Plastic Free July: Struggling to give it up? Here are some tips

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul3,2024
Plastic Free July, a global campaign to reduce plastic consumption, has launched for 2024 with a range of tips for cutting down single-use plastic consumption.
Plastic Free July was launched by sustainability expert Rebecca Prince-Ruiz in Perth in 2011.
At the time, Prince-Ruiz was working in sustainability education in local government and was first motivated to start the campaign when she visited a recycling facility.
“I saw for the first time just how much waste that we produce … and knew that the most important thing I could do to reduce my footprint was actually reduce my waste and filling my recycling in each fortnight wasn’t really helping the planet,” Prince-Ruiz said.

Australians are among the biggest consumers of single-use plastic per person in the world. In 2021, 147 kilograms of plastic were consumed per person — and only 14 per cent of plastics are recycled.

Can individual behaviour make a difference?

Britta Denise Hardesty, a senior principal research scientist with CSIRO Environment, says that individual action is significant and can complement broader legislative changes or international agreements, such as the historic resolution to end plastic pollution that was signed at the UN Environment Assembly in 2022.
“I’ve been working in the space as a science geek for around 16, 17 years or so and what I’ve seen is a huge increase and huge acceleration in the awareness and in the attention of the public,” Hardesty said.

“If you look at organisations like Clean Up Australia and Plastic Free July that are doing those sorts of things, I think all those things lead to the collective benefit and change in society action.”

What can we do to reduce plastic consumption?

The Plastic Free July campaign suggests making changes such as:

  • Avoiding bottled drinks
  • Refusing plastic bags
  • Not using disposable cups
  • Avoiding plastic food wrap
  • Making household cleaners
  • Swapping bottled soaps for bar soaps
  • Choosing loose tea, not tea bags.
  • Bringing reusable containers
Prince-Ruiz says that these behavioural changes can have a large cumulative impact and that over the past five years Plastic Free July participants have avoided 1.4 billion kilograms of plastic.
While she acknowledges that many people may only make small changes in their lives and may not follow all the suggestions made by the campaign, Prince-Ruiz says that it is slowly encouraging people to use less.

“This isn’t being completely plastic-free or perfect. I’ve been trying to do this for over a decade now and I’m still using single use plastic … we know that small steps add up.”

Prince-Ruiz also notes that 2024 is a particularly important year for tackling plastic pollution because the members who signed the UN resolution are currently negotiating an international legally binding agreement, which is due this year.
“At the end of the day, we have to reduce the amount of plastic produced and the global treaty is at risk of being derailed by countries that are home to fossil fuel companies and petrochemical industries

“I think by us taking action at home and in our own lives and having those conversations, a lot of people making a small difference is going to add up to make a big impact and send a strong signal.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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