Plastic Free July is an environmental initiative created by the Plastic Free Foundation.
From humble beginnings in 2011, this award-winning campaign now sees millions of people from countries across the globe taking part in an effort to reduce their plastic waste and help make the planet a better place. If you’ve been wanting to cut back on single use plastics but feel overwhelmed trying to tackle everything at once, use this month to focus on making one or two small, impactful changes that can easily carry over into the rest of the year. Here’s how:
You’ll likely go through at least four toothbrushes a year, which adds up to quite a lot of plastic waste over a lifetime. To combat this, choose a toothbrush made from sustainable, compostable materials, such as bamboo. Mainstream brands like Colgate now offer bamboo toothbrushes, so they’re more readily available in supermarkets – be aware that the bristles aren’t always compostable and may need cutting from the handle at the end of its life.
If you’re ready to go a step further, you can also get chewable toothpaste tablets in glass containers, so you can give a minty fresh kiss goodbye to the annoying task of trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste from plastic tubes.
Unfortunately, a huge number of disposable menstrual products end up in landfill or are flushed down the toilet, blocking sewers and polluting our oceans. Reduce your impact on marine wildlife by choosing one of the many available alternative options such as menstrual cups, biodegradable tampons, reusable applicators and absorbent underwear. Primark have just launched their own line of eco-friendly, reusable period underwear starting from just £6, so going plastic-free can be more affordable to all.
Have a birthday party coming up this month? Try swapping balloons and other single-use plastic party decor for reusable and eco-friendly alternatives, such as fabric bunting, cardboard or tissue decorations or even fresh flowers. Other changes you could incorporate into your gathering include swapping out plastic straws for reusable metal ones (these would make great party favours too!), using dried petal confetti instead of glitter, using paper plates instead of plastic ones and opting for paper party bags instead of plastic if it’s a celebration for little ones.
Ditching your plastic-packaged bathroom supplies is easier than you might think. There are now myriad options for solid soap bars, shampoo and conditioner bars, shower wash bars and even solid facial moisturisers, so the sky’s the limit here. Invest in some stylish soap dishes or metal containers to keep them dry between uses and you’ll find that these products last much longer than their liquid counterparts. Tried and tested favourites for plastic-free toiletries at P&F HQ include those from Ethique, Faith in Nature and Lush.
Refillable cleaning products
Refillable cleaning products can vastly reduce the amount of plastic packaging waste that you generate each year – and it’s now accessible to all thanks to internet-based brands such as Ocean Saver, Ecover and Clean Living, meaning you don’t have to rely on living near a refill store. Many brands offer sachets or tablets that are dissolved into or mixed with water at home, rather than being delivered as liquids (around 90 per cent of normal cleaning products are simply water), which also reduces the carbon footprint
Accumulate less plastic packaging during your food shop by choosing loose fruit and vegetable options, or champion your local suppliers – butchers, grocers, bakers and fishmongers are more likely to use paper bags over unnecessary plastic wrapping. Bringing your own bags when shopping has now become the norm, but it’s still easy to get caught short when making an unexpected purchase. Invest in a reusable tote bag, which will easily fold up into your handbag or can be kept ready in your car, negating the need to keep forking out for those pesky plastic bags.
Although a staple in many kitchen cupboards, finding an alternative to plastic cling film is a great way of protecting the environment and the wildlife within it, who often end up ingesting it by mistake. Storing and packing food in reusable containers instead is a great start. You can also purchase reusable silicone bowl toppers to cover leftovers in bowls, pots and pans, and wax wraps make a perfect, reusable (and pretty) alternative for wrapping up your sarnies for work.
Reusable bottles and cups
In the UK, it’s estimated that 35.8 million plastic bottles are used each day, but only 19.8 million of these get recycled. A simple way of combating this problem is to get yourself a reusable water bottle to take to work with you and refill. Similarly, if you can’t function on your morning commute without a latte from the drive-through, try taking your own reusable coffee cup with you instead of getting a takeout one – some companies now reward your eco efforts with a discount.
If your workplace kitchen or office doesn’t have a recycling bin, consider suggesting that one is added so you can all do your bit to increase the waste that could be composted or recycled. If your workplace has a canteen that offers plastic cutlery, consider bringing in your own metal cutlery from home instead, and encourage others to do the same. You could even suggest that everyone brings in one piece of cutlery each from home or a charity shop so you can all ditch the plastic for good!
For more inspiration or to take part this July, visit www.plasticfreejuly.org