As Plastic Free July has now come to an end, I thought I'd a little post about what the movement really means to me, and what my main takeaways have been from participating in it this past month.
Plastic Free July is a great time to evaluate our own plastic use, and how it affects the environment. We might find that we've become a bit more reliant on convenient products, and it serves as a good reminder of why we do what we do. We might find that we learn new things about why plastic is so harmful, and how we can make changes to avoid it. Whatever we do, it's so important to try and take those messages beyond July, and try to apply them year-round.
For me, it's mainly served as a reminder as to why we try to avoid plastics in this household, and I've been sharing lots of things on my social media pages (Facebook & Instagram) and I've had loads of really good, positive feedback on these posts.
The biggest problems with plastics are that they take such a long time - decades and in some instances centuries - to break down, and when they do start to break down, they leave microplastics behind; they release toxic chemicals, and create them, fossil fuels are often needed. They are often cheap, convenient, and seen as durable, but all in all the durability often depends on what it is. Plastic toys are a particularly good example of something that in theory should be durable, but often break quite quickly.
Anything we can do to reduce our plastic use, and also ensure it's disposed of correctly, helps.
Here are few points that have really stuck with me throughout this past month -
We aren't perfect - In fact, it would be incredibly difficult for us to live perfectly sustainable lives, as the very act of being alive has an impact on the planet. When it comes to cutting back on plastic though, it's so ingrained in our lives, that sometimes it's unavoidable.
Start small - If you start to think "from next week NO MORE plastic" it might get a little overwhelming, and even potentially expensive, and put you off. Start by doing a plastic audit, and work your way through the list, little by little.
Use the plastic you have - If you have a bathroom cabinet filled with plastic packaged goods such as shower gels and shampoos, and the like, use it up first, or at the very least pass it on to someone who will appreciate it, like a shelter or food bank, or even a friend in need. It defeats the purpose to just throw it in the bin. The same goes for reusing containers, or other forms of packaging for refilling at refill shops.
Clue up on recycling - Just because it says it's recyclable, doesn't always mean your local recycling facility will accept it. Don't just assume and wishcycle, check first if you are even the tiniest bit unsure. Also, it's worth noting that there are some symbols on the packaging that make them appear to be recyclable but they actually aren't.
Hidden Plastics - it's terrifying how many things contain plastic, like chewing gum, clothes, and nail varnish. If you're trying to make some serious progress in plastic reduction, look into these lesser-known plastic-containing items.
Don't judge - Or give unsolicited advice, for that matter. It's so easy for us to look at someone and think "how can they use *insert plastic item here* don't they know about *insert non-plastic alternative here*" but what we need to remember is that we don't know that person's circumstances. If they ask you for advice on finding an alternative, then by all means offer said advice, but otherwise, stay out of it.
Shop second hand - This is a great rule of thumb for most shopping purposes, but in particular, if you need to buy something that does use plastic, see if you can get it second-hand. This is particularly good where toys are concerned!
Try not to worry - This goes hand in hand with not being perfect. If there is a swap you've struggled to make, but you're painfully aware of, try to think about why you haven't made it. Is the alternative too expensive? Have you tried a couple of alternatives and they haven't worked for you? Maybe the alternative just isn't accessible to you? Maybe you aren't aware of an alternative? Maybe your health means you aren't able to use an alternative? Whatever the reason, try not to dwell on it too much. As long as you are doing what you can, where you can, that's what matters.
Look out for recycling schemes - For items that aren't able to go in common household recycling, look for things like Terrcycle, or recycling schemes at the supermarket.
I could go on, but I think those are the most important ones!
I also wanted to share a few resources that are helpful when it comes down to reducing plastic, and disposing of plastic correctly -