Plastic Free July has become a global movement where individuals, families and businesses avoid single-use plastics for a month in a bid to reduce plastic pollution. The idea is that at least some of the new behaviours adopted throughout the month will become permanent lifestyle changes. The slogan for this initiative? “Choose to Refuse”.

So what are single-use plastics? They are the items that we tend to use just once before we throw them away, items such as take-away coffee cups, cling film, straws, take away containers, plastic cutlery, soft drinks bottles, fruit/veg packaging… worryingly, the list is very long. Once you tune in to single-use plastics, you will start to notice them everywhere!

So much plastic packaging

Do you have to go ‘cold turkey’ and cut out single-use plastics altogether for Plastic Free July? No! If you can, that’s great, but we can still make a big difference with a little effort in just some areas of our daily lives. The official Plastic Free July website suggests taking their quiz to identify the plastic items you use the most frequently and then choose an action to avoid that item. 

For instance, to avoid bottled toiletries; buy refills (if you have a zero waste shop near you), choose shampoo bars or soap rather than bottles of shower gel, or make your own DIY alternatives. Refuse plastic bottles.

Here are a few other ideas for cutting down on day-to-day plastic usage that I am trying this July:

Take cutlery for ‘food on the go’

If you buy ‘food on the go’ during your lunch breaks, take with you a knife and fork wrapped in a tea towel. It takes no time at all to wash them when you arrive back at work or home. Refuse plastic cutlery.

Avoid plastic food wrap

It’s probably a habit to reach for the cling film to cover leftover food. How about storing it in a reusable container such as a lunch box? Or cover with a tea towel if it doesn’t need to be air tight. Or try wax wraps. Refuse cling film.

No to pre-packaged fruit

Buy only loose fruit and veg! You could take your own re-usable bags, or get creative and sew some pretty linen ones, a lovely activity to do with children. Either way, refuse the plastic bags.

Cut down on junk food

How many chocolate bars and bags of crisps do you get through in a week? Millions of packets of crisps are consumed every day in the UK alone. Not only is this a major health concern, but it is also a disaster for the environment, so why not keep them for an occasional treat rather than eating them daily? Refuse plastic wrappings.

Invest in a re-usable cup and water bottle

Takeaway coffee cups may look like paper, but the vast majority have a layer of plastic which cannot be recycled. Invest in a re-usable cup (preferably made from a sustainable material like bamboo). Some coffee shops and cafes offer discounts if you take your own. Refuse plastic cups.

Shop ‘zero waste’ style

If you have a zero waste shop near you, you can buy loose dried foods by taking your own containers to fill and weigh. Some zero waste shops offer household products refills where you can take your empty toiletry bottles or laundry containers to refill. 

Zero waste shopping

Not only do you avoid extra plastic packaging, but you can buy as much or as little as you need, plus I find it a pleasurable shopping experience. Refuse plastic packaging.

Talk about it!

When you’re next in a shop and offered a plastic bag, politely refuse it and explain that you’re cutting down on plastic and why. I find that this starts a conversation with the shop assistant and sometimes other people in the queue. Try taking a container to the butcher and asking for the meat to be put in it instead of in a plastic bag. No doubt others will see and want to do the same. Refuse plastic bags.

Feel free to share other ideas below or in the forum.

We can do this! We are in it together.