Live for Less editor Mike Watson is taking the Plastic Free July challenge again in 2018. He offers some tips on getting the most out of your commitment to try living without single-use plastic.
What’s it all about?
Plastic Free July is a global initiative that aims to raise awareness of the problems of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it.
As it happens, July 2018 is the first month of Queensland’s single-use plastic bag ban. Retailers are no longer able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness to customers, whether for free or for a charge. This includes compostable, degradable and biodegradable bags because they break down in the environment in the same way as conventional plastic shopping bags and can still harm the environment and wildlife.
This is good news for Queensland. So do we still need Plastic Free July? Well, yes.
Not all plastic bags at retailers have been banned, and there are still plenty of other examples of disposable plastic packaging in our lives that we could live without and which is causing environmental harm.
Why it matters
The plastic bottles, bags and takeaway containers that we use just for a few minutes use a material that is designed to last forever. Every bit of plastic ever made still exists and in the first 10 years of the 21st century the world economy produced more plastic than the entire 20th century.
According to the Plastic Free July website, these plastics:
- break up, not break down – becoming permanent pollution
- are mostly downcycled (made into low grade product for just one more use) or sent to landfill
- ‘escape’ from bins, trucks, events etc. to become ‘accidental litter’
- end up in waterways and the ocean – where scientists predict there will be more tonnes of plastic than tonnes of fish by 2050
- transfer to the food chain – carrying pollutants with them
- increase our eco-footprint – plastic manufacturing consumes 6% of the world’s fossil fuels.
Take the quiz first
First up, head to the website and take Pesky Plastics Quiz to track down where your plastics come from. It will help you set some goals and will probably expand your awareness of the amount single-use plastic in your life. Knowledge is power.
The good news is that globally – according to the Plastic Free July folks – more than 6 out of 10 of us are already refusing plastic shopping bags, avoid pre-packed fruit and veg, pick up other people’s litter and/or avoiding buying bottled water. While I can’t find a source for this claim, if the figure is even close to accurate it’s encouraging.
How to register
Hit the Plastic Free July registration page to sign up and make your pledge/s. The options in 2018 are mostly the same as last year.
Choose one of three options, in order of how big a challenge you want to set yourself:
- avoid single-use plastic packaging
- target takeaway items (the Top 4: bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups); or
- go completely plastic-free.
Then you choose your length of time. Although officially the campaign runs a whole month, your own pledge can be for:
- one day
- one week
- the entire month; or
- from now on, i.e. the rest of your life!
You can also pledge to spread the word and actively campaign by taking the challenge:
- into your organisation/workplace
- into your school or college
Some tips along the way
Having done Plastic Free July so many times already (oh okay, once), I can offer you a few tips from the experience that might help.
- DON’T beat yourself up because you bought a plastic bottle of fizzy or rocked up to the supermarket without your own bags. You’re changing what may be a lifetime of habits. It can take a while. Laugh it off and carry on.
- DO read the Plastic Free July emails and follow the campaign on social media. It will keep you interested and maybe give you new ideas.
- DON’T carry on like a vegan in a steak house, preaching your manifesto and becoming a crashing bore. Instead tell people why YOU are doing Plastic Free July and share some stories about your experiences. People like stories – keep it real.
- DO tell people that, despite the name Plastic Free July, this is about single-use plastics. Some plastic is awesome – like the keyboard I’m typing on right now.