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Pledging a Plastic Free July

Updated: Jul 7

Daisy Culleton dives into Plastic Free July, and how you can get involved. 

With the UK reportedly throwing away an estimated 295 billion pieces of plastic waste every year, it is more important than ever before that we reduce our plastic consumption. Plastic Free July, or #PlasticFreeJuly as it is known across social media, aims to help us do exactly this. Founded in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in local government in Western Australia, Plastic Free July inspires people to shed their unsustainable practices by going entirely plastic-free for the month of July.

Speaking with the Washington Post, Prince-Ruiz stated that she felt motivated to start the organisation following an eye-opening visit to her local recycling centre in Perth. Overcome by the endless streams of waste she experienced an environmental revelation of sorts; ‘I suddenly realised that filling the recycling bin each fortnight didn’t make me the great green citizen I thought I was. The most important thing I should be doing was actually reducing my waste in the first place’. Following this epiphany, Prince-Ruiz decided to go plastic-free for the entirety of the next month, which so happened to be July.

 Bales of used plastic containers tightly packed for their journey to recycling. Image Credits: Nareeta Martin on Unsplash.

Since its birth, the movement, which is now part of the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd, has inspired 100+ million participants across 190 countries to refuse single-use plastics during July. In fact, across the last 5 years, participants have collectively avoided 10 billion kgs of waste including 1.4 billion kgs of plastic. 87% of participants have also made changes that have become habits, highlighting how the movement encourages long-term positive change that goes beyond the single month of July. Participants have even come to include famous faces such as American singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, who wrote, “Plastic Free July inspires me to step up my commitment to reducing single-use plastic in my daily life and on tour.”

It's important to note that Prince-Ruiz celebrates change in any capacity, urging people to get involved in any way they can, even if it’s not for the entire month; Try it for a day, try it for a week, try it for a month. If committing to going plastic-free feels overwhelming, the Plastic Free July sign-up sheet offers multiple ways to pledge your commitment to reducing plastic during July; ‘go completely plastic-free, ‘avoid single-use plastics’ and ‘target takeaway items only”.

The Plastic Free July website is brimming with ideas and resources to help you reduce single-use plastic waste both as an individual and as a community. These suggestions range from small acts of everyday change to inciting political movement at a local government level.

To emphasise just how easy it is to integrate Plastic Free July into your life, we’ve gathered a list of solutions that demonstrate how you can effectively adopt small changes that make an enormous environmental impact:

Get Ahead of the Curve With Loose Produce: Purchasing your fruit and vegetables loose, meaning not pre-packed, is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging. With WRAP, a climate action NGO, encouraging retailers in the UK to work towards selling 50% of fruit and vegetables without packaging by 2030, committing to this practice for a month will hopefully give you a good insight into the future of grocery shopping.

Make Single-Use Plastic Bottles A Thing of the Past: 7.7 billion plastic bottles are purchased across the UK each year, resulting in tonnes of single-use plastic waste. Consequently, trading single-use plastic bottles for a reusable one you can use time and time again is one the best things you can do to limit plastic pollution.

A photograph emphasising the various types of waste, including plastic bottles, that humanity creates. Image Credits: John Cameron on Unsplash.

Purchase A Reusable Coffee Cup: Disposable coffee cups have become, for many, a commonplace feature of daily life. However, their convenience comes at a colossal cost to Mother Earth. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee reports that the UK disposes of approximately 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year. Evidently, an easy way to cut out plastic and protect the planet is by upgrading to a reusable one or simply dining in.

Say No To Single-Use Plastic Bags: In 2015, the ‘5p carrier bag tax’ was introduced in UK supermarkets to reduce plastic bag consumption. This taxation has prompted significant change, with the UK now using 83% fewer single-use plastic bags than we did in 2014. Despite this improvement, research shows that it takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. As a result, it is key that we continue to strive to lower this number. Exchanging your single-use plastic bag for a reusable one, such as those made by Kind Bag London using recycled plastic bottles, is a great way to do this.

An underwater photo emphasising the environmental damage caused by plastic bags. Image Credit: Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash.

Try Out Shampoo and Conditioner Bars: 520 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown out every year in the UK alone. To combat this issue, try out shampoo and conditioner bars, which use zero or minimal packaging, such as those designed by Ethique.

If you feel ready to embark on a Plastic Free July, in whatever form that may be, you can sign up and access more information here.

About the author: Daisy Culleton is an American Studies and History graduate from the University of Nottingham. She has a keen interest in both Art and Environmental History. She also publishes, VNTG, a Substack newsletter that explores sustainable fashion.

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