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Plastic Free July: Can You Reduce Your Plastic Footprint? (Video)

In 2020 an estimated 326 million participants adopted new waste avoidance behaviors, saving hundreds of millions of kilograms of waste and resources. Plastic Free July is an effort to move our world toward even more waste reductions.

Today I joined a good friend at a throwback-to-the-hippie-era restaurant in an upscale Connecticut town. After perusing the hand-drawn menu and ordering through the sneeze guard, I turned to the upright beverage cooler and surveyed its contents. I was looking for something low cal and local; there were plenty of yummy choices. I scanned again and chose a regional flavored seltzer in a glass bottle, newly conscious of the imminent Plastic Free July commitments around the US.

Plastic Free July® is a global movement that helps millions of people to be part of the solution to plastic pollution so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities. Is it possible that you can adapt your consumer conveniences to be part of Plastic Free July by choosing to refuse single-use plastics?

The Plastic Free Foundation is committed to its vision of a world without plastic waste. Take this opportunity to reassess the waste streams flowing out of your life, identify which products truly can be recycled, how they should be recycled, and the ways that you can reduce plastic in your life.

The Plastic Free July initiative can be another effort on your part toward sustainable living.

From the 1950s to today, according to the New York Times, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced, with around half of it made since 2004. And since plastic does not naturally degrade, the billions of tons sitting in landfills, floating in the oceans, or piling up on city streets will provide a marker for later civilizations — the “Plastocene Epoch.”

Disposable products have a detrimental impact on the natural environment, wildlife, human health, and vulnerable communities. Single use products, from packaging to food containers, to disposable cups and cutlery, are a key contributor to the 2 billion tons of waste that humans produce every year.

Questions To Consider About Reducing Plastics Dependency

I must have been skipping school the day our natural sciences high school teacher taught us about the hazards of plastics or that lots of plastics are made from crude oil.

Did you know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus survives up to 3 days on plastics?

Or that plastic waste increased by 30% due to the economic and societal hardships brought on by the pandemic?

Can collaboration along the extended global plastic packaging production and after-use value chain achieve systemic change in today’s plastics economy move to a more circular model?

Are actions by governments enough to stop fast food plastic pollution?

Isn’t plastic pollution the individual’s problem? Why target corporations?

Some Answers To Difficult Questions About Plastic Pollution

Evidence indicates that grassroots actions can make a material difference to the difficult environmental and social problems associated with plastic pollution.  Certainly, individuals can claim some part in the problem. However, the authors of a recent white paper argue that more responsibility resides with decision-makers and those designing and approving the systems themselves. By making transparent the actions of the largest producers and investors of plastics in the world, we all become more aware, share that awareness with others, and begin to demand systemic change.

The Plastic Waste Makers Index points out to the biggest culprits of plastic pollution: ExxonMobil, Dow, Sinopec, Indorama Ventures, Saudi Aramco, PetroChina, LyondellBasell, Reliance Industries, Braskem, and Alpek SA de CV.

Their primary investors are People’s Republic of China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Vanguard Group, Blackrock, Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Canopus International, Capital Group, Republic of India, State Street, and Kieppe Patrimonial.

Clearly, plastic is a profitable industry.

Easy Ways To Participate In Plastic Free July

Eating habits: Give up buying bottled water and carry a plastic free refillable bottle. Carry your own reusable bags. Choose an ice cream cone instead of a dish. Select fresh over frozen convenience foods. Decide not to buy items unless they’re wrapped in cardboard or paper. Shop at the local farmers market. Buy fresh bread. Select bulk bin items over small packaged ones. Keep real plates, utensils, and glassware at the office. Reuse glass jars for bulk or leftover storage. Compost food to reduce plastic bags for disposal.

Lifestyle habits: Clean with vinegar in glass bottles. Scour with baking soda. Use natural cleaning cloths over plastic sponges. Switch to bar soap from liquid soap. Choose toilet paper wrapped in paper. Avoid buying clothes manufactured with plastic. Shop thrift stores to reuse instead of spur manufacturing.

Share ideas for a plastic free life: Request zero plastic packaging when ordering online. Give green gifts that offer experiences over consumerism. When giving gifts, wrap with raffia over tape. Throw a zero waste party. Bring your own beverage container to parties.

Want more ideas? Check out this blog.

Organizations Devoted To Reducing Global Plastics

There are many organizations around the world that have a mission to reduce plastic use. Here is a list of a few of those plastic rejecting activist groups.

Break Free from Plastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.

The Plastic Ocean Foundation has a mission to “change the world’s attitude towards plastic within a generation.”

Since 1999, Algalita has been at the forefront of the Great Plastics Awakening with a mission to inspire the next generation of visionaries to believe in a better future.

A Blue Ocean Network ocean ally, the Plastic Pollution Coalition has a collaborative platform focused on creating a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways and oceans, and the environment.

5Gyres seeks to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and advocacy.

The Plastic Bank is attempting to revolutionize the world’s recycling systems to create a regenerative, inclusive, and circular plastic economy.

Litteratti is a crowd-sourced mapping model that serves to clean up the world.

The Story of Stuff Project is changing the way we make, use, and throw away Stuff so that we have a happier and healthier planet.

The Plastic Soup Foundation wants to halt plastics from entering the sea and is focused on microplastics that turn the enormous ocean garbage patches into plastic soup.

One More Generation is empowering youth to protect the environment to save endangered species. Their environmental conservation program focuses on plastics, with talks that inspire the next generation to take action at a young age.

The Last Plastic Straw is attempting to eliminate plastic straws from landfills streams and oceans based on a simple request —  Just say “no straw” at bars and restaurants and share this commitment with others.

Image courtesy of the Plastic Free July® challenge
 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She's won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. As part of her portfolio divestment, she purchased 5 shares of Tesla stock. Please follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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