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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.

The initiative provides a focus to encourage people to try new behaviours to reduce plastic use and waste.

This guide provides some tips to help you become plastic-free.

Remember, doing good isn't a competition and everyone can make a difference. Changing just a few habits can transform your lifestyle into one that's a little kinder on our planet.

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 or store it for donation or recycling later.

Do what you can, where you can, and consider how you can encourage others to join the movement.

5 reasons to decline single-use plastic

  1. It’s made from fossil fuels, using energy and water to produce heat.
  2. It will 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 reusable shopping bags.
  2. Bring your lunch in reusable containers or cloth bags.
  3. Skip bottled beverages and bring a reusable water bottle.
  4. Take a reusable cup for coffee. More cafes will allow reusable cups as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Find a local cafe with discounts for BYO cups. Ask for a ‘topless’ takeaway to reduce plastic lid use.
  5. Say no to plastic straws, lids and cutlery. Choose a paper straw or keep reusable cutlery in your bag. When ordering home delivery, ask for no napkins or plastic utensils.

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. Ask if you can return containers. Some market vendors will accept their containers back. Some will even give you a discount.
  4. Pick up 5 pieces of waste when you’re out and about. Doing this can reduce the amount of plastics entering our waterways and oceans. You could even join Trash Gather or other organised events.
  5. Get more 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

  1. Encourage family and friends to get involved. Share what you’ve learned about reducing single-use plastics and encourage them to join you.
  2. Become a plastic free champion in your community. 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 restaurant to provide a discount for 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 your work or school. Have recycling bins for organic (kitchen) waste, glass, paper and plastics. Collect e-waste including batteries and phones.
  5. Share your challenges and achievements on social media. Use the hashtags #PlasticFreeJuly #ChooseToRefuse #PlasticFree #SayNoToPlastic #BeatPlasticPolution #Rethink.

COVID-19, reusables and personal protective equipment

Some things to remember during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The pandemic has stirred fear about reusables and their potential to spread the virus. Remember, reusable grocery bags are safe as long as you regularly wash them.
  • You can still use reusable cups and bottles as long as you wash them with soap and water.
  • If you have a dishwasher, wash reusable items at a high temperature.  
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dispose of single-use masks with care and cut the ear loops so they don’t pose a threat to wildlife. 
  • It’s safe to use a reusable face mask if you do not work in the health sector. Remember to 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 find out how to get started (PDF 88KB).

Plastic Free Places 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.