The challenge is simple and available to everyone. All you need to do to be a part of the change is refuse single-use plastics and opt for sustainable alternatives. Once you apply to take part, Plastic Free July will offer ideas and resources to guide you in your challenge to better the planet.
The Plastic Free movement has currently inspired approximately 326 million within 177 countries!
The best part of this challenge is that by making these small changes every day for one month, they are more likely to become life-long habits.
Supermarkets are designed for your convenience and plastic happens to be one of the most convenient materials in the world. Plastic packaging is durable, long-lasting, cheap to produce, helps protect and preserve foods and is fairly light in weight which means transportation is faster. Although plastic has many positives that enrich our lives, our planet is suffering because of it. Durable and long-lasting means we will never see it decompose within our lifetime. If we are all using plastic that cannot be recycled, you can begin to see how much plastic can build up over just one year.
In fact, in the UK alone, we collectively throw away 295 billion pieces of plastic every year and the majority of it is single-use meaning it cannot get recycled.
A lot of the plastic we throw away ends up in our oceans in a few different forms. Fishing materials are the biggest polluter of our oceans which was a topic widely talked about on the Netflix documentary ‘Seaspiracy’. Well worth the watch! The rest is made up of our personal plastic waste that we can all help to reduce. Not all plastics are visible, a lot of the ocean is made up of microplastics that are consumed by fish which are then consumed by us. It is very easy to think, ‘If it doesn’t affect me then I don’t need to worry about it.’ However, if you are a consumer of fish, you are digesting plastic yourself. Microplastics are usually a product of washing clothes in a washing machine. There are alternatives you can use to help stop microplastics from entering the ocean which I will also discuss.
Reusable water bottles and coffee cups are becoming increasingly more popular and easier to find. Cafes and coffee shops all offer their own reusable alternatives that you can purchase in-store instead of disposable paper cups. A lot of people mistake the paper cup for paper or cardboard however, disposable paper cups are lined with plastic to stop the drink from leaking. Try to resist the urge and wait until you can sit down at a café and order a drink in a durable mug or glass. If you think you may be tempted by a coffee in the day, pop your re-usable coffee cup in your bag just in case you might want to use it later on in the day.
Chilly’s bottles are not only beautifully designed with loads of different patterns and colours to choose from but they also keep your drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours! I have personally tested this out and left the bottle in a hot car all day and the water was just as cold as when it entered the bottle hours before.
Always bring reusable bags. You never know when you might need a shopping bag if you’re out and about so it’s always best to keep one in your bag at all times. Shopping bags don’t have to take up much room in your bag or pocket. You can purchase collapsible shopping bags that compress into their own sack and can be the size of a small wallet or tennis ball. Very useful for popping out to grab a few things.
Being able to live plastic-free comes from being prepared. This is a good life lesson to learn because in day-to-day life when you are prepared, you are less likely to be late and make silly mistakes. Being prepared within the plastic-free world means making your lunch the night before or waking up early to make them in the morning. Put the contents of your packed lunch into a re-usable container then you won’t need to pop out for lunch and feel tempted by the convenient plastic packaging. If you have made something that needs to be wrapped up, avoid cling-film and opt for a sustainable alternative such as beeswax wraps.
Being prepared also comes down to your food shops and knowing what meals you want to have during the week. Make sure you check the use-by dates and cook the foods which have the earliest use-by dates first. Becoming plastic-free means you may have to shop around instead of grabbing everything in one supermarket.
Refill shops are brilliant for getting your dried foods such as; pasta, lentils, nuts, rice, grains, dried fruit, flour etc. Simply bring your re-usable containers and jars with you and weigh the produce as you go! In a lot of refill shops, they will often sell eco-friendly alternatives such as recycled or bamboo toilet rolls, soap and shampoo bars, metal straws, wooden dish scrubs and much more.
Frozen goods are a tricky one to avoid plastic-free packaging. I have noticed Endsleigh Garden Centre offer a packaging-free frozen section where you can bring in your own reusable containers and fill them up with frozen goods. The items are priced on the weight of the food, not including your container.
Grocers and farmers markets are a great way to purchase delicious fresh local produce without any plastic involved. Most markets don’t even put the stickers on the fruit and veg! Berries and small loose fruit and veg are often packaged in plastic containers which can be brought back to the vendor to be re-used. This cannot be done in supermarkets.
Fruit and veg boxes delivered directly to your door are usually plastic-free. Check with the supplier first, it should advertise that they are plastic-free on their website or social media however if you are unsure, you can always enquire. Fruit and veg boxes are a great way to explore new in-season produce which encourages you to experiment with your cooking and expand your healthy diet.
FruutBox offers a great selection of quality fruit and vegetables without any single-use plastic packaging, delivered straight to your door in a box. Choose from their set boxes or build your own perfect FruutBox. If you absolutely love these boxes, you can subscribe to their simple subscription service and save 5% on all products and set your deliveries to weekly or fortnightly and let FruutBox take care of the rest. Based in Newquay, they currently deliver to the following postcodes: PL1-14 & PL22-35, TR1-16 & TR27. Grab your box today!
If you find yourself in the fruit and veg aisle in a supermarket, try to source loose produce and don’t be tempted by the plastic produce bags. As long as you wash your loose items before consuming them, what’s the worst that will happen!
Milk bottles are always coated in plastic, even the cardboard containers have plastic inside however, returnable glass milk bottles are coming back in fashion! You can order your returnable milk bottles from Milk & More, Jar Plymouth, Veg Box Fresh and many more.
Processed bread is always packaged in plastic however if you go over to the bakery section, you can reduce the plastic and buy fresh bread in paper bags or no bags at all. This bread tends to be nicer anyway but it will go off quickly so make sure you only grab what you need.
Most clothes, but particularly those with synthetic fibres release microplastics into the ocean when cleaned in a washing machine or dried in a tumble dryer. Some ways to reduce this are; buying fewer clothes or buying materials that don’t shed as many microfibres, hang your clothes out to dry, or you can purchase products that are designed to collect the microplastics in the washing machine for example ‘Hairy Ballz’!
You may notice your food bills increasing slightly over the month however, the re-usable swaps that you make will help to reduce the costs over time. Local produce tends to be a bit more expensive compared to supermarkets however, you will know exactly where it has come from, how it was produced, what’s gone into it and how far it has travelled to get to your plate. These are all huge benefits to your health as well as the planet and the local economy.
“Think about it. Why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away. What’s up with that?”
– Jeb Berrier, Bag It movie
To find out more about the challenge and how you can join, head to www.plasticfreejuly.org