Plastic Free July - How we can all help out.
So we're about halfway through July, and that also means we're halfway through 'Plastic Free July'. What's the deal with it? You might be involved, you may have heard about it, or maybe you have no idea what I'm going on about.
The initiative is run by the Plastic Free Foundation, who have a "...vision of seeing a world free of plastic waste." You can read a bit more about them here if you're interested. Basically it involves accepting the challenge to reduce your use of plastics over July and beyond.
Reducing my plastic waste was something I've been meaning to do for a while, so at the start of the month when I was hearing a fair bit about it I was keen to get involved. If you're not already having a crack don't stress, better late than never as the old saying goes.
I'm sure you all know about the horrible effect plastic has on the planet. But just to remind you, here are some quick facts about plastic from Global Citizen:
Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide (the equivalent to the weight of about 48 million of the worlds heaviest ever Blue Whales) and only 9% of it has been recycled - wowzas (according to a report from The Guardian).
73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic "the litter includes filters from cigarette butts, bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, and polystyrene containers" (according to National Geographic).
Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year. "Ingestion of plastic kills an estimated 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year" (according to the United Nations).
It affects us too! The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year. That works out to about 100 bits of microplastic for just one meal, according to a study published in Environmental Pollution. Interestingly this is actually from the fallout of dust particles in our homes. Icky.
Image via The Source Magazine
Sorry to kill your vibe but it's a serious problem. So what can you do to get involved? To prevent getting overwhelmed I broke it down into the old faithful reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are some things we can all do to limit our use of plastics!
This is the most important! It involves minimising the initial purchase of plastics.
- Bring a reusable bag for your food shopping (keep them in the car or at the front door).
- Buy fruit and veg that isn't wrapped in plastic packaging.
- Buy certified compostable bin liners.
- Swap liquid soaps for bar soaps.
Images via Plastic Free July
The next steps:
- When your bags have come to the end of their life, make sure your new one is made from organic or recycled fibres (such as organic cotton or recycled polyester), we'll be selling some of these soon so keep an eye out.
- Head to a farmers market or organic store where plastic packaging is less often used.
- Shop at a local bulk food store where you can bring your own produce bags, containers, and glass jars.
- Switch to shampoo and conditioner bars too or give making your own soap a crack. Have a look online for some recipes.
If you're a full-on environmentalist or maybe just a really good bloke you could write a list of categories (such as the bathroom, kitchen, shopping, etc.). Think about the products containing plastic that you use in each, and then brainstorm some alternatives. Have a look at the Plastic Free July website to get some inspiration on what else you can do.
If your plastic purchase is unavoidable, try to reuse it. For example reuse a takeaway container for food and storage, or even something unique like a paint tray. Try and find a use for it, but if not the next step is pretty important.
So you've reduced the amount you buy, and reused the plastic that you had to buy, now's the time to recycle it. What's the deal with the triangles and what about soft plastics? It can be pretty confusing and to be honest I had to look it up just to double-check while writing this.
An easy way to think of soft plastics vs recyclable plastics is if you can scrunch it (like a plastic bag or packaging), it's soft plastic. Luckily in Australia we don't have to put soft plastics in our bins cheers to REDcycle. If you haven't heard, at most supermarkets there's a designated bin where you can chuck packaging and other soft plastics, check out your local drop off points here.
Now to plastics that you can't scrunch...If you're in Australia, double-check what your local city council says here. This is super handy just to be sure what you're doing is right, and you might be surprised with what you can recycle.
Maybe I'm the only one, but a few things that I didn't know could be recycled before looking were:
- Aluminium foil
- Empty steel or aluminium aerosol cans
If you want to see what all the recycling symbols represent you can check out this article here. The council I live in allows all plastic recycling codes 1-7 to be put in kerbside bins but check yours out!
I'm still learning myself so I hope we can all get involved in this together, I'd love to hear from you about what you think, or if you're already participating what things have you tried to change? If you're wanting to challenge yourself and ultimately help shift our planet forward take the challenge on the Plastic Free July website.
- Ben at Baroku.