If you search “plastic free” or “plastic free July”, the majority of search results are for companies trying to sell you products. While I wholeheartedly encourage you to switch to sustainable products over single use plastics, it is not sustainable and environmentally friendly to rely on consumerism as a means for solving the plastics crisis. Hence, for my second post on plastic this month, I discuss 5 big changes to make for plastic free July.
For my previous post see Plastic Free July 2020. You can find out more by reading Zero Waste Essentials – Things I won’t be buying! (Part 3) and 5 Things I wish I’d known before going Zero Waste.
If you are just starting out on your plastic free July journey and are looking to make a few personal lifestyle swaps, you can check out 50 Simple Ways to Live more Sustainably and Zero Waste and Plastic Free Living- Part 1.
Get Informed and Take Action
Like most social issues, to tackle the plastic pollution crisis we need factual and accurate information and education to promote action and change at all levels: individual, communal, policy, and global. *cough – no fake news*
Below I’ve compiled a short collection of resources that explore 5 big changes to make for plastic free July. We can’t tick these off a check list in a month; they are huge issues we need to focus on to address climate change and plastic pollution. These resources shed light on the challenges our world faces in battling environmental issues and our ever-changing planet.
Although our personal reduction of single use plastic is important, the plastic free July campaign puts the onus on the consumer to fix our waste and contamination crisis. The real polluters are the corporations and the oil industry manufacturing these plastic products. We need government intervention and corporate accountability, not just switching out a plastic straw for paper one.
We CANNOT buy our way out of this mess. This plastic free July I encourage my readers to look beyond the eco-friendly swaps so many shops are selling (many of which are not produced sustainably or ethically). Now, let’s look at five big changes we need to make to tackle plastic pollution.
Plastic Pollution and COVID-19
A Green Recovery
Devex.com published this thoughtful opinion piece on addressing plastic pollution as part of the “green recovery” from COVID-19. This article discusses the halting of single-use plastic bans due to the pandemic, and the layoffs in the plastics recycling industry. Governments must follow through with their existing commitments of regulating single use plastics, and citizens need to continue advocating for plastic pollution solutions.
We are also being irresponsible by littering our single-use masks and gloves. In one of many articles on this issue, the shocking headline from The Guardian that there may be “more masks than jellyfish” in the Mediterranean highlights how we are exacerbating the plastics crisis.
Dirty Money – Netflix
On the Netflix show Dirty Money, the episode called Point Comfort unearths the consequences of when profit is worth more than human and environmental rights. The small Texas community initially welcomed the plastics plant for the jobs and boost to their local economy. However, the environmental and health consequences of living next door to a massive Formosa Plastics processing plant soon became apparent. If you have Netflix, I recommend watching this show.
The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff Project created a film about The Story of Plastic. The full version is a difficult to get a hold of, but you can watch an abbreviated version on YouTube. They are encouraging citizens to do a brand audit, and submit your data on the brands responsible for the plastic litter you find in your community. Collectively, we can call out corporations and hold them accountable.
Personal Health and Lifestyle
Gittemary Johansen recently spoke about 20 everyday items that contain hidden plastic on her YouTube channel, which is certainly worth watching!
Moral Fibres also has a great blog post on hidden plastics.
Plastic and our Health
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is a charitable organisation comprising policy experts and lawyers. They provide legal counsel and advocacy, policy research, and capacity building in the areas of: climate and energy; environmental health; and people, land and resources. There are lots of ways you can get involved cited on their website. They have dozens of fantastic reports, but in this post I’m going to focus on Plastic & Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet.
CIEL Key Findings:
- Plastic threatens human health on a global scale.
- Addressing plastic pollution requires a lifecycle approach because at each stage of plastic’s production, use, and disposal, are distinct risks to human health.
“Over 170 fracking chemicals that are used to produce thee main feedstocks for plastic have know human health impacts, including cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, impairment of the immune system and more.” (Plastic & Health, pg. 1)
- The use of plastic products in consumer products and packaging “leads to ingestion and/or inhalation of large amounts of both micro plastic particles and hundreds of toxic substances with carcinogenic, developmental, or endocrine disrupting impacts.” Plastic micro particles are increasingly documented in human tissues. (Plastic & Health, pg. 2)
- Many of the chemicals used in these products aren’t regulated, and there are knowledge gaps on their health impacts. CIEL call for transparency in production, and regulation.
- Plastic particles bio-accumulate in the environment and in the food chain. As they continue to degrade, and new surfaces are exposed, the leaching of additives continues.
- CIEL argue that human rights and human health need to be at the center of solutions.
I know this information is daunting, but I believe it is time to give more credence to the bigger picture of plastic pollution than focusing on swaps for plastic free July. What do you think is the biggest issue we need to tackle with plastic pollution?