Diets are bad for losing weight and keeping it off for good. That 30-day cleanse or month-long no carb diet might help you temporarily take off a few pounds, but as soon as you go back to your old lifestyle, the pounds come back too. We should all take the same approach with Plastic Free July and make it a lifestyle change, not just a temporary one. And yes, it’s possible to choose to reduce how much plastic you use, if not even more vital to do in the face of a global pandemic.
In 40 years, less than 10% of plastics made have ever been recycled. Some of it gets incinerated, but the vast majority is winding up in landfills, littering our beaches, swirling in our oceans, and going into our bodies.
Plastic Free July started in 2011, encouraging people to choose to refuse one plastic item they’d normally use and then discard, like plastic straws or plastic utensils. Nearly a decade later, the initiative is attracting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide each July who choose to refuse plastics.
People who are taking part in Plastic Free July aren’t simply “do-gooders” who worry about what plastics will do to humanity’s future. They’ve seen how plastics are harming the planet and our health right now.
An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year. The World Economic Forum says that’s the equivalent of one dump truck full of plastic every minute, every hour, every day going into the ocean.
The Ocean Conservancy’s 33rd Annual International Coastal Cleanup pulled 45 million plastic pieces from waterfronts around the world. Plastic bags of all sorts (1.9M) beverage bottles (1.7M) and plastic bottle caps (1.3M) were among the top 10 items beach-cleaning volunteers found.
It’s about more than littered beaches and sick oceans. Scientists tell us microscopic plastics are in our drinking water and also migrate from food packaging into the food and beverages we eat. An average person could be ingesting approximately 5 grams of plastic per week according to a study from the University of Newcastle and the World Wildlife Fund. That’s the equivalent of ingesting a plastic credit card each week.
The stats speak for themselves.
Plastic Free July During Covid-19
When you consider that less than 10% of plastic produced in the last four decades has been recycled, the accelerating waste emergency spawned by Covid-19 in some places becomes even more alarming. Part of the problem is accelerated by an increased dependence on single-use materials during the pandemic.
In some cases, shoppers and families are stuck with plastic during Covid-19. Some governments and stores aren’t allowing reusable grocery bags or coffee cups, despite the recent statement from more than 100 scientists worldwide that reusables are absolutely safe if you wash them properly. In fact, the scientists say we’ll have an additional public health crisis on our hands if misinformation that plastics are “safer” scares people to abandon reusable materials.
While you may not have a choice when it comes to using plastic grocery bags and coffee cups during the pandemic, there are other ways you can choose to reduce your plastic use for Plastic Free July. In the bathroom, swap your toothpaste tube for chewable toothpaste bits that come in a recyclable glass container. Switch to toothbrushes with bamboo handles. Search out soaps, shampoos, and shaving creams in bar form instead of single-use plastic containers or wrapping.
You can make some monumental changes in your kitchen. Buy items like flour and nuts in bulk to reduce waste from individually packaged materials. At the store, choose food and beverages in glass bottles and jars, like spaghetti sauce in a jar and baby food in glass containers. Glass packaging can be recycled to make new glass bottles and jars over and over again without losing quality. That differs greatly from plastic which can only be recycled a few times, if it can even be recycled at all.
Pledging to change one small habit during Plastic Free July will make you more conscious of other easy ways you can reduce plastic in your life. Maybe in July you refuse plastic takeout utensils at the drive-thru. When it becomes a habit by August, you start to notice olive oil and ketchup in glass bottles tastes fresher, so you make another change.
While the headline-grabbing stats of how much plastic is in our landfills, oceans, and food packaging make the problem feel too big, the collective changes made by the 250 million people during Plastic Free July can help. Making changes stick as part of a healthy lifestyle versus a one-month “plastic diet” can truly impact the planet, and you, for good.