Plastic-free July is here and we can’t calm down! You may have noticed the entire internet boom up with posts about this international 30-day challenge. It is an opportunity for a new perspective on our lifestyle. We know that doesn’t sound as fun as a No-shave November, but we’ll tell you why it’s completely worth trying.
The challenge started as a simple 30-day resolution, to open up our eyes to exactly how far we are surrounded by disposables, and how we can get creative in avoiding trash at source. This challenge started in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and with every passing year, the participation has exploded to millions of people around the world.
BUT PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE
If you’re someone who has never heard of the PLASTIC FREE JULY challenge, the idea can sound alarming! Are we avoiding all plastic? Does that mean my laptop too? What about all the plastic already at home?! It can be confusing to realise who is the main villain we are trying to avoid with very little information on the WHY. But first, let’s rewind and remember plastic
Plastic was a brilliant invention in the 1900s when it was first invented. It was praised for its durability and the fact that it can never biodegrade completely. It’s used in car parts, machinery, appliances. But that was the only application at first and the world was living relatively low waste.
Until one day, we came up with the idea to create disposable items with plastic! This came as a boon to people who wanted to preserve items on shelves for long periods of time, sell products in packs and speed up the counters. We lost the habit of carrying a bag from our own house and ensuring everything is done homemade. It opened up the opportunity for various inventions and business ideas. Food delivery services thrive due to plastic. Plastic disposables got us addicted in the matter of just 2 decades and now we couldn’t imagine our lives without it.
In 2017, a documentary series by BBC namely BLUE PLANET II was released and the world suddenly woke up to the consequences of our plastic addiction.
WHY DID PLASTIC BECOME THE VILLAIN?
The rising use of plastic disposables led to the formation of LANDFILLs which are basically mountains of trash collected with no plan of management. This waste is so mixed up and contaminated it can’t even be recycled.
This is a fairly recent problem compared to centuries of landfill-free civilization and it boils down to the fact that the items we use today, do not naturally degrade back to earth anymore.
The biggest design flaw made in human history was designing disposable products out of plastic. Imagine every piece of disposable plastic you ever used, is still sitting somewhere in the world. The miracle material plastic suddenly didn’t seem so much like a blessing anymore.
This plastic waste flies off or rolls into water bodies. Trashed on the streets and sometimes even deliberately thrown into oceans due to lack of space on land. Only human beings can differentiate between plastics and edible food, but animals cannot. Birds catch something colourful and small, and feed it to their chicks. Turtles assume plastic bags are jellyfish and gobble them up. Cows in India eat trash on the street covered in plastic bags and end up eating the plastic too.
Plastic in the ocean has become a common cause of death for all kind of aquatic and land animals today. It is not rare today to find news of whales and dolphins being washed ashore with a belly full of plastic waste they consumed unknowingly.
Accumulation of plastic in drainage systems, city sewers and odd places can lead to easy flooding and loss of lives. Accumulation of plastic in open spaces and the constant beating of sun + rain also breaks down plastic to create carcinogens that permeate in the soil. This toxic substance is called Leachate and spreads into the soil/water bodies around it. Many people even have the habit of burning their plastic waste in the open which emits Toxic fumes adding to Air pollution. And as an Indian, we all have witnessed cows munching on trashed food along with plastic bags at least once in our lives. Microplastics are degraded plastic particles that are now found in ocean water, our salt and even human stool. We are basically eating plastic now.
Just like how the world is trying to reduce its carbon footprint to tackle climate change, we can also be mindful of our plastic usage. Remember that plastic is actually made from fossil fuels mined beneath the earth, the same substance environmentalists are working so hard to contain. Reducing our dependence on plastic also means reducing our dependence on fossil fuel products! The plastic-free movement can put a sizeable dent in this polluting industry.
Basically, there’s too much single-use plastic and we can’t handle it. We need to cut it from the source! And that’s why we have PLASTIC-FREE JULY.
HOW CAN I GET STARTED?
Lookout and spot any plastic packaged product, especially plastic disposables. Make sure to avoid it, bring a reusable for it, or just go without it if it’s unnecessary!
Sounds simple but it can be suspiciously tricky.
HERE ARE SOME PRO-TIPS FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE TRIED THIS CRAZY CHALLENGE BEFORE:
- Plan ahead and keep reusables like a box, cloth napkin, water bottle, cutlery set, thin folded cloth bags in a tote bag.
- Invest in plastic-free bathroom products like shampoo bar, bamboo toothbrush, as they are the easiest to make the switch. You will feel like a sense of accomplishment to push forward.
- Never leave your house empty-handed if you’re going out. Hold on to them!
- Follow at least 10 social media pages that promote “Zero waste Lifestyles” to surround yourself with inspiration
- Practice how to SAY NO, “No sir I don’t need this straw” “sorry I won’t be eating packaged food”
- Practice making SPECIAL REQUESTS, “Can you pack these in my box instead?” “Can you serve it without a straw please?”
- Plastic that is already at home can be re-used.
- If you fail at avoiding plastic, bring it home clean it and collect it to remember where you are going wrong.
- Feel free to question every plastic item in your house and explore an alternative for it.
- Ensure you have registered yourself into this challenge on the official website to add yourself to the growing number #PLASTICFREEJULY. Check out our products on our store and make sure you have all the reusables you need. You can make your own kit with reusables available at home.
- It’s not too late! The best time to start is 1st July and the second-best time to start is NOW. Ditch single-use plastic for 30 days and let us know your experience.
Author: Mridula Joshi
Sources: Image 1(plastic in factories): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswprw Image 2: (plastic in ocean) https://www.occupy.com/article/we-must-stop-plastic-choking-ocean-and-earth#sthash.v63h3Cyq.dpbs Image 3: (Microplastic) http://www.ecosnippets.com/environmental/microplastics-discovered-in-humans-for-the-first-time/ Image 4 (plastic free bathroom): https://www.wholeheartedeats.com/2018/08/ways-to-be-plastic-free-bathroom-edition/ Image 5 (plastic fail jar): https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2016/apr/22/zero-waste-movement-no-trash-photos https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3cswprw https://www.marineteam.org/cairns-drain-stencil-project/stormwater-facts/ https://www.occupy.com/article/we-must-stop-plastic-choking-ocean-and-earth#sthash.v63h3Cyq.dpbs http://www.ecosnippets.com/environmental/microplastics-discovered-in-humans-for-the-first-time/ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2016/apr/22/zero-waste-movement-no-trash-photos