Plastic Free July is almost here. It’s the opportunity for you to challenge yourself not to use any single use plastics for the month. The chance to help create a future which the world so desperately needs.
Avoiding single use plastics is a lifestyle choice. Whilst it can seem overwhelming as plastics are all around us, we need to choose a plastic free future.
By not making a choice to change, you are in fact making the choice to pollute the environment. Choose plastic free instead.
Why Plastics Are Bad
One of our most pressing environmental issues is plastic pollution. We’ve become a consumerist throw-away world where plastic convenience items are used for a few moments and then thrown away – creating a pollution problem for the next 400 years.
Plastic breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. These microplastics have been found on our tallest mountain – Mt Everest – and in our deepest depths – the Mariana Trench.
Microplastics are found in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. It’s even been found in our faeces.
A National Geographic article citing an Environmental Science and Technology study estimates “that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year.” And scientists are gravely concerned about what this means for our health.
It’s not just humans affected by plastic, millions of animals die every year from plastic pollution. They either die from entanglement, strangulation or starvation. Plastics have been found to block digestive systems or pierce organs causing death.
Tests have confirmed liver and cell damage and disruptions to reproductive hormones caused by plastic in fish. What does that mean for us? We still don’t know.
What You Can Do
There’s plenty of simple changes you can make to avoid single use plastics during July. After a month of forming new habits, you may find it’s easier to keep being plastic free beyond July – and that’s good news for the planet.
It’s also beneficial for your finances to make these eco-friendly choices as you won’t be throwing your money away by purchasing single use products.
Plastic Water Bottles
When you buy water in a bottle, you are paying for the bottle – a single-use throw away plastic item.
Water from the tap is free and of good quality. If in doubt of the quality of water watch the YouTube clip below.
Ensure you always take a stainless steel reusable water bottle with you. If you’re currently using a reusable plastic bottle it makes sense to continue to use the bottle you have – unless you are concerned about microplastics.
A word of warning, don’t keep reusing a single-use plastic bottle especially if they are showing signs of damage or have been left in a hot place like a car or in direct sunlight.
Fruit and Vegetables Wrapped in Plastic
It irks me that the cheapest vegetables and fruit are wrapped in plastic, whilst unwrapped produce costs more.
I used to buy the more expensive unwrapped items but that annoyed me too.
I’ve since embarked on Supermarket Civil Disobedience. Now I buy the cheaper vegetables and fruit wrapped in plastic, yes, that’s right the produce in plastic.
After I’ve been through the register, I open the plastic wrapping and put my produce in reusable cloth bags to take home.
The plastic wrappers get left at the supermarket – they can deal with their own created plastic pollution problem.
If we all refused to take home supermarket waste, then they would stop selling produce in plastic.
You could even consider Supermarket Civil Disobedience to be your Plastic Free July goal.
Meat or Fish in Plastic
This can be challenging. Major supermarkets will tell you they ‘have to’ put their meat, fish and deli products in plastic packaging due to contamination issues.
Tell will even tell that they ‘aren’t allowed’ to sell you meat, fish or deli items that are not pre-packaged.
However, there is nothing in the Food Act or Australia and New Zealand Code that says a business is banned from allowing customers to bring their own reusable container.
Neither the Act or the Code references packaging that is provided by the customer, meaning it is up to individual business.
Our choices are to repeatedly lobby supermarkets to allow customers the option of using their own reusable containers – or shop elsewhere.
I’ve found a butcher who is happy to put my purchases in my own containers. However, I can’t find an eco-friendly deli or seller of seafood in the town I live in – as yet.
A nice simple choice, say no to straws when buying a drink.
If there is a reason for needing to use a straw for drinking, then consider bringing your own reusable straw.
Reusable stainless steel straws are very tough, cheap to buy and readily available.
Supermarket Plastic Packaging
An easy solution would be to shop at a bulk food store. Yet, I’ve found it’s not so straight forward.
Where I live, the only bulk produce available is over-priced organic goods at wholefoods or health food shops.
I bemoan every time I grocery shop about there being no bulk seller of everyday basics at reasonable prices.
For now, whilst complaining my town isn’t progressive enough, I continue to buy my grocery products from supermarkets knowing full well that it’s the biggest contributor to our household’s plastic pollution footprint.
Anyone want to start a bulk produce store which includes non-organics in North East Victoria?
Cleaning Products in Plastic Containers
You can buy your cleaning products in plastic containers over and over again.
Or you can take your now empty containers and have them refilled at a reasonable price at a bulk produce store.
So instead of buying a product in a container every single time, you can buy the container once and have it repeatedly refilled. Items such as surface spray, shampoo, liquid body wash, dishes or laundry detergent to name a few.
Another option is to move away from products in plastic containers altogether. For example: shampoo can be purchased as a solid bar; use a bar of soap rather than liquid handsoap; or buy detergents in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bottles.
If you’re a DIY person, you could research how to make your own cleaning products at home. Simple ingredients like vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and citrus have amazing cleaning properties.
Plastic in Personal Care Products
The Department of the Environment and Energy in Australia recommend a voluntary phase-out of microbeads from personal care and cosmetic products.
However, it’s not compulsory.
Microbeads are made from plastic and can be found in toothpaste, sunscreen, facial scrubs, body wash, cosmetics such as foundation and blush.
The only way to know if a product contains microbeads is to read the ingredients list.
The chart below contains the name and abbreviations of plastics which are used to make microbeads.
|Polyethylene (PE)||Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)||Nylon (PA)|
|Polypropylene (PP)||Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)|
If you see these ingredients listed, it’s recommended you don’t purchase the product.
Plastic Milk and Juice Bottles
If glass bottles are not available or too expensive, buy your milk and juice in waxed paperboard cartons instead of plastic bottles.
The same goes for cream, sour cream, ice cream and yoghurt.
Shopping Bags Made From Plastic
There are so many different types of shopping bags available that it can get very confusing to know which bag to use.
Single use plastic bags are gradually being banned globally for good reason. But what about the other types of plastic bags now on offer?
Supermarkets now sell heavy duty plastic bags. These bags need to be used at least 4 times to break even with single use plastic bags, yet that doesn’t always happen. Despite being touted as a better product, they are still made of plastic.
Green bags have nothing eco-friendly or green about them and are plastic bags as well.
Whilst degradable bags are also made of plastic. A plastic that degrades into smaller plastic pieces eventually becoming microplastics.
What to use instead?
Current options are biodegradable bags made from substances such as corn starch, or to use cotton, hessian or jute bags.
My personal favourite are Boomerang Bags. These are bags made from what would otherwise be fabric destined for landfill.
Plastic Produce Bags
Another eco-friendly change is to stop using plastic produce bags. These are the bags for putting loose fruit or vegetables in and they are completely unnecessary.
For smaller purchases, put your produce directly in the shopping basket or trolley.
For bigger purchases, bring your own reusable cloth bags.
These are now more readily available to purchase. They are also easy and cheap to make.
My favourite produce bags are made from durable lightweight mosquito netting. Have a read of Plastic Produce Bags: Alternatives You Can Use for further information.
Coffee Cups Lined With Plastic
A disposable coffee cup will outlive your time on Earth as they are lined with plastic.
Bring your own reusable keep cup instead. As a bonus some cafes will give you a reduction on the cost of your hot drink by bringing your own cup.
You only need to reuse your keep cup 15 times to offset the energy use in its production. Keep cups last way, way longer than 15 times.
I expect my glass keep cup will last a lifetime, unless I accidentally break it (knock on wood).
Sandwiches Or Leftovers in Plastic
Easy alternatives to storing food in plastic containers or covered with plastic cling wrap are to use reusable containers, glass jars or beeswax wraps.
Check out No More Cling Wrap Or Paper Towel for more ideas.
Plastic Bin Liners
When single-use plastic bags were first banned people worried about how they would line their rubbish bins. Some even went as far as buying single use plastic bags on a roll to use as bin liners – paying for something that was once free (at a huge environmental cost).
Guess what, bin liners can still be free.
If you are sorting your rubbish and putting food scraps in the compost/green bin/fed to animals; collecting your soft plastics for the Redcycle bins; placing your hard plastics and paper products into the recycling/yellow lid bin – then you’ll be left with very little landfill.
What rubbish that’s left for landfill won’t be icky either or requiring a plastic bag.
You could place your landfill rubbish into an unlined bin and wash it out.
Or you could collect discarded newspapers and make paper bin liners as needed, see below. Personally, we use newspaper bin liners.
For our bathroom bins, we use compostable ‘plastic’ bags due to the messy potential of bathroom waste products. The bags we use are supplied for free by our council for picking up doggy doo.
In A Snapshot
There are so many ways you can choose to help the environment by making eco-friendly plastic free decisions.
Not only will these sustainable changes benefit the planet and your health, they will also be beneficial for your finances. For example, by not buying bin liners and making your own from discarded newspaper; or from bringing your own water bottle rather than purchasing a single use plastic bottle of water.
If you invested any savings rather than giving in to lifestyle creep, you could also make a huge difference to your financial future. Have a read of the 752 Rule.
Are you ready to change?
- Use a reusable water bottle
- Leave plastic produce wrapping at the supermarket
- Source out butchers who will allow you to bring your own containers
- Say no to a plastic straw in your drink
- Shop at bulk food stores using reusable containers
- Get your cleaning containers refilled, or make your own cleaning products
- Avoid personal care products containing microbeads
- Buy milk, juice, cream, sour cream, ice cream and yoghurt in paper cartons rather than plastic bottles
- Avoid purchasing any more plastic shopping bags including heavy duty, degradable, or green bags
- Bring your own reusable cloth produce bags for fruit and vegetables
- Use a keep cup for take away orders of hot beverages
- Store food in reusable containers, glass jars or beeswax wraps
- Line your bin with discarded newspaper
Please comment below with a change that can you make today.