a not-for-profit and global social movement started by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz. They began in 2011 and to date have successfully amassed over 140 million people from 190 countries which stops around 300 million kgs of plastic from polluting the world each year. Through advocacy and initiatives like their Plastic Free July challenge, they remain advocates all year round and share initiatives with people and organisations with the vision to have a future free of plastic.
As a team, we’re thrilled that organisations like this exist. We need more people doing work like this to help keep our planet healthy.
What difference can I make?
This July, it’s time to start exploring alternatives.
- The first step is to carry out a plastic-use audit. Perhaps start with your waste, to see what plastics are commonly ending up in the bin and begin to cut them out of buys.
- Next, consider avoiding your single-use plastics; this is not unique to plastic straws and bags, but also unconventionally-thought items like cleaning products, beauty products and clothes.
- Lastly, seek plastic-free and packaging-free brands or ask yourself whether or not you need the plastic whenever you are making a purchase. If we all behaved this way, eventually businesses would have to take measures to reduce plastics on their shelves due to consumer pressure.
Our approach to reducing our Plastic Footprint
Rina: "we've been cutting our use of plastic down gradually over the years, starting with reusable tote bags for shopping and refillable water bottles. Our newest sustainable swap is using bars of soap instead of disposable plastic bottles of soaps and shampoo"
Sarah: "My family and I spend a lot of time in Wales which was the first nation in the UK to introduce the plastic bag tax, and is now looking to ban single-use plastics like straws, cutlery and food containers altogether. Go Wales!"
Tara: "Buying less clothing made from new plastics and instead shopping with brands that use recycled materials has been the biggest change for me, alongside the smaller swaps such as using a reusable coffee cup and avoiding quick meals from Prèt and the likes".
Jace: "I began doing the bulk of my shops at refill stores. These zero-waste shops cut out the unnecessary and wasteful packaging food products use and it's always a fun experience.