How to Make a Difference During Plastic Free July

Picture this: you're lounging at a beach, enjoying the warm summer weather. The wind is blowing gently through your hair, the sun is shining bright overhead, and the sound of waves crashes in front of you. Your eyes gently fall closed, and all seems well in the world. 

That is, until you open your eyes and see tangled bags, cutlery and other plastic waste washed up on to the shore of your blissful summer scene. The small portion of trash you're seeing is nothing compared to the millions of pieces floating around the ocean at any given moment. 

Angry? Good. We are, too. Which is why Plastic Free July is the opportune time to reassess your plastic usage and consider a plastic free lifestyle change for the good of the planet and every living thing around you. The smallest changes can lead to the biggest impacts, so let's dive in. 


The Problem of Plastic Waste

Before we get into the solution, we'll go over what exactly plastic waste is and why it's a major problem at hand. 

What is plastic waste?

Plastic waste or plastic pollution is the accumulation synthetic plastic products in the environment to the point that they create problems for wildlife and humans in their habitats. 

Plastic waste includes but is not limited to items such as:

  • Disposable bags
  • Cutlery
  • Food containers and cups
  • Straws
  • Plastic films
  • Plastic bottles and caps
  • Laundry detergent containers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Microplastics

What is the impact of plastic waste? 

It's major. Plastic pollution has clearly documented harm among ecosystems, marine wildlife, and human health. 

For marine wildlife, plastic pollution accounts for 85% of total marine waste and remains the most harmful and persistent marine litter. This litter is not only harmful to water quality, but is also incredibly dangerous to all ocean dwellers that ingest any of the plastic. 

In terms of human health, the global issue is very much present in the United States. Americans discarded over 51 tons of plastic waste in 2021 alone, recycling only 5%. Plastics in waterways break down into microplastics, which are consumed by humans. If you want a real scare, spend an evening doing a deep dive into microplastics. This alone would kickstart a plastic free journey for most likely any reader. 

Getting Started with Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July was initiated in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation and has since grown millions of sustainable like-minded individuals dedicating time and effort to the reduction of plastic waste. What started as a campaign is now a global movement that helps millions of people having cleaner streets, oceans, and greener communities for generations to come. 

Plastic Free July is the perfect time to enforce single-use plastic refusal as it encourages people to adopt new habits and reduce plastic waste. Let's get into the different ways you and others around you can participate in a movement that goes beyond a month and into a lifetime of healthier and sustainable choices! 

Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste in Daily Life

Here are some of our favorite - and easiest - ways to participate in Plastic Free July and beyond! 

1. Start with the small stuff. 

Switching over to a plastic free lifestyle doesn't mean you need to throw out all of your plastic items (make sure to properly recycle them instead). You can start small by weaning yourself off single-use plastics when possible:

  • Bring your own mug or coffee tumbler with you on your next trip to the coffee shop.
  • Refuse single use plastics such as cutlery, food containers, etc.
  • Say no to straws.

2. BYOB - Bring your own bag. 

One of the easiest yet most impactful changes is switching over to reusable bags. Whether it's the grocery store, food pick up, shopping for clothes or a general errand, having reusable bags on hand can greatly reduce your plastic footprint. Stash a few inside your purse or backpack, or even in your car, so that you can always have the option when needed. 

3. Say so long to microbeads.

You may have heard of microplastics, but have you thought about microbeads? These miniscule particles are made of small, solid plastic and can be found in many cosmetics.

The danger behind microbeads is that they are so small that they often pass through water filtration systems and contaminate our environment. They are consumed by wildlife, which eventually makes its way up the food chain and can be ingested by humans. 

Although the US passed a Microbead Ban in 2015, it is noted that there are still products available on the market today that contain microbeads. You'll see them marked as “polyethylene” in the product ingredients. Always check ingredients to ensure you're selecting natural products that are better for your health and for the environment around you. 

4. Recycle plastic properly. 

Not every piece of plastic goes into your blue recycling bin. In fact, many common plastics such as bags and films are meant to be recycled at specific locations. 

If you aren't sure where certain plastics go, take a look at the box or container that the plastic came in. You should find a recycling symbol with a number inside of it. If you find a 1 or 2, these types of plastics are most commonly recycled inside of your blue bin. If the number is between 3 and 7, these plastics are difficult to recycle and may not be accepted at most recycling centers. 

5. Hit up your local farmer’s market. 

Worried about plastic use at the supermarket? You can cut down on plastic waste and support your local economy by shopping at the farmer’s market. Grab a handful of reusable bags and food containers from home to shop fresh produce and cut down on plastic packaging. 

6. Find alternatives for frozen meals. 

We get it. Sometimes, it's been a long day and all you want is to pop a convenient frozen dinner into the oven or microwave and chow down. What's not convenient is the amount of plastic used in frozen meals - often with triple packaging, depending on your meal. 

Try skipping the single packaged frozen meals during July. If you're also into saving money, you can meal prep and use your own reusable food containers to freeze the meals instead. 

7. Choose wines that use glass and natural cork.

For the wine lovers, you too can make your mark during Plastic Free July by selecting wine that only uses glass and natural cork. While it's tempting to grab the closest and most affordable bottle of vino on your trip to the store, it's also creating an impact on natural cork trees. 

CORKwatch is a free-to-use, convenient online database that helps to assess several different wines. You can use this tool to make better wine selections that have less of an impact on our planet. 

8. If it's necessary, try second hand. 

There are instances where it's tough to avoid plastics completely. In these cases, you can opt to not contribute to the production of new plastic by shopping second hand. 

Some necessary plastics that you can shop second hand online include:

  • Kitchen appliances such as slow cookers
  • Pet waste containers
  • Used tech such as laptops and smartphones
  • Reusable food containers

Choose sustainability By recycling with

Whether it's plastics or electronics, you can make the most of your waste reduction this month! 

Celebrate Plastic Free July with ecoATM 

By working together, we can substantially cut down on our plastic use this July and carry on healthy habits throughout the rest of the year. 

The next time you take in your plastics to the store for recycling, chances are strong that an ecoATM will be present to help with any old devices you may have at home. With over 5,000 locations nationwide, ecoATM is a convenient and sustainable solution for your old smartphones and tablets. You can limit both your plastic waste and electronic waste this month by bringing both to your local supermarket for proper disposal.

Find a kiosk near you to get started today, and don't forget to follow us on our social channels for Plastic Free July tips all month long!