Plastic-free July – are you up for a challenge?

Can you reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use?

The Plastic Free July challenge is under way again this year, with people from 130 countries around the world doing their best to refuse single-use plastic.

Packaging on your cherry tomatoes, the cartons your milk comes in, takeaway cups and tubs, drinks bottles… we use loads of plastic every year. Only a third of the plastic we use as consumers is recycled, so the majority of it ends up on landfill sites or being incinerated. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the world’s oceans each year, with a devastating impact on marine life – and also on us ultimately, because one in four fish now has toxins in its flesh from the pieces of plastic it has eaten, and these toxins then enter our food chain. (You can find out more about this in the incredible film ‘A Plastic Ocean’, released this year.)

Using less plastic also helps prevent climate change. According to the Plastic Free July website, plastic manufacturing consumes six per cent of the world’s fossil fuels, and other sites quote even higher figures.

Tips on using less plastic

The Plastic Free website has some great suggestions. Have a look at their Living Plastic Free section for ideas.

To add a CAfS tip… depending on where you live in Cumbria, it may be nigh on impossible to avoid single-use plastic for many products. We know from our own attempts that it can be very disheartening when you can’t find plastic-free alternatives for everything. Instead, aim to reduce the amount of packaging you take home. Here are a few things to try:

  • Where there are unpackaged options (e.g. for fruit and veg), you can choose those instead.
  • Look up when your nearest farmers’ market is and see what unpackaged produce you can find there.
  • In the dairy aisle, you can often find yoghurts and desserts in glass pots.
  • Keep an eye out for cheeses that come waxed rather than wrapped in plastic.
  • Look in your local health food shop, where they often have refills of products like laundry gel and washing-up liquid.
  • Look for shampoo that comes in a solid bar rather than a bottle.
  • Use solid soap instead of liquid in single-use containers, or refill them (again, your local health food shop might do this).
  • Take a water bottle out with you instead of buying bottled water.
  • Bring your own reusable cup for takeaway coffee.
  • Avoid snack-sized goods and buy larger quantities instead.

You can make a difference simply by asking about plastic-free alternatives at your local shops and supermarkets. If shops find that more and more people are raising the issue, they are more likely to want to make changes.

You can also help prevent plastic ending up in the ocean by picking up litter and joining in organised litter picks at rivers and beaches.

Join in with efforts around Cumbria to reduce single-use plastic:

Kendal: Visit the Zero Waste Kendal group on Facebook 

Penrith: Contact Nigel Jenkins at Penrith Action for Community Transition

Elsewhere: Contact your local sustainability group to see if they have projects you could get involved with