It is not news that plastics are a massive problem for our environment. They can be found everywhere – from the bottom of the ocean to inside the foods we eat, just have a look around. Most of the plastic produced is designed to only be used once before tossed in the bin. At the end of its life, even if they were meant to be recycled, plastic ends up polluting our planet and hurting the wildlife. This human-created waste doesn’t just decompose. Every piece of plastic created still exists today or has been burned. . Once plastics enter our waterways, they start breaking down into tiny bits and pieces known as microplastics. Microplastics not only hurt the animals ingesting them but in turn causing human health concerns as well.
The plastic crisis in perspective:
Since the 1950s, the production of plastic has outpaced that of almost every other material.
If current consumption patterns and waste management practices continue, then by 2050 there will be around 12 billion tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and the environment.
The world produces more than 400 million tons of plastics every year.
These numbers are shocking and show just how important it is to change our habits and shift to more sustainable alternatives. While much of the responsibility lies with big polluters (corporations & governments), we as individuals can still make a positive impact.
Luckily there are also many initiatives around the globe combating this issue, spreading awareness, innovating plastic alternatives, and calling for action. One of these is Plastic Free July, an initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation. They are calling all individuals to challenge themselves in reducing their plastic usage during the month of July (and beyond).
How Plastic Free July started
10 years ago Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in local government in Western Australia started Plastic Free July with a vision of seeing a world free of plastic waste. Now a registered charity, the challenge has become one of the world’s biggest environmental movements with an estimated 326 million participants in 177 countries. Many participants are committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July.
The challenge is simple: Reduce your single-use plastic waste wherever you can. Whether that’s at home, at work, or in any other part of your daily life. It’s a personal challenge which means that you make the rules and set your limits. Learn to make small changes in your behaviour and create new sustainable habits that can continue beyond July.
Understanding Single-use Plastics
Single-use plastics account for 36% of all produced plastics. They also account for most of the plastic that’s discarded including items such as shopping bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery. Once thrown away, these plastics then tend to make their way to the ocean, resting in landfills, or burning which sends toxic gases into the air. They never really go “away”.
How to reduce
Now that you know what single-use plastics are and the harm they do, it’s time to take some action. It’s a good idea to start small so as to not get overwhelmed. Take a look in the bin (what you’ve been tossing out), your kitchen cupboards, or at your bathroom products to assess where most of your plastics are coming from. This is where you can make the biggest impact. You can find inspiration in the items in this list. But use what you have before swapping out for more sustainable alternatives. Choosing one item or room is the best place to start.
As individuals, we all have a responsibility to take with the waste we create but we can’t blame ourselves when corporations and governments perpetuate the manufacturing of fossil fuel-derived plastics. We can educate ourselves on these issues, make the changes we’re able to, and demand change from those in power.
Want to learn more?
You can join the actual Plastic Free July Challenge to stay up to date, get inspired, and become part of the community. Sign up for the official challenge and receive emails tailored to your level of plastic reduction expertise.
Plastic Free July Links: