Can your family go plastic-free this month? Plastic-free July is a global campaign that challenges people to give up single-use, disposable plastic. The idea is the brainchild of Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, an activist living in Western Australia who was studying the problems of plastic waste and ocean plastic pollution when she realized that, in addition to raising awareness, she wanted to do something to actually reduce plastic waste. She helped round up just 40 people in Perth, who volunteered to forego plastic for the month of July. In the last 6 years, the idea has become so popular that this year, over a million people in 130 countries are on board.
Beth Terry, America’s best-known plastic-free activist, first participated in Plastic Free July in 2014. She has nothing but praise for this initiative and its founder.
Plastic-Free July is proof that one individual’s actions can make an enormous difference if we each can find the courage to not only change some of our personal habits but also to speak up and share those personal steps with others,” says Beth.
Rebecca “realized that recycling alone could not solve the plastic pollution problem,” noted Beth, and that “we must stop consuming so much plastic in the first place.” For example, here at Moms Clean Air Force, we’ve advocated giving up face wash and body scrubs that contain plastic microbeads. We’ve also raised awareness about how polluting plastic straws can be, along with the dangers they pose to wildlife.
On Beth’s website MyPlasticFreeLife.com as well as on PlasticFreeJuly.org you’ll find dozens of additional ways to live plastic-free. Included in Beth’s list of “100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life” are “carry your own containers for take out food and leftovers,”along with reusable utensils and glass drinking straws. Eat ice cream on a cone rather than get it in a plastic-lined cup. And here’s a surprise: give up chewing gum. Almost all chewing gum is made from plastic, Beth says. When people spit it out, they’re spitting out little plastic wads that can take decades, if not longer, to break down.
PlasticFreeJuly’s list of “A-Z Alternatives for Plastic Free Living” shows how easy it can be to replace single-use plastic with a reusable version. You’re probably already using a reusable cloth bag rather than plastic at the grocery store, and drinking from a stainless steel or aluminum water bottle rather than buy water in a plastic bottle. But the A-Z list includes replacing plastic doggy doo bags with folded up newspaper, a menstrual cup in place of a throwaway plastic tampon, and cloth diapers (or “nappies,” as they say Down Under) for disposables.
PlasticFreeJuly’s website lists some pretty stunning facts. For example:
- Scientists predict there will be more tonnes of plastic than tonnes of fish in the world’s waterways and oceans by 2050.
- Plastic manufacturing consumes 6% of the world’s fossil fuels.
- In the first 10 years of the 21st century, the world economy produced more plastic than it did during the entire 1900s!
The group also highlights inspiring stories and case studies to show just how big an impact can be made when people band together against plastic. One hospital service is now avoiding using 70,000 plastic cups annually. A commercial strip in the town of Victoria Park inspired 13 local cafes to sell customers reusable cups for their coffee, then used the proceeds to plant almost 3,000 native plant seedlings. Two eco entrepreneurs set up the “Wasteless Pantry” that sells groceries and laundry goods out of bulk bins in reusable containers that minimize waste.
“This July, think about how the actions of one person can be magnified by the example they set for others. Look at your own plastic consumption and take what steps you can to replace disposable plastics with plastic-free reusable items. But don’t stop there. Let your friends and family know what you’re doing and why. Participate in a beach or river cleanup. Get active with a local environmental group. Speak out to legislators about plastic bag bans or Styrofoam bans. Write to companies requesting less plastic packaging. We can’t all do everything, but each of us can find one way to help spread the word.”
Choose to refuse single-use plastic all month HERE.