During the last couple of years, and especially during the heights of the pandemic, we have witnessed a drastic increase in single-use plastic; our coveted hand sanitizer comes in plastic bottles of all sizes, plastic containers of disposable wipes are common-place, we have been ordering more takeout meals that arrive on our doorsteps in plastic bowls and bags, and some of our food at the grocery store has sprouted protective plastic coverings.
Some of these plastic habits are dissipating as we return to a state that resembles something closer to “normal,” but the reality is that plastics, and most notably single-use plastics, are still entrenched in our daily lives. As the name suggests, single-use plastics are only used once before they are discarded and examples include straws, plastic sandwich bags, plastic cutlery and Styrofoam to name a few. To make matters worse, our recycling systems are broken; according to the EPA, less than 10% of plastics are recycled, so even if you do the right thing by cleaning and tossing that plastic cup into a recycling bin, it is unlikely that it actually gets processed. Additionally, microplastics continue to end up in our waterways, affecting local watersheds, land, and birds around the world, and as recent research suggests, even making their way into our bodies.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? You are not alone! Our society is dependent on plastic, but you don’t have to be. This month, consider joining the hundreds of millions of participants — including Willistown Conservation Trust — across the world who will be taking the challenge to live a plastic-free lifestyle for all 31 days in July! Plastic Free July is “a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution — so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities.”
The Plastic Free Foundation has put forth this challenge over the last 12 years, and they’ll walk you through all sorts of tips and resources to aid you on your plastic-free journey, whether you’re looking to eradicate single-use plastic waste at home, work, school, your local café or all of the above. You can start small by bringing your reusable grocery bags and favorite water bottle everywhere you go, or go big by engaging with local businesses and your community to commit to doing better together. You may even surprise yourself as you continue the challenge into August and beyond.
Be sure to sign up for the challenge at plasticfreejuly.org, and join WCT here and on social media (@wctrust) to learn how you can commit yourself to Plastic Free July! We’ll walk you through the basics of discerning what can and cannot be recycled, we’ll cover the the latest research on microplastics, and we’ll share tips and tricks about reducing plastic use from other members of our community.