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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. Begun in Australia in 2011, the now international campaign 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 and 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 take action. 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 (only a small percentage is recycled).
  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) and find a local cafe with discounts for BYO cups. Ask for a ‘topless’ takeaway, reducing 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 – choose a paper or reusable straw and keep reusable cutlery in your bag. If you’re ordering home delivery during COVID-19 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, buying in bulk to reduce packaging or 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 is not just a great social opportunity, it also saves on the plastic containers. If you can’t skip take away due to COVID-19, see if you can take your own reusable containers.
  3. If you buy goods locally at markets, some vendors will accept their containers back and will often 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, and reduce the amount of plastics entering our waterways and oceans, or even join Trash Gather or other organised events.
  5. Get involved – join the Challenge Plastic Free July or 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. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, you could hold an art exhibition of objects made from recycled materials, do local clean ups,  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, swap from single-use plastic to compostable packaging and utensils or become a Plastic Free Place.
  4. Promote recycling at work or in your school by having recycling bins for organic (kitchen) waste, glass, paper, plastics, e-waste including batteries and phones.
  5. Share your achievements and challenges on social media with the hashtags #PlasticFreeJuly #ChooseToRefuse #PlasticFree #SayNoToPlastic #BeatPlasticPolution #Rethink.

More information

COVID-19 and food safety Food Standards Australia New Zealand

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 for a week or longer, including how to get started (PDF 88KB)

Plastic Free Places Help and resources to become a Plastic Free Place for communities, business and government, including sustainable packaging advice and guidance for cafes during COVID-19

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

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