Plastic Free July: an introduction

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Among the few blogs I follow on sustainability issues is Plastic is Rubbish. Polythene Pam has been trying to live plastic-free for the past seven years. Her website is informative, passionate and humorous. Through her posts I discovered (and signed up for) Plastic Free July, an initiative originally from Australia, and now followed by like-minded plastiphobes around the world. The challenge is to try to live for one month without consuming single use plastic (as you know I’m all about using things second-hand and consuming something only once doesn’t make sense to me)

What is Single Use?

Single use means those items of plastic that are only used once before being discarded, ie cling film, food packaging, disposable water bottles, shopping bags, straws etc etc…

Can’t you recycle some of these?

I had a quick look on our council website which confirms that it only takes plastic bottles for the kerbside recyling scheme. The Household Recycling centres do take other category plastics (ie margarine tubs). Plastic bags, of course, can be re-used – or recycled at our local Sainsburys.

The rest of the single use stuff can’t be recycled and ends up in a big hole in the ground.

Why stop using plastics?

There are many arguments against the use of plastics. I have ranted previously about small plastic tat that gets lost in the bottom of the toy box and, generally, just hate the stuff. My four personal reasons for hating plastic is:

1) Rubbish

If you’re lucky plastic may end up in a hole in the ground at the end of its (short) life but it will not break down for hundreds of years.

2) Wildlife

If you’re unlucky it ends up in the oceans where it floats in huge areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is meant to be twice the size of Texas. It is also ingested by marine life, or they get plastic caught around their bodies. It is estimated that 100,000 marine animals and one million seabirds are killed every year due to plastic pollution.

3) Chemicals

There are a wide range of chemicals that are used in plastic production and research has shown that not all of them are safe. They can leach from the plastics into the food and drink we consume and hence into our own bodies. BPA and Phthalates are held up as being particularly worrying and are now banned from some products (including toys and baby bottles).

4) The end of oil

Whether you believe we have reached peak oil production or not, this resource is used to make plastic. If/when oil supplies become scarcer plastic will become more difficult to produce. I would like to get used to a life without some plastics now.

Phwew, now the lecture is over I just have to put my money where my mouth is and start living the plastic-free life. The challenge set by Plastic Free July is to ‘attempt to refuse single use plastic in July’. When you register there are different options ranging from living plastic free for a day, week or the whole month. You can also choose to avoid all single use plastic or just the top four which are:

1) straws

2) plastic bottles

3) plastic bags

4) coffee cup lids

I’m going to attempt a mix of both – avoiding the ‘top four’ and trying to see how far I get with other packaging. As I work in a coffee shop it may also be interesting to see how I can discourage the use of items 2) and 4) by customers.

So, armed with my cloth bag and my reusable water bottle I’m off to town… If you’re interested in joining me see here

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