Plastic Free July is an annual initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation. The campaign was started in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, after she visited a recycling facility while working in local government in Western Australia.
Rebecca was so overwhelmed by the huge amount of plastic waste at the facility, she decided to change her own behaviour and challenged herself and her work mates to cut back on their single-use plastics for a whole month.
Now in its 11th year, Plastic Free July has become one of the most recognised environmental campaigns in the world. Global awareness of the need to stop using single use plastic has grown exponentially. Plastic pollution and plastic recycling have well and truly become mainstream issues.
We are terrible at recycling plastic!
Only 9% of all the plastic we produce gets recycled. That means that more than 90% of the plastic we produce ends up in landfill or in the natural environment.
We know the result: discarded plastic is polluting and destroying ecosystems everywhere.
Image by Naja Bertolt Jensen, Unsplash
According to Plastic Free July: “Plastic and microplastics are now found everywhere. From the bottom of our oceans to the top of Mt Everest, inside animals, in their air we breathe, in rain, and in our bodies. Shockingly it is estimated that we consume 250 grams of microplastics each year – that’s one heaped teaspoon of plastic that each and everyone of us is consuming each week – and scientists still don’t know the impact on our health...”
But even if we became better at recycling plastics, we still wouldn’t be able to solve the problem. The amount of plastic we produce increases each year. We need to urgently halt and turn around our plastic addiction.
As Rebecca Prince-Ruiz puts it:
“Plastic production is set to almost quadruple by 2050 – we can’t recycle our way out of this problem. To create a world without plastic waste we need to turn off the tap, not mop the floor.”
One of the reasons why the Plastic Free July campaign has been so successful these last eleven years is that instead of focusing on the problem, they invite people to be part of the solution. People feel rewarded when they know they’re part of a change for the better. Plastic Free July is a true grassroots movement, making it very easy for individuals to participate and share positive stories and solutions. The growing groundswell of people making small changes, ultimately leads to the big, systemic changes we need to make.
And small changes do add up! Last year, despite the pandemic, an estimated whopping 326 million participants worldwide took up the Plastic Free July challenge and avoided using 904 million kg of plastic waste.
So, what changes can you make this month?
For their 2020 Report, the Plastic Free Foundation asked participants to list the biggest change they’d made that year.
These were the most popular actions:
- How long did it take you to research and find your packaging?
- Switching to bar soap and shampoo
- Making my own nut milk
- Learnt to make bread
- Growing my own food
- Organised a zero-waste festival
- Switching to reusable nappies
- Became the recycling coordinator at work
- Going back to Tupperware instead of freezer bags
- Speaking out to retailers offering plastic bags and packaged products
- Using a reusable face mask
Do those appeal?
Here at Sustainable Marketplace we’ve also come up with a list of small changes you can make this month. One for each day, to help you stay inspired. Take up one small change, a couple each week or every single one on the list, all small changes help. Let us know how you’re going!
We’ve created a cute PDF for you to download. Just complete the pop up on this page or send us a quick message and we’ll email it to you.
Of course we’ve set some challenges for ourselves as well. Here are the changes we’re going to make:
- Kira reckons she’s not going to buy any pre-packed fresh produce
- Alex won’t accept or buy any plastic bags when out shopping
- Elske has pledged to only buy zero waste take away food
- and Liz won’t buy any snack food packed in plastic
Onya reusable produce bags are a great alternative to single use plastics. We have a good variety of reusable bags on the marketplace.
As for Sustainable Marketplace, we’ve registered for Plastic Free July as a business and have set ourselves the challenge to help create further awareness: with our blog, social media posts and downloadables. Stay tuned!
If you want to learn more about Plastic Free July or the Plastic Free Foundation, go to the Plastic Free July website.
Hero image by Nareeta Martin, Unsplash.