It's that time of year again...the month when we all try to take on a new plastic-free challenge and make it last beyond 30 days - with the hope of it becoming a lifelong plastic-free habit.
So we thought we'd remind ourselves why we do it, the impact that it has and gather together some inspiration for what to tackle this year.
What impact does Plastic Free July have anyway?
In 2021, an estimated 140 million people took part, with participants from over 190 countries.
Globally in 2021, participant's reduced their household:
- non-recoverable (landfill) waste by 1.2 million tonnes
- recyclable waste by 0.9 million tonnes
- including plastic consumption by 0.3 million tonnes
After 11 years, Plastic Free July has reduced global demand by:
- 2.3% of all bottled water
- 3.1% of all fruit & vegetable packaging
- 4.0% of all plastic straws
Since it began participants have accumulated 301 million behaviour changes:
- 2.2 changes per participant per year
- 87% of participants had made at least one lasting change
source: PFJ Impact Report 2021
Plastic exists forever
Every piece of plastic that’s ever been created still exists in our world. Plastics don’t break down, they break up into microplastics, becoming a permanent pollutant in our environment.
source: The Story of Stuff
Too much plastic
Annual global plastic production is around 380 million tonnes (and it’s expected to increase by 40% over the next decade) with more than 90% of this becoming waste. UK supermarkets produce 800,000 tonnes every year.
Most plastic waste is dumped
A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute.
The UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost any other country, and a huge amount of it is sent abroad, most of it going to countries that aren’t equipped to handle it.
Recycling is not the answer
The sad truth is that less than 10% of everyday plastic actually gets recycled in the UK.
Produce and consume less plastic
We’re just beginning to realise the scale of the problem, but fortunately the answer is simple: make and use less plastic.
Plastic Free July is designed to help people refuse single-use plastic.
'Plastic Free July' is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation that works towards a vision of seeing a world free of plastic waste. From humble beginnings in 2011, the campaign now involves millions of people across the globe taking part every year, with many committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July.
Living with less plastic, where to start?
With plastic ubiquitous and seemingly unavoidable in everyday life, deciding where to start can be a challenge in itself!
1. Get to know your waste
Work out where your daily or weekly plastic waste comes from. Decide what to start with - a high volume recyclable or a lower volume unrecyclable?...the answer is whatever is the easiest swap for you!
2. Pick one alternative to supermarket single-use packaging
milk: Could you sign up to a milk round instead of buying milk in plastic bottles?
fruit & veg: Can you find fruit and veg which don't come in plastic packaging?
packaged meat or cheese: Take your own containers (or waxed paper / foil just NOT cling film!) to your local butchers or deli and ask for your purchase to be placed in that.
ready meals: look at Love Food Hate Waste how to cook more from scratch and freeze your leftovers.
3. Learn how to store food without plastic
4. Pick from a plastic free challenge list
5. Take the 31 Day Challenge
6. Play Plastic Free Bingo
source: Sustainably Speaking, Loughborough University Sustainability Blog
Support a plastic campaign to make a difference
Kids Against Plastic - aims to help young people (and not so young people) to learn about environmental issues such as plastic pollution and the Climate Crisis.
Surfers Against Sewage - demanding an end to plastic pollution on UK beaches by 2030 by mobilising and empowering a nationwide network of ocean activists to take action from the beach front to the front benches of Parliament. Also runs Plastic Free Communities, a community network tackling single-use plastic from beaches & green spaces all the way back to the brands and businesses who create it.
Plastic Soup Foundation - on a mission to stop the plastic soup tsunami as soon as possible with a focus on the link between plastics and human health through dedicated campaigns in microplastics and plastic pollution.
Everyday Plastic - helping individuals and organisations through active participation to understand the realities of everyday plastic use and how to make a difference. Partnered with Greenpeace to create 'The Big Plastic Count', the UK’s biggest nationwide investigation into household plastic waste.
City To Sea - an environmental organisation on a mission to stop plastic pollution, working with communities, businesses, and everyday activists around the world to provide practical solutions to the plastic problem
Greenpeace - Sign their petition to tell our government to fix our plastic crisis in a way that doesn’t harm people - or the planet.
WWF - see the result of more than 2.2 million people around the world signing the WWF plastics petition...and what'e next.
UK Plastics Pact - brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the scourge of plastic waste.
How to make the most of Plastic Free July
our top 5 tips for making a plastic free change into a permanent habit
- pick whatever will work for you and your family / household
- get your family / household involved
- focus on one change at a time
- don't worry about falling off wagon, it happens - get back on...
- it takes about 12 weeks to form a habit, so keep going!
Remember when we didn't use reusable water bottles, coffee cups, shopping bags? It takes a bit more thought and effort in organisation and preparation but saves an awful lot of plastic waste in the long run.