Every year, countless people take on the plastic-free July challenge—but why? If we think that our current approach to recycling is enough, it’s time to reconsider. Bottomline: recycling alone isn’t going to save our planet.
The amount of plastic produced globally in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Nearly all the plastic ever created still exists in some form today. And our oceans? Our oceans are being choked out by our plastic waste. Researchers predict there will be more tonnes of plastic in the world than tonnes of fish by 2050… That is, unless, we start changing our behaviour.
“Thoughtlessly buying plastic is so yesterday,” says Brent Lindeque of GoodThingsGuy.com. “The recycling message remains the same: recycle everything you possibly can. Reduce everything you possibly can. Reuse everything you possibly can. But now we also have an awesome responsibility to refuse too. And not just for the month of July.”
That’s why the team over at GoodThingsGuy.com are making an effort to help people find out how to reduce your plastic use. Here are their top tips:
1. Use Material Bags When Grocery Shopping
Challenge yourself to avoid using or purchasing any plastic bags this month. Most shopping is done without much planning going into it, which means you just head to the nearest store on your way home from work, without so much as a thought about plastic bags. If you buy a few shopper bags and keep them in your car boot, you’ll never have to worry. Or better yet, plan your meals and do a week’s shop on Sunday. You’re bound to stick to your gains through the week if you already have the food in your kitchen.
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2. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
Glass and metal ones are the best. This way you always have nice chilled water and you don’t have to buy plastic bottles.
3. Scrap the Straws
Rather go without or purchase a cool bamboo or metal one.
4. Take Your Own Tupperware
If you are heading out for dinner, take a Tupperware for your leftovers instead of taking home a polystyrene container.
5. Don’t Use Cling Wrap, Ziplock Bags and Other Non-recyclable Plastics
Sure, clingwrap and ziplock bags make meal prep and kid’s lunch prep so much easier. But there are other, more environmentally-friendly ways to keep your food fresh.
6. If You Do Use Plastic, Make Sure It Can Be Recycled
… And then recycle it.
Dr. Jenna Jambeck, internationally recognised for her research on plastic waste in the ocean, has ranked South Africa amongst the worst culprits. In a published study that listed 20 countries that generated the highest volumes of ‘mismanaged plastic waste’, South Africa came in at number 11—worse than India, and the entire United States.
But we are upping our game. According to the latest plastic recycling figures released by Plastics SA, recycled tonnages in South Africa have grown by 35% since 2011. A growing number of organisations and consumer groups have become actively involved in upstream collection efforts, resulting in a positive impact on the amount of plastics that were collected and recycled.
Whilst giving up single-use plastic may seem like a challenge, once you make the changes and find alternatives it’s a lot easier than you would think. Head on over to PlasticFreeJuly.org for more tips and to take the challenge!