Jul 022021
Plastic Free July – back to basics

It’s plastic free July! In this post, I reflect on the past year and how COVID has stalled efforts to reduce our single use plastic dependence. Secondly, I examine my own consumer patterns to see where I can make some improvements reducing my plastic. I challenge you to make one change this July to reduce your waste (whether that’s plastic or not)! Finally, I share my top five favourite plastic free swaps and some links to further resources. I’ve titled this post plastic free July – back to basics, because we all need a little refresher on why environmental campaigns like this exist. Humans continue to damage the planet, but there are plenty of opportunities to make positive changes.

Plastic Free in a Pandemic?

Although the world is still very much battling COVID, in some regions, restrictions are easing and people are returning to their social and work activities. The pandemic has certainly inhibited progress in reducing our dependence on single use plastics. It was necessary to implement increased hygiene measures resulting in the temporary stop to bulk re-fills and bringing your own container/mug. However, now that some people are going out and about more, it’s beneficial to return to making small but impactful changes to the way we live.

The Bigger Picture

The planet is in crisis: record breaking heat waves and droughts, rapid biodiversity loss and deforestation, and an ever-present reliance on fossil fuels which… create the plastic in the first place. Let’s not forget the broken recycling system and microplastics found everywhere from pole to pole, from me to you! Plastic free July is about more than reducing single use items, it’s about changing our consumer habits and industrial processes. It’s about addressing the larger issues and making real change at societal and policy levels. Rant over.

Auditing my single use plastics

I wanted to evaluate our shopping to see where I’ve slipped over the past year. Some of these were active choices based on concerns about health and safety, and also limited availability of stock at the supermarket. In other instances, it’s been a case of relying too heavily on convenience and comfort foods, which hasn’t been kind to my body or the planet.

  • Packaged biscuits
  • Packaged bread
  • Some vegan options which are heavily packaged.

Solution? Eat fewer biscuits and bake more from scratch! Lucy and I have also been discussing buying a second hand bread maker to encourage us to buy less processed bread.

Baking Bread
Baking bread from scratch to reduce plastic waste.
My top 5 plastic free swaps
  1. Shampoo bars
  2. Kleen Kanteen
  3. Fabric produce bags
  4. Bulk section
  5. Reusable fabric face mask

It’s amazing how five simple changes have completely changed my life and my mindset. I rarely (if at all) buy cosmetics and toiletries in plastic. I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of water. Sewing my own produce bags was a relatively simple task that has resulted in numerous compliments and countless bags saved when buying bulk food. Speaking of which, switching to buying loose dried foods like pulses, coffee beans, pasta, rice, oats, and baking staples has saved loads of plastic packaging! Last but not least, investing in a few fabric face masks has definitely reduced the amount of single use PPE that I could have used, though I appreciate this option might not work for everyone.

Fabric produce bags
Homemade fabric produce bags
Guilt-Free Single Use Plastic

With campaigns such as plastic free July comes the placement of responsibility and blame on the consumer. This can cause people to feel guilty about choosing plastic packaged items. However, there are plenty of cases where using single-use plastic is warranted:

  • Bottles of anti-bac and soap
  • Lateral flow tests
  • Face coverings and PPE
  • SPFs
  • Medical supplies
  • Disability-related items
  • Items you purchase because you can’t access or afford package-free alternatives
  • Packaged food/personal products you need to purchase due to allergies/intolerances
  • Packaged items if they are the best way for you to look after your baby/children due to finances and time constraints.
Lateral Flow Tests
Single use plastic in lateral flow tests for COVID

There’s no such thing as zero waste. Moreover, plastic is a very useful and beneficial material which offers strength, durability, hygiene, safety, and (for better or for worse) longevity.

Further Resources

Are you going to take part in plastic free July? If so, what changes are you going to make this month?


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