Plastic Free July: will you accept the challenge?

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The challenge: attempt to use no single-use plastic for July. That means no plastic bags, no straws, no disposable takeaway coffee cups, no plastic cups or bottles – in fact, attempt to use no disposable plastic that’s designed for one use at all.

“Think about it. Why would you make something that you are going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever? What’s up with that?” Jeb Berrier, Bag It Movie.

Why give up plastic anyway?

Did you know that plastic is made from fossil fuels? 4% of the world’s oil and gas production is used as a source of plastic, with another 4% used as energy for plastic manufacture(1). As petrol prices at the pumps continue to rise, it’s pretty crazy to think we’re still using this valuable resource to make items intended for use for just a matter of minutes before being thrown away.

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Except there is no “away”, and plastic will sit around pretty much forever. Plastics don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade – meaning light breaks them down into tiny pieces that get blown into the oceans and ingested by marine life. Birds, fish and sea mammals have all been affected by plastic.

Every single piece of plastic that’s ever been made still exists today.

Then there are the health issues. Plastic contains fillers, colours, preservatives, plasticisers, antimicrobial agents and all sorts of other additives to make them have specific properties. Plastic isn’t inert, and some leach out of the plastic: onto our skin and into our food. It’s only now that scientists are discovering that some of these additives are linked to developmental issues, neurotoxicity, hormone disruption and even cancer.

Plastic Free July – What You Need To Do

Try to refuse as much single use plastic as you can. Use a refillable water bottle and refill from the tap; bring your own reusable coffee cup; take reusable bags to the stores, or use a box. Look for alternatives: items wrapped in cardboard, bottled in glass or without packaging at all.

You don’t have to starve, or stop taking your medication! If you simply can’t find an alternative, just buy your regular product, keep the plastic and store in a dilemma bag. At the end of the month you’re free to dispose of it!

If you feel like one month is too much for you, why not commit to a week, or even just a day?
However long you do it for, you’ll find you look at plastic in a completely new light! It’s definitely an eye-opening experience, but it’s also fun. The good news: chocolate bars are plastic free! Neither Green & Blacks nor Divine use plastic packaging, so there’s no need to feel deprived!

You won’t be alone, either. Thousands of people take part all over the globe. Why not get a friend or family member to join you? You could even have a competition to see who uses the least plastic.

What do you think? Will you accept the challenge? Did you have a go last year or will this be your first time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

To find out more about the challenge, visit www.plasticfreejuly.org.
To find about more about living without plastic read this via www.treadingmyownpath.com.

Lindsay Miles is a sustainable living advocate: a writer, workshop facilitator, speaker, blogger, events co-ordinator and all-round people-and-planet lover! She believes that sustainability isn’t just about big picture stuff like “saving the rainforests”; it’s as much about the little things we do and choices we make every day. Find out more at www.treadingmyownpath.com.

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  • Lindsay, I try to live plastic free every day. It’s not always possible but that’s why I participate in plastic free July and try to learn ways to eliminate more plastic. I am probably strange in that I didn’t grow up with disposable plastic in my home and can’t stand the feeling of drinking or eating off plastic of any kind.

    • Hey Lois, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment! : ) Regarding plastic, me too – once I quit plastic it just seemed so wrong to go back to it just because the month was over! Now I use Plastic Free July as a chance to promote plastic-free living, and also look at my own waste in other areas. Plastic plates and cutlery are horrible, aren’t they?! I fail to see the point of plastic knives – I’m sure no-one has ever been able to cut anything with them ever.

  • Leanne J

    Right, I’m up for the challenge – I’ll post comments as I go along! Hope to see others doing this too 🙂

  • Ali

    I try to be plastic free as much as possible but don’t have a solution for replacing dog poo bags. I am a pet sitter and whatever I put in my dustbin has to be double bagged. Even if there’s a solution for it at home, I can’t think of one for when I’m out and about. Any tips welcome!

    • I don’t have a dog but I have friends who do so here is a couple of suggestions. When you go out for walks, clip some large squares of newspaper to the dog lead with a bulldog clip, and use those to pick it up and put it in the bin. At home you could set up a dog poo compost bin – sounds bizarre but you can buy them or make your own. You can use those green wheelie bins, cut the bottom off and bury fairly deep in the garden. Of course, this assumes you have a garden! I’m not sure about when you’re sitting in other people’s houses – that’s their territory and their rules : /

  • Everyone at Taber Holidays is up for the challenge!

  • christine davies

    With pleasure i will do a no plastic July, i try all the time to use as little plastic as possible, ihave been aware of the negative sides to plastic, it seems headway is made when supermarkets discourage plastic bags, but so much more is needed to bring awareness to people,i suppose it it slow progress because at least coffee is sometimes sold in takeaway cardboard cups.It would be a good idea ifmore non plastic food storage containers were made. i use glass ones but they are a bit fragile, so get developing all you storage manufacturers.

    • Hi Christine, glad to have you on board too! You’re right, the supermarkets are getting better at not handing out bags at least, but there’s still a lot of work to be done! The more people take an interest, the quicker we can bring about change!

      Some bad news about those coffee cups for you though – even the ones that appear to be made of cardboard are lined with plastic. Otherwise the liquid would pour straight through! Much better to carry a reusable cup, or to just dine in!

      Stainless steel is really popular in Asia as reusable food storage, hopefully more of these containers will be available in the UK! I use Pyrex, I find it pretty sturdy – I haven’t broken any yet!

  • Shelagh

    I applaud you encouraging people to cut down on plastic usage but surely most people buying from you site are already pretty switched on aren’t they? I avoid plastic as far as I can and don’t think it is possible to improve on what I already do. I never use plastic cups/spoons etc. I don’t use plastic containers for storage. I buy items in glass rather than plastic. I haven’t used carrier bags in years as I always have re-usable material bags with me or stuff shopping in my pockets! I try not to shop in supermarkets which cuts down on packaging. Most plastic in my house is from packaging and visitors carrier bags, I recycle as much of this as I can. I can’t stand plastic – it is everywhere and will take thousands of years to bio-degrade (if it ever can), just look at the roadsides they are disgusting. Plastic leaches into food and drinking water and mimics hormones – what is there to like about it?

    • Hi Shelagh, you’d be surprised at how much plastic people buy without even realising! Plus I think there’s always something more that people can do – it’s all about taking small steps, one after the other, and just keeping on going. For example, did you know teabags actually contain plastic?! Yes, the actual teabag! You can read about that here: http://treadingmyownpath.com/2014/07/11/the-scandalous-plastic-in-tea-bags-who-knew/

      Sounds like you’re doing great things though – not using single use disposables makes a huge difference, as does avoiding the supermarkets with their love of over-wrapping everything!

      Keep up the great work : )