By Mary Searle Bell
Plastic Free July sets us the challenge of cutting the plastic from our life. The goal is to dramatically reduce plastic use around the world, creating a cleaner planet for the future. The catchphrase is ‘choose to refuse’, in other words, say no to plastic.
Sounds simple, right? It should be… but plastics have an awful habit of wrapping themselves around everyday objects and working their way into your shopping.
We all know plastic is bad for the environment – it gets into the ocean and kills marine animals as well as taking forever to degrade. Adding to the pressure, recyclable plastic is fast losing its charm as the export market for it has collapsed – China is not accepting the levels of recyclable waste that it used to – and we’re not set up to do it ourselves.
However, this recycling crisis does provide a push for us to change the way we do things. To move to a better, healthier and more sustainable model. One that is plastic free.
It can be difficult to know where to start so we’ve made a list of some of the unnecessary plastics that you should try to cut from your regular shopping, and offer sustainable alternatives which will do the job just as well but are kinder to the planet.
We know the idea of cutting plastic can seem overwhelming. But how about simply starting with one or two things, and then take it from there.
Here are some ideas to help you kick off Plastic Free July, and a more sustainable lifestyle!
Ditch plastic straws from your takeaway soft drink, smoothie or pretty cocktail. Plastic free alternatives range from cardboard, glass and stainless steel reusable straws (which come with a handy, tiny brush for cleaning) to simply using your lips in the original drinking method!
Single use plastic shopping bags are on their way out. Supermarkets and big chain stores like Mitre 10, and even whole towns such as Martinborough, are opting for more sustainable options. Recyclable options such as boomerang bags are increasingly common, or you can make your own cotton bags. Alternatively, simply use boxes, baskets, or any old bag you have lying around. It doesn’t really matter what it’s made of, the most important thing is to reuse it as many times as you can.
Avoid products with unnecessary plastic – prepackaged meat and deli products often come wrapped in ridiculous amounts. Fruit and vegetables too, many of which grow their own protective wrapping anyway. You’ll find specialty stores and farmers markets often use less packaging.
If you regularly buy takeaway coffee, invest in a reusable coffee cup. Alternatively, if circumstances allow (or you don’t mind living dangerously!) get your takeaway coffee without the lid – that’s the bit that’s problematic.
Instead of single use plastic bottles for water, milk or soft drinks, choose liquids that come in waxed paperboard cartons or glass bottles.
Many grocery items can be purchased without any packaging when you shop at bulk food stores. Simply take your own reusable containers to fill.
If you are in the supermarket, opt for products that come in cardboard packaging over their plastic-wrapped competition. And look for products sporting an eco-packaging badge – this means it will be reusable, compostable or recyclable.
Cut plastic from your bathroom by switching to solid bar shampoo and conditioner, bamboo toothbrushes, silk dental floss, loo paper that comes packaged in paper, and menstrual cups instead of tampons.
In the kitchen, you can ditch plastic by packing lunches in reusable containers or fabric wraps, this works for keeping leftovers too – beeswax cotton wraps can be composed once they finally reach their use-by date. Green Elephant offers a number of sustainable lunch packaging options or you can easily make your own beeswax wraps.
We have a list of businesses that are committed to sustainable practises, including those offering plastic-free alternatives to everyday products. Sign up here to join the Conscious Consumers community and find businesses that are doing their part to make it easier to be kinder to the environment. Look for businesses with our ‘BYO’ badge - they encourage and incentivise customers who BYO cups, containers or (if applicable) reusable bags.