July is Plastics Free Month, so we’re taking a deeper look at our society’s reliance on single-use plastics to find ways to collectively reduce our dependence on these wasteful products. Because we love our planet and don’t want to see single-use plastics, microplastics, and their chemicals leaching out into the land, waterways, and ocean life.
What is Plastic Free July®?
Plastics Free July® is a global movement to bring awareness to our use of single-use plastics and to promote and encourage alternative solutions for our global plastic waste problem. The movement challenges you to go plastics-free for July. Aside from reducing unnecessary waste, the goal is to create healthier habits to help us minimize our reliance on single-use plastics.
Global leaders are taking public pledges to reduce single-use plastic use in their countries. In March 2022, 35 countries signed an international plastics treaty, pledging to reduce or ban single-use plastics wherever possible. We see this taking shape as many communities ban plastic straws (in favour of paper straws) and grocery bags (in favour of paper or reusable cloth bags).
In Vancouver, Canada, they’re taking serious measures to reduce plastic waste. As of January 2020, they banned foam cups and takeout containers in the city. In April 2020, they banned plastic straws and utensils in food establishments. The city is on track to be a zero-waste city by 2040.
Just how bad is single-use plastic?
Encouraging bans and reductions of single-use plastics isn’t a new idea. You’ve likely already heard about it. But do you know the actual impacts of single-use plastics?
Most single-use plastics are – exactly that – single-use aka not reusable and not recyclable and not compostable. Instead, they get thrown away and break down into micro-particles that contaminate our environment.
Social media is filled with pictures of birds, fish, and wildlife tangled in plastic beer or pop can rings and microplastics in their bellies We’ve seen the images of turtles with plastic straws stuck in their noses. Plastic waste is clogging up waterways and preventing the regular migration of animals, in addition to poisoning their water and food sources.
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated our dependence on single-use plastics. But now that the world is reopening, we can no longer use the pandemic as an “excuse” for not being more mindful of single-use plastic consumption. Many alternatives and even reuse businesses like ShareWares in play that help support a waste-free lifestyle.
Plastic-free July Ideas
Thankfully there are many ways to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. Here are just a few:
- Bring a reusable coffee cup.
- Use reusable mesh bags for produce.
- Use cloth or reusable shopping bags.
- Use reusable metal or silicone straws.
- Use a reusable water bottle.
- Buy food with out packaging (bring your own containers)
- Buy less.
- Use bar hand soap or refill your dispenser (at places like Nada and The Soap Dispensary located in Vancouver, BC).
- Try bamboo toothbrushes.
Alternatives to single-use plastics in your business
July is a great time to re-engage your team members to take steps to help them go plastics-free at work and home. You can do many more things in your workplace to encourage a less plastics-dependant environment year-round. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Provide an eco-friendly welcome kit to new employees (with reusable mugs, straws, bags, and other multi-use products).
- Audit your recycling program and ensure you have separated bins for different recycling products.
- Avoid plastic (or paper) coffee cups and dishes in the kitchen (opt for ceramic, glass, or other reusable or compostable dishes instead).
- Run a plastics-free contest (have a prize for the department that has the least amount of garbage collected in the month).
- Encourage staff to bring reusable lunch containers rather than “brown bagging” it.
- Take your team on a street or park cleaning trip to pick up trash and garbage in your community. Organize a team plastics-free potluck or picnic after.
- Organize a lunchtime screening of a plastics-free related documentary or film.
- Check your kitchen tea bags to see if they are plastics-free. Consider providing biodegradable loose-leaf bags instead.
- Look at how you’re shipping products and see if you can reduce plastic packaging. Here are some great tips for assessing your current supply chain to see how you can make more ethical, environmentally-friendly changes.
Also, look at what you are buying through your business for other purposes. Shift focus to vendors and suppliers with eco-friendly mandates and practices. Consider the materials used in your purchases to incorporate more sustainable materials and zero-waste products made from bamboo, or cotton, for example.
Merch ideas to further your plastic-free initiatives
Many businesses also have significant wastage due to the promotional products they purchase for their business. It’s often easy and cheap to order single-use items, but if they can’t be recycled or repurposed they’ll cause further harm to the environment.
Look at your promotional item supply room right now and see where you can swap out one-time use merch for multi-use and eco-friendly alternatives. Here are some ideas:
- Instead of giving away swag goodie bags in plastic bags, opt for fabric bags (these can even be repurposed from old vinyl signage you have laying around).
- Support reusable drinkware with reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
- Can you create upcycled merch from old promotional products and materials you no longer need?
- Get some branded natural beeswax wraps to reduce the use of plastic wrap.
- Replace cheap branded apparel and uniforms with sustainable fabrics from eco-conscious brands.
How will you participate in the plastics-free movement?
Sign up to participate in the Plastics Free July challenge and learn more ways to reduce waste at work, at home, and community. Take what you learn and make it part of your daily life so you can reduce your use of plastics all year.
If you’re auditing your branded merch supply room and want ideas for more eco-friendly, multi-use promotional items, give us a call. We can help you find the best plastics-free promotional products for your brand.
And check out our Zero Waste lookbook and Leave no Trace – Outdoor Gear Guide for more waste-free ideas!