Plastic Free July is here once again, and it's time to give ourselves a challenge and put the pressure on retailers and manufacturers stand up and pay attention to what the planet needs. It's time to accelerate the change so that future generations can live a more sustainable life and put an end to plastic pollution.
The problem with plastic
Did you know that 11 million tonnes of plastic is predicted to be making its way into our oceans each year? If this trend continues, we’ll have more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050 (Ellen Macarthur Foundation)
Plastic damages our planet in many ways. Firstly, it can take hundreds or thousands of years to break down, which means it’s here for the long run and its damage is long lasting.
It also has a dramatic effect on all organisms in the food chain, especially in oceans where it is dumped. When organisms eat small bits of plastic, it can make them feel artificially full, which means that they end up starving to death. Those who do not starve are likely to be eaten by the next up in the food chain, and so on – and with fishing being big business, we effectively end up eating our own plastic waste. Larger pieces of plastic and netting can suffocate or entangle marine animals.
Aside from the damage that plastic pollution has on marine life, “our oceans produce half of the Earth’s oxygen. Healthy oceans are also vital in the fight against the climate crisis – the deep sea is the largest reservoir of stored carbon on Earth. We can’t have a healthy planet without healthy oceans.” (Greenpeace)
‘But that’s not me, I recycle my plastic’
Hate to break it to you, but Only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled (National Geographic), and over half the plastic packaging that the government claims is being recycled, actually gets dumped on other countries. And we don’t know what they do with it.
What we do know, is that there is a huge amount of evidence to show that it gets dumped in our oceans and landfill. If we don’t quite know what happens to our plastic once we dispose of it, then surely the answer has to be to stop buying and creating demand for it - the main culprit being single use plastic packaging.
Single-use plastic is polluting our plane
According to Plastic Free July, the “top four” single-use plastic items are:
Takeaway coffee cups
I would also like to add that 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry (Zero Waste Data Week), most of which is plastic. What is more shocking, is that 95% of beauty packaging is thrown out after one use. If we consider that only 14% of beauty products plastic packaging makes it to a recycling centre, that’s around 103 billion units going to landfill / the oceans EVERY SINGLE YEAR.
Now we’ve got you thinking about the scale of the problem, let’s talk about change.
This can all be avoided with a few healthy changes in our approach to life. It sometimes requires a little more preparation, or a new habit or two, yes - but ultimately we need to move away from this throwaway society that we have built to save our planet for generations to come.
We’ve made some great progress so far in changing attitudes towards plastic so far, but there is still so much work to be done. A recent study by GlobalWebIndex concluded that 82% of consumers asked now consider products with sustainable packaging more important than ever.
There have also been some big shifts in our government attitudes, with the banning of microbeads being one change that saved us from plastic in 2018. Question – did you realise that you were exfoliating with plastic beads in the first place?
The ‘Attenborough effect’ has led to a 53% decrease in single-use plastic from consumers as Sir David’s words have shone a light on not only the manufacturing of plastic, but the lack of means of disposal of the ‘wretched material’.
Cutting down our plastic consumption
This month is all about taking a look at our plastic consumption and going the extra mile to cut down plastic used and purchasing single use plastic. In this day and age, it can be unavoidable – I know that – but we can all do better. If you manage to swap out the top 4 single use plastic offenders that I mentioned earlier, then this is a fantastic start and you’ve achieved more than most people.
Remember that demand equals supply, and the more pressure we as consumers put on brands, supermarkets and manufacturers to look at what they are producing and selling, the more plastic-free, sustainable alternatives we will see. Choosing to shop zero waste, or visiting your local veggie store over your plastic-filled supermarket, is letting retailers know that we want change.
Need some inspiration when it comes to switching up your single use plastics for sustainable alternatives?
Look no further, we've compiled a list of our faves here.
Cover Image: Catherine Shiela, Pexels