Plastic free July is exactly what its name suggests, a movement that aims to reduce plastic waste in the month of July. It was founded in 2011 by the Plastic Free Solution and the movement has inspired over 100 million participants in 190 countries to become more aware of their plastic usage and take steps to change it.
But why is it so important to reduce plastic use?
In 2015 the global plastic production reached 381 million tonnes, almost 200 times more than the production of 2 million tonnes in the 1950’s.
Today we produce around 400 million tonnes a year and if we continue to increase our plastic production at this rapid rate we are estimated to reach 1,100 million tonnes of plastic annually by 2050.
Much of the plastic produced is single use plastic such as water bottles or food packaging, with 85% of these plastics ending up in landfills as they cannot be recycled.
Of the millions and millions of tonnes of plastic produced globally so far less than 10% of it has been recycled, instead it is dumped into the environment, landfills or burnt.
Plastic waste has invaded all elements of our environment and can take up to 100 years to decompose, plastic threatens wildlife and spreads toxins. As well as this, the manufacturing of plastics uses fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil which are the planet warming fuels.
In 2019 the plastic industry added more than 850 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, GHG emissions from plastic are exacerbating climate change.
The wildlife impact of plastic pollution is startling, most of the plastic trash is found in oceans as it flows from major rivers downstream to the ocean. It is estimated that plastic pollution kills more than 100,000 marine animals every year, and another startling fact is that 99% of the sea birds, the albatross, have plastic in their stomachs.
Most of the marine deaths from plastic are caused by eating the plastic or entanglement. Marine life can mistake things such as ballooned plastic bags as food, the plastic is indigestible and can eventually lead to the animals death. Many marine mammals cannot breathe underwater and they need to come to the surface in order to survive, but many get trapped in plastic waste, usually ghost fishing equipment which is deliberately dumped into the oceans, and are killed through drowning.
We have to make a change to our plastic production and consumption or we risk the loss of even more marine life, an increase in global warming and deadly toxins released into our environment. Plastic Free July aims to encourage people to be a part of the plastic solution. The Plastic Free July website offers tips and tricks on reducing plastic waste.
Some of their ideas include:
- Buy less - Before you buy, stop to think about it, consider the option with the least amount of packaging or switching to paper from plastic packing, also look to purchase things that will last for a long time rather than something that will need replacing frequently. Do you really need plastic wrapped vegetables all in individual wrapped containers, when it’s so simple to just weigh your own?
- Participate in a beach or park clean up - Community events are a great way of bringing people together around a common goal or value, so participate or even organise a clean up of litter to make an immediate positive impact on the environment.
- Take a reusable coffee cup and reusable bags when shopping - By bringing your own coffee cup to your local cafe or your own bags to your local grocery shop you are helping to reduce plastic waste.
- Re-cycle you plastics - Ensure that you are putting the right rubbish in the correct bin to help ensure that your local shop, takeaway and council can recycle as much as possible.
We all need to take responsibility for our individual impact on the environment, taking part in Plastic Free July can lead you to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.