Plastic Free July is a world-wide event that encourages people to take part in a global challenge to cut down on single-uses plastic or eliminate plastic completely for at least the duration of July. Originating in Australia, Plastic Free July is the brainchild of the Plastic Free foundation founded by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz. The Plastic Free foundation is working towards a world free of plastic waste. Erin Rhoads, Author of ‘Waste Not’ is quoted on the Plastic Free July website as stating: ‘Plastic Free July isn’t just about buying a reusable cup or bag, it’s giving people the tools to change their habits, to pause and think how we as individuals can make an impact for the better and reduce our reliance on plastic.’
The current coronavirus crisis has in many ways, re-ignited our reliance on single-use plastic. Sanitation, health and hygiene concerns has led to an inevitable need for disposable PPE equipment from disposable masks, aprons to latex gloves. Moving outside of direct healthcare scenarios, many businesses have installed protective Perspex screens, consumers have rushed to stock up on hand-sanitizer, soaps and bleach most of which come in plastic containers and are being consumed at an increased rate. Some businesses have temporarily banned re-usable cups or bags and there has been a higher demand for disposable goods such as cutlery. All in an attempt to avoid COVID-19 spread. Both the UK and the US have delayed or reversed bans pertaining to plastic items amidst the health crisis. Wired reported: ‘In May, the global market for packaging was projected to grow by 5.5 per cent during the pandemic, led by plastic.’
It is therefore of crucial importance that we look to areas where we are safely able to limit our plastic waste, even amidst the pandemic in order to preserve the strides we have already taken globally to eliminate plastic waste. Here are some ideas:
Masks are quickly becoming mandatory in all sectors of public life in order to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19. In healthcare settings, some staff will need to use disposable masks, but outside of these specific scenarios, the vast majority of us will be able to use a re-usable mask. Leading health organisations such as the CDC and WHO have deemed re-usable cloth face-covering safe, they should be washed after each use either by hand or in the washing machine.
Refillable water container
Using refillable water bottles when you are out and about is not only a great way to cut down on plastic waste, but it will also mean that you can ensure that it does not come into contact with anyone else. Every time you re-filling your bottle with tap water will count as another bottle saved from landfill.
Clingfilm is a quick and easy way of keeping food items fresh. Unfortunately, though, cling-film is not recyclable and is a classic example of single-use plastic. Foil is slightly more environmentally friendly in the sense that it can be re-cycled. Perhaps look to jars or pots that can be stacked in the fridge and washed after usage. There are also eco-friendly cling film alternatives on the market.
Be more conscious of the items you use in the home, opting to purchase fresh fruit and veg from farmers markets without plastic wrap, ditch plastic straws in favour for metal or bamboo items and look for spots in your local area where you can re-cycle unavoidable packaging. Set up a compost heap to reduce food waste going to landfill (great for growing your own food) and think where you can upcycle or purchase second-hand items rather than buy new.
There are many shopping stores that offer a zero-waste experience, allowing customers to bring their own containers and fill up on essential items such as dried pasta or shampoo. Some cosmetic shops such as Lush offer wonderful plastic free products. There are larger companies adopting re-use schemes as well, making zero-free shopping even more accessible. Organisation Terracycle, launched Loop in 2019 which since partnered with Walgreens and Kroger in the US to offer some of big-brand products in re-fillable containers. The containers can be picked up from your doorstep where then will be taken to be professionally cleaned, sanitized and put back into rotation.
Offering ideas such as reusable coffee cups, plastic-free sanitary items, bulk or loose food purchases and switching to bar soaps rather than bottled, Plastic Free July’s website: www.plasticfreejuly.org provides some great tips and ideas to help reduce or eliminate plastic waste from your home. It also has a community section where you can see what others are doing or get involved in your area.