The month of July is upon us, meaning summer is officially in full swing! We love spending our July days lazing on the beach, indulging in an ice cream and taking the time to relax. But there's one thing about July we love even more than all these things put together; Plastic Free July! Plastic Free July is "a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities." So read on if you want to learn even more about this fantastic initiative and how you can get involved. (Hint: it's easier than you think!)
Plastic Free July is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation that allows like-minded people to work towards a shared vision of a world free of plastic waste. From humble beginnings in 2011, the award-winning Plastic Free July campaign is the result of years of hard work from charities, businesses, schools and individuals alike. The initiative was started by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz (the founder of the Plastic Free Foundation) and a small team in local government in Western Australia, and is now one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world. Millions of people across the globe take part every year, with many participants committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July. In July 2019 alone, an estimated 250 million people across the globe took part in the challenge from 177 countries. An IPSOS survey revealed that 29% of people surveyed worldwide were aware of the Plastic Free July challenge and almost half of those chose to take part in 2018. Plastic Free July participants managed to reduce their household waste and recycling by 23kg per person per year (almost 5%!), contribute to a total saving of 825 million kg of plastic waste each year and 9 out of 10 people that took part made changes that have become daily habits or a way of life.
Now that we know what a great initiative Plastic Free July is, let's talk single use plastics. Single use plastics are not the environments friend, in fact an astonishing 8 million tones of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year, causing irreparable damage to our most delicate ecosystems. Did you know over 90% of all sea birds have plastic pieces inside their stomachs? Plastic is a virtually indestructible material, meaning it will easily last for 100's of years. With exposure to UV rays and the ocean water, plastics tend to break down into small fragments, meaning these tiny pieces easily find their way into marine life. We are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes – used for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years. So what are single use plastics? To put it simply, single use plastic are any plastic or plastic containing items that you use only once or perhaps a couple of times. These can include;
- Drinking straws
- Coffee cup lids
- Carrier bags
- Cosmetics packaging
- Food packaging
- Plastic water bottles
- Single-use cutlery
- Nappies & sanitary products
- And much more!
So how can you cut down your usage of these products? Well, the Plastic Free July website provides a whole host of information and alternatives for the single use plastics you use in your daily life and we highly recommend looking at their website and, of course, signing up for the challenge! But we also wanted to share with you some of our personal top tips on making the switch to a more eco-friendly and ethical lifestyle. Firstly, it is important to take things at your own pace. It would be virtually impossible to become plastic free overnight so don't put that kind of pressure on yourself! Even making just one swap is a fantastic start, so pick things that will realistically work with your lifestyle. That being said, we truly do believe that cutting out single use plastics is something that everyone can aim to achieve, and it is often much easier than people initially think. Here's our top 4 tips for cutting out those pesky plastics!
- Ditch the takeaway coffee cup
We know this is probably one you hear a lot, but it really is one of the easiest ways to cut down on your plastic waste if you are a caffeine-addict like us! There are a huge range of reusable coffee cups on the market, from glass, to porcelain; there are even collapsible silicone cups that take up next to no room in your bag or pocket! We love the Stojo collapsible cups for their durability and simplistic design. You can shop on their website, or if you are based in the UK they are also stocked on ethical superstore.
- Opt for plastic free cosmetics
How many plastic bottles are in your bathroom right now? From soap to shampoo, nearly every cosmetic we know comes packaged in a plastic bottle, but it doesn't have to! A simple switch to make is to swap out your liquid soap for a bar, which can often be purchased in no packaging at all, or in recyclable paper or card packaging. We stock a range of beautiful, handmade soaps from the fantastic social enterprise Arthouse Unlimited which you can shop on our website. You can also try a plastic free shampoo by choosing to use a solid shampoo. We love Beauty Kubes as they are so easy to use and leave our hair feeling super clean and shiny. Simply take one of the cubes into the shower with you, crush between wet hands and work into a paste before massaging it into your hair - simple! They also make body wash cubes which are just as fantastic.
- Avoid pre-packaged foods
Walking around the supermarket, you're sure to notice all the plastic packaging that we have become so accustomed to. Pre-packaging foods is incredibly wasteful and often unnecessary. The best was to avoid all this plastic packaging is to buy your produce loose, either from a supermarket, or even better, from your local greengrocers. Paper bags will often be available for loose produce, or if you want to be extra eco-friendly, you can bring your own bag from home. Another great way to cut down on plastic food packaging is to find a local zero-waste or refill shop. These shops allow you to bring your own containers and fill them with various dried goods such as rice, pasta, nuts and cereals. Not only does this cut down on plastic packaging, it also reduces food waste as you can buy the exact amount that you need - what's not to love?
- Swap cleaning products for eco-friendly alternatives
Most people don’t even give a second thought to everyday items like kitchen sponges, but most are made from cellulose (natural fibres), with the scrubby part made from polyester or nylon. They are non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and are made from non-renewable sources like oil and gas. Instead, you can opt for an eco-friendly alternative like a loofah. Not only are they 100% natural and compostable, but they dry faster, last longer and you can microwave them to help kill germs! Similarly, conventional cleaning wipes are made from polyethene, a type of plastic. They never fully biodegrade. Instead, they break down into fibres. When they reach a water source, the wipes begin to release micro-plastic that harms fish and other marine life. Most cleaning products such as anti-bacterial sprays and bleach also come in plastic bottles, but these can easily be replaced with homemade alternatives or refillable options. If you want more information on sustainable, plastic free cleaning then check out our Sustainable Spring Clean guide.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Plastic Free July and hopefully you learnt some new tips to help you reduce your single use plastic consumption too! Don't forget to join over 250 million people worldwide and sign up for the official Plastic Free July challenge to receive helpful tips and tricks sent straight to your inbox. Will you be giving it a go?