It’s July! You know what that means - one of the most talked about environmental challenges has come around again. Plastic Free July.
In concept, Plastic Free July is an amazing idea. After all, most of us would love to cut plastic from our lives completely, for a whole month or even more. An ideal solution to our plastic waste overconsumption, right?
But the key problems with trying to live a month plastic free arise very quickly as soon as you try to get started doing just that - where on Earth do you begin cutting plastics from your lifestyle? How do you go from your average weekly shop likely ladened with supermarket plastic, to cutting single-use plastic from your life completely? And moreover, how do you squeeze the time into your already hectic life to take a trip to zero waste stores, or find the extra cash to buy (often more expensive) products packaged in more sustainable packaging?
Challenges that encourage you to live completely plastic free are great in principle, but for ordinary people like myself, they can be alienating at the same time. The term ‘plastic free’ itself encourages an all-or-nothing approach to sustainable living, where using an unavoidable piece of plastic causes you to ‘fail’ a challenge you set yourself.
Plus, the whole concept of plastic free is pretty reductionist and sometimes exclusionist. It doesn’t consider that plastic can be the perfect material for a product and just can’t be avoided, or that some people rely on even the plastics we’d often consider as unessential for their daily lives (such as those with disabilities that rely on plastic straws).
Ultimately, the key issue with single-use plastics is the mass overconsumption of them by us all and that means that we all need to be a part of the solution. Reducing the use of any items of single-use plastic is so much better than nothing; even stopping the use of one single plastic item could have a huge positive impact. We use an estimated 38.5 million plastic bottles every day here in the UK - just imagine the difference it would make for everyone to stop their use of just these items. The impact would be so much greater than trying to encourage everyone to live plastic free lives, only to overwhelm most and have very few people to do anything at all.
It’s more important now than ever that we all do what we can to live a more eco-friendly life. The key is fitting sustainability into your own life - starting small, and being more ‘plastic clever’.
As George Washington once said, “many a mickle makes a muckle” - if we’re to combat plastic pollution with the urgency it needs, we all need to do our small bit to contribute to a large, collective change.