Plastic-free July is a global movement that aims to be a part of the solution to plastic pollution around the world.

If you’ve considered joining, but haven’t made up your mind yet, look no further! I collected all the essential information that you need to know and listed my suggestions on how to maximise your impact.

This article is a beginner’s guide for those who want to start a low-waste lifestyle but don’t know where to start. In the next few weeks I will share with you some more advanced tips too, so stay tuned!

So, what do we know about plastic pollution?

Half of all plastics ever manufactured were made in the last 15 years. Sadly, plastic production is only increasing. While in 1950 we produced 2.3 million tons of plastic, this number increased to 448 million tons by 2015. Researchers expect that this number will double by 2050. Every year about 8 million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans, which threatens the lives of marine animals. Nearly 700 species are known to be affected by plastic pollution; endangered species have also fallen victim to this type of pollution. 

What makes plastic even more dangerous? Some experts claim it takes about 400 years for plastic to break down completely, others think it never really does; it just breaks down to smaller and smaller pieces, but it never disappears. You can find microplastics everywhere in the world, from the Mariana Trench to Mount Everest. What might be even more frightening is that these tiny pieces of plastic have also been found in the human body. It is possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. Researchers say this consumption might have a bad effect on the immune system, and may also play a role in the development of several other health problems. Rough, huh? So here are a few tips on how you could make some easy changes in your daily life to contribute to the fight against plastic pollution!

1. Bring your own reusable shopping bag, and refuse to use plastic bags

When buying vegetables, fruits, or baked goods, reusable bags are perfect replacements for plastic bags. I have been using this alternative for a long time, and it has never caused a problem in any of the stores I have been to. If you want to take this step, you can find many places where you can buy a reusable bag, like here, here or here. If you don’t want to buy one, you can easily make one at home! Don’t know how? We have got you covered – Lazy Women has organized a free reusable bag-making workshop! Details upcoming. 

2. Refill your own bottle

Maybe you have a flask at home that you forgot about; or, if you don’t, you can buy your own and use it when you are on-the-go! When buying a reusable water bottle, you can choose between plastic, metal, and glass flasks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but all of them work perfectly as a replacement for disposable bottles. If you don’t know which material you should choose, this article might help to make a decision. Also if you think only one bottle of water won’t be enough for the whole day, and you need some help in finding a source of water, here is an app for finding locations to refill your water bottle on android and for iOS if you are based in Hungary (and here’s one if you are based in the UK)!

3. Say no to plastic straws

Plastic straws are among the top 10 items found during beach cleanups. In most situations, let’s face it, straws are unnecessary. Most bars, restaurants, and pubs are giving out straws for every cocktail, lemonade, or juice without even thinking about the impact this has on the environment. So next time you order a drink, make sure to ask for it without a straw. And don’t worry, there are some sustainable options for you if you like to drink your mojito with a straw. Some manufacturers produce metal straws, others use glass. Metal ones are easy to find in many stores and webshops (if you are based in the UK, try this place, or you can also find metal straws in most supermarkets), but what about glass straws? I hadn’t seen one in a store until a few days ago when I went to the Flying Tiger Copenhagen shop and accidentally found some. So if you’d like to try it, go for it! It’s cheap and super satisfying to use. Spoiler alert! You are going to love it.

4. Reusable coffee cup

If you are a coffee lover and you tend to ask for a takeaway drink, this step is for you! When you ask for a drink in a disposable cup, you might think that since it is made of paper, it’s not that bad. Although the cups’ material is mainly paper, there’s a thin plastic layer inside which prevents the cup from soaking. I’m not a big coffee fan, so the only reusable cup I have tried is the Huskee Cup, but I loved it! Of course, you can find plenty of other manufacturers with cool designs as well.

5. Avoid plastic packaging when buying meat and dairy products

Although this step might be hard to achieve during the current pandemic, many stores and markets still allow their customers to use their own plastic/glass/etc. food containers or any kind of packaging from home when it comes to buying meat or dairy products. Next time you do the groceries don’t forget to bring your own food container, and don’t be shy to ask the seller to put the products in it for you!

While we as individuals can and should take steps to decrease plastic pollution and support a more sustainable future, it’s crucial to acknowledge that we will also require help – help from our government to implement policies that ensure a future, such as banning single-use plastic or committing to a net-zero carbon output on the national level. Companies need to be more sustainable too, as they are responsible for the majority of plastic pollution. For example, as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation showed, Nestlé uses 1.7 million tonnes of plastic each year. Who you vote for and what products you buy can also make a difference – make sure you research political parties and their stance on mitigating climate change before you vote, and if you can, support companies that are conscious of their environmental impact.

That’s all for this week, but don’t worry, there’s more to come. Next week I’ll share some other tips with you!