Plastic Free July is a global yearly challenge which empowers millions of people to give up single-use plastic during the month of July. The term ‘single-use plastics’ compiles together items that are intended to be used once and then discarded such as plastic bags, straws, packaging and many more.
The challenge encourages people to choose a future with cleaner communities, oceans and environment by refusing single-use plastic. It aims to raise awareness of the amount of disposable plastic items in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. Now in its tenth year, the movement has gathered incredible international support. An estimated 250 million people from 177 countries took part in the challenge in July 2019 alone.
It all began on Facebook. In 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz started a Facebook group in the city of Perth in Australia with just 40 members. It began with the idea of getting people involved in being part of the solution to plastic waste. The uptake was astonishing, with the movement becoming international over time. In 2017, Prince-Ruiz along with a group of individuals from the local government formed a non-profit called The Plastic Free Foundation, which became the official organization that runs Plastic Free July.
Plastic is everywhere. From tiny organisms to human beings, every living thing is affected by the toxic nature of plastic. By now, the critical consequences of plastic pollution to the health of our environment, oceans and animals is impossible to deny. It’s a little disconcerting to realize that every single bottle you’ve ever used, still exists somewhere.
Since the early 1950s, an estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced. In theory, that is equivalent to the weight of 800000 Eiffel Towers. Out of all of this place produced, only 9% of it has been recycled. Much of the plastic ends up in landfills and oceans where it takes up to hundreds and thousands of years to break down.
The impact of plastic on marine life is detrimental. Turtles, fish and seabirds often eat plastic, mistaking it for food. As plastic cannot be digested, they feel full and slowly starve. These microplastics even end up on our dinner plates along with the fish. Sometimes, sea creatures get entangled in large pieces of plastic and die a horrible death. As awareness of this global issue increases, more and more people are embarking on the movement to limit and eventually stop their single plastic use.
Scientists estimate that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The Plastic Free July campaign aims to raise people’s awareness of their usage of single-use plastic in their daily lives. The challenge simply asks people to commit to one month of avoiding disposable plastics. It works on different levels — beginner, intermediate and expert. You can pick and choose what level you would like to try.
While the task may seem daunting for a single individual to take on, when millions of people do it together, it becomes a lot easier. The idea behind the month long Plastic Free July is to simply see if green lifestyle changes are something that people can commit to long-term.
It’s no secret that we live in a broken system and avoiding plastic altogether may not be possible for many. However, being mindful and making small changes can be a step in the right direction. Avoiding or finding alternatives to the four big sources of single-use plastic like plastic bags, cups, straws and containers can be a start.
We, at Beej, are excited to take on the challenge. It is time to rethink our throw-away culture and establish new rules. If you’d like to take the challenge with us, head on over to Plastic Free July and sign up today.
Written by Amulya Misra