Coming to a calender near you… Plastic Free July!

Last year’s Plastic Free July fails

It’s the most wonderful time…of the year! No, not Christmas, it’s Plastic Free July 🙂

Plastic Free July is an Australian initiative, but people from all around the world take part. It’s been running since 2011, and the PFJ website says that in 2014 ‘over 14,000 individuals, schools, businesses and organisations from 69 countries participated’.

I was already pretty enthusiastic about sustainability and environmental issues before I discovered Plastic Free July. But it was taking part in PFJ last year that really hit it home to me quite how much plastic there is. It’s in everything (I’m looking at you, microbeads). It’s around everything (almost every foodstuff in every supermarket). Then, once you have your stuff containing and surrounded by plastic, you put it in more plastic, in the form of a flimsy, easily-ripped bag, take it home and then either stuff it in the back of the cupboard, or it goes straight into the recycling, never to be used again. Possibly, it’ll be used as a bin liner to hold other bits of plastic before it goes to join all the other unloved bits of plastic in a landfill.

The problem with this, is that once it’s in existence, plastic lasts a really long time. Which is great when you have something you want to last a really long time. But if you’re using it for 15 minutes to carry some more plastic home that’s then going to go straight in the bin, then its longevity isn’t so great. What’s worse, is that unlike a number of other products, such as those made of metal, plastic isn’t so much recycled, as downcycled. It becomes a lower grade product, and less valuable in terms of recovery each time.

There are a load of amazing resources out there to tell you about plastic (and other) pollution, a couple of my favourites are:

Surfers Against Sewage

Beth Terry’s blog, My Plastic Free Life

Bonus link, this story from The Onion, which is especially painfully, truthfully funny.

That picture at the top is the plastic I didn’t manage to avoid during Plastic Free July last year. I also used dental floss, but I didn’t really want to keep used dental floss on display for a month. I can’t wait to see what I can manage this year, having spent a year learning, researching and trying out new ways to obtain plastic-free happiness. Some of the changes I made were:

Shower gel – replaced with loose bars of soap, from the lovely Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town, North London

Shampoo – the shampoo bars from Lush come unpackaged, in loads of smells and for different hair types, and they last forever

Make-up remover/face cleanser – a bottle of almond oil (just your regular cooking oil!) removes make-up much better than ‘proper’ products I’ve found

Plastic wrapped cotton wool – bonus product as you’re no longer chucking away cotton wool either, these face pads are washable and reusable

Deodorant – after a number of horrible experiments, Organic Essence paper-wrapped deodorant has not let me down yet

Fruit & veg – discovering the local health shops, markets and greengrocers has cut down on plastic in this area by about 95% for me

Toilet paper wrapper – a brand new discovery from Suma, paper that comes wrapped in compostable packaging (which you can then use to hold food or garden scraps for composting)

Tea – loose, bought in bulk at Earth Natural Foods

Washing up liquid, clothes washing liquid, fabric softener – refills from Ecover and a few other brands available in all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect. I found them in a Budgens supermarket!

There’s loads more things to list, and perhaps a London shopping guide for Plastic Free July could be the inspiration for a future post. But for now, I urge everyone to give it a go, whether you try to go all out, or start small, and try to refuse plastic bags or straws for a month, every bit of plastic refused is one less potential bit of litter, or rubbish sinking to the ocean floor.

To sign up and receive emails, updates and inspiration, go to http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/register.html.

See you in July!

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