Plastic Free July ideas for newbies
by Katherine Hynes
Is this your first Plastic Free July? Are you feeling like a nervous Nelly? Don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place.
We all recognise that plastic has been both a wondrous invention and a devastating one. Let’s keep plastic for important uses like medicine and transport, and try to eliminate all the single-use and unnecessary plastics that are causing great harm to the environment.
If you’re just starting out on your mission to reduce plastic in your life, here are 5 simple switches you can make right now.
1. Switch to reusable shopping bags
Not just for use at the major supermarkets but at ALL shops, social and sporting events, and wherever you’re offered a plastic carry bag… and that includes when buying takeaway food.
But if you do find yourself in a situation without a reusable bag, don’t stress. You can either carry the items, ask for a box, carry them in your jumper or jacket, pluck a clean used bag from a Redcycle soft plastics recycle bin (yes, I’ve done that!), trolley them to your car bag-free or just go home and remember them next time.
2. Switch to reusable produce bags
Those flimsy lightweight plastic bags in the fruit and veggies section of the supermarket also pose a deadly threat to wildlife and help create greenhouse gas in landfill.
Get yourself a set of reusable produce bags and eliminate another source of plastic pollution. Keep them with your reusable shopping bags and also carry a couple on you.
Washable reusable produce bags are very versatile. You can use them at the bakers when buying bread and pastries, at the bulk food store, and for buying takeaways like sushi rolls and snacks.
They also make great lunch sacks and are perfect when travelling for corralling laundry, toiletries or shoes.
3. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
If every Australian traded their old plastic toothbrush for a new bamboo toothbrush with a biodegradable handle, we would save an incredible 30 million plastic toothbrushes going to landfill each year. Boom.
4. Switch to a reusable water bottle
1 billion plastic water bottles are bought in Australia every year, yet only 20% of them are recycled. Switching to a reusable stainless steel drink bottle and refilling it with tap water will not only help the environment, it will also improve your finances and possibly your health.
Bottled water costs up to 2000% more than tap water, and ABC’s War On Waste TV program revealed that Australian tap water is just as good if not cleaner than several leading brands of bottled water. Keep a reusable water bottle in your bag, in your car, and at work.
5. Switch to a reusable coffee cup
How often have you seen a bin overflowing with takeaway coffee cups? Australians love coffee and we throw away 1 billion takeaway coffee cups and lids every year.
Most paper takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic to withstand hot drinks so they can’t be recycled. To confuse the issue, there are many ‘bio’ or ‘compostable’ options on the market. But in order to decompose, most of these cups require a commercial-grade industrial composter. They won’t easily break down in landfill or your home compost bin.
So what’s the answer?
Refuse ALL single use coffee cups and switch to a reusable coffee cup. Keep one in your bag or at the office. Now you’re set for all coffee runs.
Forgot your BYO cup? Take the opportunity to sit in at the cafe and enjoy your brew in a ceramic (washable) cup.
Making these five small switches will make a big difference to the amount of plastic waste you produce. Remember, if you do happen to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have your reusables, don’t sweat. Just look for an alternative as mentioned above, and be forgiving of yourself. Creating new low-waste habits takes a little bit of time.
Best wishes for Plastic Free July, and beyond.
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* If you’ve mastered the basics and would like to level up for more plastic free swaps, head on over to The Ekologi Store where you’ll find plastic free cleaning, stainless steel pegs, safety razors, zero waste starter kits and eco friendly gifts.
* If you would like to talk more about Plastic Free July, reducing waste or have tips to share, please come and join the conversation on our Facebook Group ‘Zero Waste Australia’.
Katherine Hynes is an Actor, Voiceover Artist and Zero Waste advocate. She is also the co-founder of The Ekologi Store – zero waste essentials for sustainable living.