July marks the 11th annual celebration of the Plastic Free July Campaign. As our global environmental crisis continues to prosper, it is important now more than ever that we learn about plastic pollution, and what we can do to stop it.
Today, there is approximately 8 billion tons of plastic waste, only 9% of which has been recycled. The rest ends up polluting our streets, oceans and sitting in landfills. Learn more about how you can transition to a single-use plastic free life.
Background on Plastic Free July
In 2011 Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and her team at the Plastic Free Foundation created the annual Plastic Free July Campaign. With around 326 million participants, this global movement was started to educate and include everyone on the fight against plastic pollution.
Participants can sign up for the challenge on the organization's website, helping them track their progress, connect with others and get information on Plastic Free July events going on in their communities. The challenge is tailored to each person, allowing everyone to go at their own pace, while motivating each participant to reach their own personal goals.
5 Ways to avoid single use plastics
Whether we realize it or not, single-use plastic is all around us, but is something we need to try to avoid. Using plastic utensils on a picnic, a plastic bag for your takeout order or wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap, are all little actions with a big impact. The good thing is, we now have so many alternatives, providing us the same convenience of these single-use items, without the high environmental costs. Here are tips and tricks you can use to avoid single-use plastics.
1. Plastic alternatives for your home
The best way to remove single-use plastic from your life is to start at home. Some of the easier products to avoid are single use plastic packaging items, such as plastic wrap or plastic bags. Luckily, these can be easily replaced, with compostable zipped bags, or reusable food storage containers.
Another major contributor to single-use plastics in your home are your personal care items. Most shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions and serums come packaged in plastic bottles that we throw out once we are done. To avoid plastic waste with these items, you can purchase them in the bar form. Shampoo bars for example, they last longer and are easier to travel with when you are on the go. To learn more check out the best eco-friendly shampoo bars to find the right one for you.
Additionally, many feminine care products come wrapped in layers of plastic and even have tiny microplastics in the absorbent parts of the products. For your health and for the environment, try switching to replacements that are made of 100% cotton.
The last major contributor to plastic waste in the home is cleaning supplies. When you are shopping for cleaning make an effort to search for alternatives that come in sustainable (refillable) packaging.
2. Plastic alternatives on the go.
Each minute there is an estimated 1 million plastic bottles purchased worldwide, most of which are not recycled and end up polluting our beaches. When you are out on the go bring a reusable water bottle with you. If you forgot your water bottle at home, buy water in cardboard, glass or metal containers instead. These are far better for the environment and can be reused, safely without any harmful chemicals from the plastic.
Many restaurants and take out places have started carrying cutlery that is 100% compostable. When eating out, choose these options over plastic options. If you are bringing take out food home, leave the plastic cutlery and instead use your personal silverware at home. If you are planning a picnic or barbecue and want to bring cutlery you can dispose of, there are many biodegradable and compostable options that can be purchased online. You don't have to cut out disposable cutlery from your life, instead switch to environmentally friendly options that are not made from single-use plastics.
3. Join the online challenge.
While you may find this challenging, it is important to remember you are not alone in this battle. Luckily, the Plastic Free Foundation has created a platform to connect those who have decided to take this journey. If you are interested in taking the challenge to refuse single-use plastics this July visit their website to sign up.
Though the prospect of going completely plastic free may be daunting, the online challenge has different levels, allowing each of us to tailor the challenge to our specific goals. Throughout your journey, the Plastic Free July campaign provides stories and tips from other participants, to help us stay motivated and learn more. In addition they organize plastic free events in communities all over the world, which are open to everyone.
4. Recycle consciously.
Removing single use plastic completely from your life may be challenging. If you do ever use any plastic products, it is important to dispose of it properly. Unfortunately, a large percent of the waste we put in the recycling doesn't end up getting recycled. In the past year only 8% of plastic waste was in fact recycled. A big reason for this is improper recycling habits. In order to avoid this it is important to pay attention when you dispose of your plastic. First you need to be cleaned of any food remnants so it does not contaminate the batch of material being recycled. Similarly, it is important to read the bottoms of the containers in which you place them in the recycling bins to ensure that you dispose of them correctly and to avoid contaminating a batch of recycling with unusable materials.
An even better way of recycling plastic is through upcycling it, reusing it in useful ways. If you buy products made from plastic there are ways to reuse and dispose of them in more eco-friendly ways, preventing them from polluting our oceans and landfills. It may not be obvious, but many of the plastic containers that you purchase can be utilized for other purposes. For example, if you buy something that comes in a single use plastic container, it can be upcycled and turned into a potting bed for your plants. This method is really simple and convenient. All you need to do is clean it out, make a drainage hole at the bottom of the container, and pot your plant. You can even get more creative and paint the containers.
Another new way is through a technique called Bottle Bricking. Instead of throwing out plastic bottles, keep them and fill them with all your small plastic waste including: plastic bags, wrappers etc. Once these bottles are fully compressed with enough trash, they can act as bricks. This is a technique used around the world as a low cost alternative to traditional bricks for building structures. If you don't plan on using your plastic bricks , you can donate to a local drop zone so it can be used in another project. Visit https://ecobricks.org/en/drop-off.php for more information.
5. Shop consciously
One of the best ways to decrease your plastic consumption is to shop consciously. Whether it is what you are buying, or how you are buying it, start factoring in environmental implications into your purchasing decisions.
Today, one of the largest plastic pollutants comes from retail, especially the fashion industry and e-commerce. While shopping online is undeniably convenient, it comes at a great environmental cost, generating tons of plastic waste each year.
Whenever we order something online, most of the time it gets delivered to us packaged in layers of single use plastic. You don’t have to stop online shopping altogether, but attempt to curb your online shopping by shopping locally or choosing online retailers that use sustainable packaging.
Finally, one of the newest and most damaging trends is buying fast fashion. The fast fashion phenomenon started in the early 2000’s, with more cost efficient brands recreating high fashion pieces, in quicker and cheaper ways.
Everyday try and take one more step towards eliminating single-use plastic from your life. The best way to do this is by buying eco-friendly alternatives. Almost everything you purchase which is wrapped in plastic, probably comes in sustainable alternatives, such as in cardboard, metal, or glass.