Plastic Free July Starts Today!

by Catie Brown

Happy July 1st, my friends! Yes, it’s already July if you can believe it. With the seventh month of the year comes picnics, water lilies, Independence Day in the US, and some of the warmest temperatures of the year. But this month is very important for another reason…it’s Plastic Free July!

Plastic Free July is an important campaign to envision a world that actively tries to rid itself of its astonishing amounts of plastic pollution. In 2011 in Western Australia, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and the local government launched this initiative to reduce plastic pollution throughout the year. Now through the work of the Plastic Free Foundation Ltd, the NGO Prince-Ruiz founded in 2017, Plastic Free July is a global effort. According to their website, “In July 2019 alone, an estimated 250 million people across the globe took part in the challenge from 177 countries.”

Plastic pollution crowds our coastlines, waterways, streets, and landfills. Plastic bags can take two decades to decompose and plastic bottles can take 450 years! A plastic accumulation in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii has congregated into a patch of 1.8 trillion plastic pieces known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Everything from microplastics in cleansers and clothing to contacts improperly disposed of can make their way into polluting our ecosystems.

Take the Plastic Free July Pledge here! Graphic provided by Plastic Free July

“Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into the oceans,” according to Surfers Against Sewage. This leads to the annual death of around 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds. These statistics seem really overwhelming. But instead of allowing the gravity of the problem intimidate us into inaction, we should be motivated to start now. Plastic Free July provides many ways to get started eliminating plastics in daily life. One of the best ways to get involved is by participating in the Plastic Free July challenge, where tips, tricks, and stories are sent straight into your inbox to inspire daily behavioral changes.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition, a global alliance of over 1,200 organizations and businesses in 75 countries, is also hosting virtual events and providing resources and petitions to learn how to limit our plastic use and end plastic pollution. Finally, even though we aren’t in our offices or schools right now, you can still spread the word! The Plastic Free Foundation provides resources specifically for offices, homes, schools, and communities. There are also specific topic-based pages focused on specific areas we can limit plastic use in our daily lives through buying less, changing habits and decorating and gifting with the Earth in mind.

A person holding a fish in the water

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Photo by Naomi Brannan; Environmental activist Gary Stokes collected dozens of discarded masks from a Hong Kong beach in February (Oceans Asia) via the LA Times

Plastic pollution is challenging us in unprecedented ways during this global pandemic. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “The coronavirus pandemic has brought a dramatic increase in the use of plastic, the main component in masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, protective medical suits, test kits, takeout containers, delivery packaging and other items central to our new, locked-down, hyper-hygienic way of life.” These items are showing up on our beaches and on our streets. But there are ways to properly dispose of our waste and also to invest in product options that protect us and our planet at the same time.

How will you participate in Plastic Free July? Every action helps and today is a good day to get started.  

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