Words by: Olivia Gaddass
Why do we get so excited when people reduce their plastic use?
We love the fact that whenever we log onto social media, we are seeing people trying new ways to reduce their plastic use. It's such positive news that brings a smile to our faces and it's what we all need to see at the moment. From reusable water bottles and coffee cups to reusable face masks, it is so exciting to think of all the people over a global network making little swaps and changes in their day-to-day lives which create a huge impact on the world we all live in.
Why have people been reducing their plastic use recently?
If you were on any form of social media this summer, you'll most likely have seen mentions about Plastic Free July, with many companies running giveaways of plastic free products; but what is it? The movement was founded by one of the world's leading plastic waste experts, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz. The Plastic Free July Challenge encourages people to sign up to choose to refuse single-use plastic over the month of July by taking small daily steps.
This challenge has never been more testing and needed than now, with an influx of single-use plastics used to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Think gloves, single-use face masks, takeaway items. The hope beind Plastic Free July is that after one month of making deliberate changes to reduce plastic waste, a habit will form for those who take part. This would hopefully mean changes that they have made during the month of July will play a more permanent part in each participant's lifestyle.
With 250 million people signing up to the challenge, there has to be some impact, right? In 2019 alone, each participant's household waste was said to decrease by 23kg during the month of July, equating to 5% of their annual waste. This means an amazing 825 million kilograms of plastic waste was saved last year! With the movement's popularity and reach growing each year, we are bound to see even more staggering statistics of the impact that Plastic Free July is making. These numbers don't even account for all the people who have been making changes to reduce their plastic waste outside the month of July, so we can only imagine the real impact that is starting to happen!
Why is reducing our plastic use important?
Over 6,300 million tonnes of plastic has been created and 79% of it ends up in landfills or the environment! It's a difficult read, but an important one. As of 2018, 86 million tonnes of plastic have ended up in the sea, resulting in 120 species of sea mammals being listed as 'threatened'. Plasticdoes not just cover our food or our hands: it is in our clothes, our cars, our beauty products; plastic is everywhere! If, for example, a company like Coca-Cola produces 167,000 plastic bottles per minute then imagine what the combined production of plastic products is each day. The plastic that is in our water and environment can cause many health conditions in both animals and humans and the CO2 used to create our plastic products has a huge contribution to climate change on the whole. It's time we all started working together to cut out plastic with simple and effective replacements. It's time to all help each other to help the environment we live in.
What positive steps have businesses made?
The good news is that the different businesses we are surrounded by today are aspiring to make all sorts of changes to help reduce plastic waste. Some are making drastic changes; others are starting small. They are changing the way they produce packaging and use resources. Every swap has an impact on the environment and is something to be celebrated.
Here are some of the different companies that are making positive steps to cut down on their plastic use:
McDonald's - Love it or hate it, we are surrounded by them! McDonald's is actively trying to stock all 37,855 restaurants around the globe with packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources. We have already seen this with the introduction of paper straws and the removal of lids on McFlurries. By 2025, McDonald's has said all their locations will be participating in the initiative, which is amazing!
Inditex - The owners of Zara, Massimo Dutti and Pull&Bear are promising to eliminate single-use plastic in its stores by 2023 and have promised to use 100% sustainable, organic or recycled fabrics by 2025! The is another global promise which will have a huge impact!
Adidas - A firm favourite in my family is Adidas' gym range, which is made from recycled materials! Adidas are taking it a step further; in 2021 they will be releasing shoes that are created using ocean plastic. Once the trainers are worn out they can be sent back to Adidas and will be made into a whole new pair! This is a great sustainable alternative.
Sainsbury's - They are joining other supermarkets and committing to reduce their plastic packaging by 50% by 2025! They are doing this by stocking more loose products, lighter packaging and replacing plastic with other more sustainable alternatives.
Unilever - Another household name behind products such as: CIF, Surf, Domestos, Dove, Vaseline; the list goes on. They are committing to halving their use of virgin plastic by 2025, which will come to a total reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes! They are also going to ensure that 100% of their plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable, amongst other initiatives.
These are just five of many companies who are trying to do their bit to reduce the plastic they use and we can't wait to see the results!
As I said at the start, it gets us so excited when we see the swaps from single-use plastic to reusable alternatives on social media. So please keep sharing; hopefully it will inspire more and more people to make swaps too! Plastic Free July doesn't have to be just one month of the year - it could be the start of a lifestyle change for everyone. We are all learning all the time from different places and people about the impact plastic is having on our surroundings, and it has never been more important than now to work together to prevent even more devastating effects of plastic pollution taking place.