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Plastic Free July

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About this guide

Plastic Free July is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd. It began in Australia in 2011. It has grown into an international campaign. It provides a focus to encourage people to try new behaviours and approaches to reduce plastic use and waste.

Remember to do what you can, where you can. Doing good isn't a competition, and everyone can make a difference.

Remind yourself why you started. Change a few habits. Watch your lifestyle transform into one that's a little kinder on our planet.

Consider how you can take this further and encourage others to join the movement.

COVID-19 might be impacting your capacity to refuse plastics and single-use items, but there’s still room to act. Try to reuse what you have and store, rather than throw out items, for donation or recycling later.

5 reasons to decline single-use plastic

  1. It’s made from fossil fuels, using energy and water to produce heat.
  2. It’ll still be here in hundreds of years (we only recycle a small percentage).
  3. It pollutes our waterways and oceans.
  4. It kills wildlife.
  5. It enters the food chain.

5 easy things you can do

  1. Decline plastic bags and bring your own reusable shopping bags.
  2. Skip bottled water and carbonated beverages and bring a reusable water bottle.
  3. Take a reusable cup for coffee (if your cafe allows as COVID-19 restrictions lift). Find a local cafe with discounts for BYO cups. Ask for a ‘topless’ takeaway to reduce plastic lid use. Some cafes do BYO cup for ‘contactless' coffee, smoothies or juices and some do ‘contactless exchange’ including food containers.
  4. Say no to plastic straws, lids and cutlery. You can choose a paper or reusable straw and keep reusable cutlery in your bag. If you’re ordering home delivery you can ask them not to include napkins and plastic utensils.
  5. Bring your lunch in reusable containers or cloth bags.

5 things you can do to go further

  1. Become a planner. Single-use plastic is convenient and hard to avoid if you haven’t planned ahead. Plan by having reusable shopping bags in your car. You could buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Plan by taking your reusable cup, containers, straw and cutlery out with you. 
  2. Try to avoid eating takeaway. Taking the time to eat at your favourite restaurant. It’s not just a great social opportunity, it also saves on plastic containers. If you can’t skip take away due to COVID-19, see if you can take your own reusable containers.
  3. Some vendors at markets will accept their containers back. Some will even give you a discount. Ask your local beekeeper, jam or candle maker.
  4. Pick up 5 pieces of waste when you’re out and about. This can reduce the amount of plastics entering our waterways and oceans. You could even join Trash Gather or other organised events.
  5. Get involved. Join the Plastic Free July challenge. Or try Take 3 for the Sea or the National Geographic Plastic pledge.

5 things you can do to encourage others to join in

  1. Encourage your family and friends to get involved. Share what you’ve learned about reducing single-use plastics and encourage them to join you.
  2. Encourage your workplace, school or group to get involved. This is easier as COVID-19 restrictions ease. You could hold an art exhibition of objects made from recycled materials or do local clean ups. You could hold a community or online event or become a Plastic Free Place.
  3. Encourage your local cafe or favourite restaurant to provide a discount for bringing recyclable cups and containers. They could swap from single-use plastic to compostable packaging and utensils, or even become a Plastic Free Place.
  4. Promote recycling at work or in your school. Have recycling bins for organic (kitchen) waste, glass, paper and plastics. Collect e-waste including batteries and phones.
  5. Share your achievements and challenges on social media with the hashtags #PlasticFreeJuly #ChooseToRefuse #PlasticFree #SayNoToPlastic #BeatPlasticPolution #Rethink.

COVID-19, re-usables and personal protective equipment

  1. The pandemic has stirred up fear about reusables and their potential to spread the virus. This has caused a step back in some movements to reduce single-use plastics around the world. Reusable grocery bags are safe as long as you regularly wash them.
  2. You can still use reusable cups and bottles, as long as you wash them with soap and water. If you have a dishwasher you can wash them at a high temperature.  
  3. Glass, metal, and even hard plastic takeaway containers are safe to use if washed. Use a dishwasher if possible, to make sure they are disinfected.
  4. Wet wipes have become more common in COVID times. Remember, these contain plastics and should not be flushed. Choose multi-use hand sanitiser or wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds to avoid wet wipes.
  5. The pandemic has increased demand for single-use plastic items. This is especially true for personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE like masks, gloves, and plastic utensils is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19. But we should take responsibility for the items we use. Dispose of them with care. Cut the ear loops from single-use masks so they don’t pose a threat to wildlife.  If you do not work in the health sector, it’s safe to use a reusable face mask. You should wash it regularly at a high temperature.

Read more

COVID-19 and food safety Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and COVID-19

National Plastics Plan Australian Government

National Waste Policy Australian Government 

Waste fast facts Australian Government 

Planet Ark Find local options to recycle various materials

Plastic Free July Take the challenge to go plastic free and how to get started (PDF 88KB)

Plastic Free Places Help and resources to become a Plastic Free Place for communities, business and government.

Responsible cafes Find the closest cafes that offer discounts for BYO cups

Take 3 for the Sea Learn about removing plastics from the ocean