People around the world want to use less plastic, and are mindful of the effects plastic can have on the environment and our health. Taking the Plastic-free July’ Challenge is one way that everyone around the world can do something locally to clean up oceans and use less plastic worldwide. (Please see Plastic: The Ocean’s Deadliest Predator to learn more about the issue of plastic in our oceans.)
Why Do We Have So Much Plastic?
I work in the small local government waste education program in Perth, Western Australia called Earth Carers. After a tour of a curbside recycling facility we started to think a lot about plastic. The sheer volume of what we consumed was overwhelming as was the energy involved in the sorting, transport and reprocessing of our recyclables. In an instant our attitudes towards recycling went from a feel-good moment to questioning why we have all this stuff in the first place and what we could have done to avoid it.
The Plastic-Free July Challenge
So Plastic-Free July was a challenge born in 2011 with a simple aim: to encourage people to raise awareness of how much single-use disposable plastic packaging there is in our lives and to challenge people to reduce it. People could sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and around 40 households decided to join us.
This grew to about 800 people in 2012, not only from Perth but throughout Australia and overseas. When a Facebook page was created for people to share ideas, recipes and ask questions, it started to become a global community working together to figure out how to live plastic-free – we certainly don’t know all the answers.
Plastic-Free July is Going Global
This year we developed a dedicated website: www.plasticfreejuly.org. We found we had so many resources from our Facebook followers and our own experiences from the past couple of years, that our Earth Carer pages just weren’t enough to encompass the breadth of the campaign.
We’ve worked hard during the past few months connecting with like-minded organizations through Facebook, Twitter, blogs (including WeHateToWaste.com) and being extremely active online. We’ve found that the posts which have been most successful have been real life, everyday photos of our own kitchens and lives, showing how we live without single-use plastic. When people actually see how to store food in a fridge without using cling-film plastic or plastic bags, or lining a bin with newspaper, they get it! Simple is best.
As I write, we now have over 3,500 people signed up for Plastic-Free July from all around the world, from New Zealand to Turkey, Michigan to Egypt. Every continent is represented. Every state in Australia, from big cities to remote townships, have participants. And the numbers are growing daily.
How to Take the Plastic-Free July Challenge
Individually, there are wonderful examples of people going plastic-free and promoting it to their community creatively, such as Merren from A Year Without Buying Plastic, making a costume to show how much plastic a family of four uses on average for the annual chilly mid-winter swim festivities in Raglan, New Zealand.
- The Whaingaroa Environment Centre in Raglan, New Zealand is promoting the challenge to local businesses and the community (including holding a weekly ‘Plastics Anonymous’ support meeting for participants at the local pub).
- In the USA the online store ‘My Baby First’ is using paper bags rather than plastic for customer purchases.
- A local activist has started Plastic Free Moncton in Canada.
- Vancouver Aquarium staff have pledged to use reusable cups and limit purchases containing disposable plastic.
- The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River (south-western Australia) has pledged for all its staff to participate in Plastic-Free July and to assist any community group willing to host plastic-free events.
- A number of schools in Australia have taken up the challenge. In Perth, Moerlina School has had students learning how to make bin liners out of newspaper pages and students have drawn up a list of products to avoid such as dishwasher tablets individually wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box.
Get Started Today
We hope you’ll join up today and take up the Plastic-Free July Challenge.