With the Australian National Plastics Plan now in place, and as state and territory governments announce their plans to phase out problematic single-use plastics such as cutlery, disposable, straws, plates and stirrers to combat the issue, the stage seems set for the biggest Plastic Free July yet.
From humble beginnings in 2011 when Australian founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in the Western Australian local government committed to reforming their personal plastic waste habits, the Plastic Free July movement has grown to become one of the most recognisable environmental campaigns in the world.
Designed to help people refuse single-use plastic such as takeaway cups, water bottles and plastic bags, the non-profit organisation and global initiative has broader goals of improving recycling practices and encouraging the private and public sectors to implement long-lasting solutions to tackle the escalating waste crisis.
“In 2020, three million Australians joined an estimated 326 million people worldwide who took part in Plastic Free July, on average reducing their household waste by 5% (21 kg) per year,” said Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Founder of Plastic Free July.
“Since last year, we’ve made great progress by continuing to change our habits and remembering to take reusable shopping bags and using containers to store food in the fridge to avoid plastic wrap. However, it’s time to take the next steps and avoid single-use bottled drinks, pre-packed produce and refusing plastic straws. Together we can make a real difference.”
If you’re undertaking the month-long challenge, here are some tips to help you break up with single-use plastic:
1. Get organised
Gather items you will need for your ‘zero waste kit’ – the tool kit that will help you keep your waste to a minimum and holds your reusable items such as reusable bag, cup, water bottle, containers, cutlery, straw, handkerchief etc – so that you aren’t doing a mad scramble each morning before heading out the door. Bringing your zero waste kit with you will help you deal with unexpected and unanticipated situations, such as when you’re thirsty and need a drink or when you need to buy something and need somewhere to store it.
Related Post: 20 Items That Should Be On Your Zero Waste List
2. Bring your own reusable cup
A reusable cup should be part of any zero waste kit and the zero waste kit should be taken every time you leave home. If you leave your zero waste kit at home, choose to dine in instead.
3. Take reusable bags
Never leave home without one (or several) as you never know when you’ll need to buy something or receiving a call from a member of your household asking you to pick up a few things at the supermarket on the way home. This includes taking some fabric produce bags and a reusable bread bag, just in case.
4. BYO straw or skip it entirely
If you don’t need a plastic straw, skip it. You don’t even need to buy a stainless steel straw or bamboo one if your lips do the job fine. But if you decide you need a straw, bring your own reusable one.
5. Choose plastic-free alternatives to cling wrap
If you have a half eaten piece of fruit or sandwich to store away in the fridge, do not reach out for cling wrap. Use beeswax wraps or reusable food containers instead.
6. Use shampoo/conditioning and soap bars
Instead of liquid soap, shampoo and conditioners in plastic containers, opt for the plastic-free versions: shampoo/conditioning bars and soap bars. There are more businesses producing zero waste personal care products these days and a quick online search will bring up local brands producing these products.
7. Bring your own cutlery
When life gets ultra busy, eating on the run becomes necessary. So bringing your own cutlery set will help you navigate those moments when you’re hungry and need to grab some takeaway food. You can veto the plastic cutlery because you’ll be able to use the ones you brought with you.
8. Bring food containers or glass jar
Dining out can result in unfinished meals, especially if your meal is larger than you expected it to be. If you bring your own food container you avoid wasting food and you can also avoid taking it home in a plastic food container. These also come in handy when you’re bulk shopping as you can avoid prepackaged items and place loose items in your containers instead.
9. Follow the 5 Rs of zero waste
Often credited as founding the contemporary zero waste lifestyle movement when she started her blog in 2009, Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home coined the 5 Rs of zero waste – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot – a set of principles to help people reduce and rethink waste. The first ‘R’ – refuse – is arguably the most important of all the Rs as refusing plastic from the outset means less plastic waste to have to deal with. Prevention is better than cure, right?
10. Share about your journey with others
Sharing about your journey with other people helps you to be accountable and will drive you to do your best to successfully complete the challenge. The other benefit to telling people what you’re doing is that you may inspire others to reduce their plastic consumption. “Humans mobilise when we see displays of care and take action around us,” states best-selling author and eco-warrior Sarah Wilson in a media release for an environmental campaign in which she offers her tips for turning the tide on plastic. “It can be small moves, like switching out disposable single-use for compostable, reusable, and minimised products.”
To learn more or sign up to be part of the Plastic Free July movement, visit www.plasticfreejuly.org.
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Cover image by Karolina Grabowska.