Around the world this month, people everywhere are participating in the fourth annual Plastic Free July. What began as a simple effort to encourage Western Australians to reduce overall plastic use, has grown into a worldwide annual campaign to help raise awareness for the growing issue of plastic pollution.
The challenge: attempt to avoid single use plastic for the month of July.
The Problem with Plastics
From our eating to cleaning, to our personal care habits, plastics can be found in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. The abundance of plastic used and thrown out each day around the world has led to catastrophic plastic pollution. As the world’s #1 producer of garbage, the U.S. is responsible for generating nearly 40 percent of the world’s waste, with a good deal of it ending up in our waterways and oceans. Read about Plastic Pollution in our Waters. When plastics enter the food chain, its toxic components become a ruthless threat to the health of both wildlife and humans. Although we’re drawn to the convenience of single use plastics, the harsh reality is that the luxury is short term, and the end result is a very serious long-term problem. In fact, only about 5% of the plastics produced and used in the U.S. is recycled each year. About half of it ends up buried in landfills, and the rest is most often littered throughout the environment, eventually making its way into storm drains and then into our oceans and inland waterways.
Ready to Make a Difference?
Plastic Free July not only works to raise awareness, but the campaign also aims to help people find solutions that make sense– and also make implementing change easier. From individuals to businesses and organizations, millions of people are getting involved and accepting the Plastic Free July challenge to help make a global impact. To join the challenge, simply sign on at www.plasticfreejuly.org, and start refusing as many single use plastics as possible throughout the month. Anything that can’t be avoided should be collected and set aside to “tally” and share in a photo at the end of the challenge. Choose how long you wish to participate, even one day can make a big difference.
Start Simple: 4 Easy Ways to Go Plastic Free
A great place to start is to avoid these top four single use plastic products: straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and coffee cup lids. Many of these items are simply unnecessary anyhow (it’s okay to drink from the glass itself!). Reduce the amount of plastic food packaging you bring home by shopping with reusable bags and containers at one of our great Birmingham area farmer’s markets or by stocking up on bulk foods at places like Whole Foods or Earth Fare. You can also find Homestead Creamery milk and lemonade at Earth Fare, which comes in glass jugs that are able to be returned and used again. Learn more ideas for Making the Switch from Disposables to Reusables at Home. Businesses and retailers can help encourage a Plastic Free July by refusing to sell bottled water or by giving incentives to those who bring their own reusables throughout the month.
Want More of a Challenge?
Plastic Free July offers great tips and ideas for living plastic free in nearly every aspect of life, even with cleaning and personal care. The book Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry, is another great resource for discovering ways to use less plastic products in your daily life.
My Green Birmingham has accepted the challenge and we hope you will too! Throughout the month of July, we’ll be sharing our successes (and probably failures too), as well as ideas to help you get motivated and tips for an easier plastic free challenge.
Be sure to check out our Quick Tips section where you can find ideas like Plastic Free Dishwashing, Sustainable Pet Toys, and How to Ensure your Food Storage Container is Safe.
As always, whatever plastics you do use and need to dispose of, we encourage you to do so properly. For more information about local recycling, visit Alabama Environmental Council online. Accept the challenge for a Plastic Free July, and feel good knowing the conscious and responsible actions you take this month (and hopefully beyond) will help make a significant impact in reducing our world’s plastic pollution, as well as securing safer waterways and oceans, and creating an overall healthier environment.
Kate Agliata contributed to the article.