Plastic Free July: Cutting Pollutants out of our Oceans

Plastic Free July is an international awareness month and powerful movement which inspires millions around the world to minimise their use of plastics, particularly single use materials. Plastic Free July began back in 2011 in Australia, but their work inspired people in 177 different countries around the world to make small changes which has had a huge collective impact. Plastic Free July could be your first step towards a more sustainable future.

Understanding Plastic Free July

The Plastic Free Foundation main aim is to help people make small changes to minimise the waste plastic they’re responsible for. The Plastic Free July Campaign website and social media channels offer up a lot of advice and guidance on how to get involved through making the smallest changes, as well as those overhauling their life or business.

The growing problem of plastic is not something we can ignore. It’s damaging to human health and the wider ecosystem, as well as having a devastating impact on nature. More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are already floating in the ocean and the dangers of microplastics are being seen on the environment today.

How long does it take to Decompose?

Many of the most common single-use plastics are the most dangerous. The single-use disposable face masks which have become common since the outbreak of COVID-19 are made from polypropylene and can take 450 years to decompose naturally. Plastic bags also break down into small microplastics and may remain in nature for as long as 20+ years, and the popular takeaway coffee cups up to 30 years to fully decompose.

Plastic drinking straws have become one of the main targets for campaigns such as Plastic Free July because of the damage they can do to wildlife when dropped and left. Plastic straws can take as long as 200 years to fully decompose, which has led to many retailers and food chains opting to offer paper straws instead. Large businesses are already making changes, so it’s important for smaller organisations and individuals to do the same.

Why a Plastic Free Future is Important

Plastics left to decompose in the environment simply don’t disintegrate in the way natural materials do. Microplastics have already been found in food for human consumption and research suggests we could be eating as much as 5g of plastic every week. Plastics are made of a range of chemicals which we are not supposed to ingest, so any consumption is going to have an impact on human health.

More devastating is the impact already taking place in our oceans. Estimates suggest that by 2050 there will be more plastics in our oceans than fish. and over 270 marine species are already being impacted by the growing volume of marine debris.

The majority of plastic is never recycled or not recycled properly so a better approach to minimising plastic waste is necessary.

Creating Real Change For a Cleaner Future

The heart of Plastic Free July is looking at ways to remove the need for single-use plastics altogether. Their solutions include everything from cup libraries to reduce the use of single-use coffee cups and bottles, to government petitions and pressure for local government organisations to commit to only using recycled plastic in their operations. The campaign also believes fully banning items such as lightweight plastic bags will force a change to alternatives to these dangerous plastics.

As individuals and small businesses, doing all you can to actively minimise single plastic use is simple. Commit to reusable coffee cups and drinking bottles and ask the same of your employees. Some businesses have even opted to provide reusable products to their staff to show their full commitment to a plastic free future.

UK supermarkets have committed to becoming plastic-free by 2023 and the plastic bag levy has pushed disposable bag usage down by 95%, so small changes do make a difference. Plastic Free July is an opportunity for all companies to educate their staff on the benefits of cutting back on plastics and a chance for individuals to make the changes needed to add their efforts to the cause.