Plastic Free July

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Why it matters and how you can get involved

Plastic Free July (part of the Plastic Free Foundation) was started in 2011 by a small team in local government in Western Australia. It has grown to be one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world. Millions of people join forces each year to reduce their single-use plastic 'consumption'.

Why is plastic free important?

This image (above) created by Less Plastic shows nine reasons why it's important to refuse single-use plastic. Even if not all of them impact you directly, there's bound to be at least one that does, or that tugs on your heart strings.

Plastic purchase, use and disposal is a huge topic which I could fill many blogs with, but here's an introduction specifically around Plastic Free July to get you started.

We've heard the stories of sea turtles mistaking plastic bags (yuck) for jelly fish (yum). We've heard about sea birds filling up on plastic consumed within the fish they eat. And we've all experienced stumbling across unsightly pieces of plastic in what would otherwise be a natural beauty spot, and know the disappointment and sadness that seeing it's casual abandonment can bring.

In fact, just yesterday, I was out for a walk with my young sons. We went to the nature reserve they used to visit every week with their school. Underneath the huge tree they used to climb with their friends, we now found scattered deposits of empty plastic bottles, crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers. All carelessly left by people more concerned by the temporary inconvenience of taking it to the nearest bin, than the long term damage caused by it's neglect. We found plastic film and wrappers that had blown into the stream. Shreds of plastic film lying around the plants.

Each time we spotted a new piece of waste, my seven year old looked up at me, tears in his eyes. The rubbish blotting the pristine memories he held of innocently playing here with his friends. He doesn't understand how people can litter. Frankly, it baffles me, too.

I'm on a personal mission to do more to address the tragedy of single use plastic waste, and it starts with not buying it in the first place. We've already committed as a company to go single-use plastic free in 2020, but I want to do more.

Commit to Plastic Free July

It's really simple to get started in reducing plastic waste. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Go to Plastic Free July

  2. Click 'Take The Challenge'

  3. Commit to whatever level of plastic reduction you feel ready for!

Here's my example:

Then comes the trickier bit - actually reducing your plastic waste!

Luckily, I've got some handy tips for you to get you moving in the right direction:

Reducing plastic at home

  1. Use local or national food box delivery companies that commit to plastic free. Riverford offer a selection of plastic free fruit and veg options (including this zero packaging veg box) and are committed to being completely plastic free across their range by December 2020. There are plenty of alternative options available with a bit of research.

  2. Take your own reusable bags to the supermarket and pack your own rather than using pre-packed portions.

  3. Use a zero waste shop and fill your old tubs, jars, paper bags or anything else you've got lying around. We've got two great zero waste shops near us which we visit regularly (or, at least, we did before COVID-19!) - Bamboo Turtle in Letchworth and The Wholesome Weigh in Hitchin. Find your local one and change the way you shop!

  4. Ditch the single use wipes, nappies and sanitary products in favour of re-usable ones. There's a whole host of options available, and the benefits extend beyond just those to the planet.

  5. Switch from cling film to re-usable food wraps. Our friends at BeeBee & Leaf have a fab range and they've now even introduced a vegan leaf wrap! Better for the environment than cling film and they look prettier, too!

Reducing plastic at work

  1. Get your team on board! Run a campaign to let them know your commitment to going single-use plastic free and invite them to share their ideas for supporting it. Make sure they understand why it's important.

  2. Remove disposable coffee and water cups from your kitchen areas and water coolers. Replace them instead with re-usable ones or ask your team to bring in their own favourites.

  3. Provide reusable cutlery.

  4. Encourage your team to cook their own meals for lunch rather than buying plastic wrapped sandwiches and crisps.

  5. If you're a cafe or restaurant, switch from plastic cups and straws to paper or biodegradable bioplastic (looks like plastic but it's commercially compostable).

Next steps

There are many steps you could take to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. Above is just an introduction to get you thinking and taking the first step. It's less important how much you do, and more important that you do something. Keep learning more about the importance of reducing your plastic consumption. A great resource is the BBC's War on Plastic with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani.

We'll be posting as we continue our journey to becoming single-use plastic free, sharing our struggles and highlights to hopefully inspire you to keep going with your own journey.

Tamsin Alsbury is the CEO and co-founder of Energise. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.