Plastic-Free July, an initiative of the Australian-based Plastic Free Foundation, is a global campaign encouraging individuals and communities to reduce plastic consumption. Again, this year overall awareness and commitments gained momentum. People around the world reduced single-use plastic waste and developed a more conscientious mindset. Social media platforms buzzed with stories of innovative plastic-free solutions, inspiring others to also make conscious choices.
Like many of you, our family signed on to the challenge to reduce the plastic in our life, especially single use plastic. It turned out that some habits like using laundry detergent that comes in a single use plastic jug and dishwasher tablets that come in a plastic tub were very easy to give up. We also purchased some reusable flex-lids that can be used on almost any kind of container instead of plastic wrap and found shampoo bars we now love more than our former favorite shampoos that came in plastic bottles.
We felt good about tackling these low hanging fruit as part of Plastic-Free July and there is a high likelihood our household will stick with these changes. However, in this consciousness raising exercise, it became apparent that the global plastics problem will never be solved by consumers alone.
Since we now know that “recycling” plastic is mostly a myth, it is evident that broad systemic change is essential to combat this crisis. Individual choice has the power to ignite global change, but industry and governments must be held accountable. Policies pushing an industry transition to sustainability are imperative.
Howard County made strides in the right direction with the passage of the Plastic Reduction Law CB13-2021, while Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are trailing; only just recently passing simple plastic bag bills, which don’t even go into effect until November 2023, and January 2024 respectively. To date, 77 countries around the world have passed full or partial bans on plastic bags.
What can we do?
- Pressure manufacturers of products you buy. If you think they could be smarter about their packaging, send a letter or tag them on social media letting them know, or make the choice to buy from someone else who uses sustainable packaging.
- Support organizations addressing plastic pollution and legislation to curb plastic production and waste whenever you get the chance.
- Don’t buy plastic bottled water.
- Boycott microbeads. These are the little plastics that are found in many products like facial scrubs, toothpaste, body wash, etc.
- Cook more and “take out” less. (Bringing my own carry out container is my post-July plastic pledge.)
- Recycle your #2 and #5 plastic. (These are the kinds that are actually recyclable.) You can bring them to UUCC on the 2nd and 5th Sundays for delivery to Upcycled. Learn more here.
- Avoid buying single serving plastic packages of anything. If the product you need comes only in plastic, buy the largest container you can find as that will have a better ratio of product to packaging.
- If you use a dry cleaner, provide your own re-usable cloth garment bag, instead of the plastic bags they supply.
Even though we know big change is needed, little things can still help — especially if we spread the word to our friends and family!