Fact: plastic is bad for the environment. But why? And what can we do to fix the problem?

Started in Australia in 2011, Plastic Free July is a global movement which has reached millions of people across the world. Plastic pollution is a major problem and Plastic Free July, which calls for people to stop using single-use plastics for one month, was started with the intention of ridding the world of plastic waste.

 

Why is plastic so bad?

According to plasticoceans.org an estimated 8 million tonnes of discarded plastic ends up in the ocean every year. Due to our disposable lifestyles, where we use plastic containers once and then throw them away, we’ve caused massive plastic pollution – to the point where one in three marine animals have been found entangled in waste and over 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs.

Over the last 70 years, only nine percent of plastic produced has been recycled – 79 percent ends up in landfills and our oceans and the rest is incinerated.

“…it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050… It is thought the sea now contains some 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy,” says environment correspondent Ian Johnston.

Since many humans consume sea creatures and plastic also gets into our drinking water, we’re poisoning ourselves too. The toxins and carcinogens in plastic can cause cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues.

What are the single-use plastics I should avoid and what are the alternatives?

Takeaway coffee

Get a reusable travel cup like the Ecoffee cup, this one from Earth Warrior or this one from Peacock Coffee. Plus, many coffee places offer you a small discount for using your own cup.

Plastic bags

South Africa uses 8 million plastic bags a year. Invest in reusable cloth bags – no more spending 60c on every plastic bag you use – that money adds up!

Plastic straws

Don’t use plastic straws if possible. Rather invest in a reusable one made of stainless steel, bamboo or glass. Some of them come in a handy travel case so you can always have them with you. Try ForEva Straws, the Raw Straw Company or BioStraws.

Plastic water bottles

Use glass water bottles instead of plastic. They last much longer and they’re easier to clean – put them in the dishwasher or create a lemon juice or dishwashing liquid mixture to clean them. Many online shopping sites like YuppieChef have some great ones.

Produce bags

These break down into microplastics and aren’t recyclable. Buy your fruit and veg loose instead.

Plastic cutlery

They’re bad for the environment and don’t get recycled. Plus, using them multiple times can be carcinogenic. Use eco-friendly disposable bamboo cutlery from Ecopack or Woodstok or keep metal cutlery with you if you’re taking lunch to work or buying takeaways. Or learn to use chopsticks.

Toothbrushes

We throw them out every few months, but no parts of normal plastic toothbrushes are biodegradable. Get yourself a bamboo alternative that’s sustainably grown and locally produced like Simply Bamboo, WooBamboo, Pure Smile and Brush With Bamboo.

Dairy product packaging

This one is a bit more difficult. You could buy these products in larger quantities to reduce how much plastic you’re using or buy from a vendor that uses glass such as Nude Foods or Back Area Gardens Deli. Or buy First Choice Fresh ESL milk as their packaging is now 100% recyclable. Try to avoid boxed milk cartons (the plastic on the inside is hard to recycle), milk in the white HDPE bottles or clear PET bottles, and butter, yoghurt and cream in HDPE tubs.

Facewash with microbeads

Stop using facewash that contains microbeads – they’re extremely harmful to the environment. You can make your own natural alternatives or buy from brands like Faithful to Nature, The Victorian Garden and Lula and Marula. To further reduce the amount of plastic in your hair and skincare routine, check out Zero Bar and Lush for their range of delicious shampoo and body bars.

Takeaway containers

Order from places you know use sustainable and recyclable containers, or even ask them if you can bring your own containers when you collect your food. It might seem odd, but explain how it’s beneficial to both of you. Ty to avoid prepackaged foods that you know aren’t sustainable.

How do I get involved in Plastic Free July?

Sign up to be a part of the challenge. You’ll receive weekly reminder emails as motivation from the Plastic Free July website. Follow their advice and tips and hopefully you’ll be able to extend the challenge for longer than one month and live a more sustainable life.

Take the Aurora Sustainability quiz to see how big your carbon footprint really is, follow Aurora Sustainability on Instagram and like their Facebook page for tips on how to live more sustainably and make the world a cleaner, healthier place. 

 

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