Plastic Free July: How to make a difference during a Pandemic
Written by Terri Witherden
Plastic Free July is an annual event where participants pledge to remove single use plastics from their daily lives, or at least reduce as much of it as possible. You can get a head start on brilliant plastic free alternatives at home with our article Reducing Plastic Tried and Tested Products here.
This year, the event is overshadowed by the current Covid Pandemic and many of us are now balancing staying safe and protected with our plastic reduction obligations. With reports of “More masks than jellyfish” and the news that single use PPE is ending up on the ocean floor, it is more important than ever that we do our bit to keep plastic out of our ecosystems wherever possible.
So here are a few tips on keeping up with Plastic Free July (and reducing your single use plastic long term) even during these strange times we’re living in.
Cloth masks, even those made from t-shirts, are recommended for members of the public as they reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, especially in places where it is hard to social-distance. Most of us don’t require the medical grade PPE that frontline workers need so don’t need to be contributing to unnecessary plastic usage. You can buy cloth masks in cotton or silk, or use some quarantine/lockdown time to make your own.
Make Your Own Coffee
Another spike in disposables we’re seeing during this crisis is takeaway coffee cups. Just when more of us were getting into the swing of taking our reusable cup to the café, the rules changed. This is in the interest of safety as many people are unaware they have the virus and don’t display symptoms, so the risk of transmission could be increased with an unclean cup. As a result, many coffee shops will no longer take your reusable cup due to the risk.
Although this is frustrating, you can remain dedicated to your Plastic Free July by skipping your takeaway coffee until it is deemed safe for reusable cups again. You could also save a few quid by making your coffee at home. Get inspired with a few YouTube videos and unlock your inner barista!
We have probably all washed our hands more so far in 2020 than we did during all of 2019 as this is one of the key ways to practice good hygiene during the pandemic. However this has seen the sales of hand soaps (and the plastic bottles they tend to come in) rise. An easy, old school way to combat this is to use bar soaps, which are just as effective at preventing the spread of the virus. You can also chat to your local zero waste store about refilling your empty containers as many now have the measures in place to keep their refill stations sanitised and safe.
No Thank You - Plastic Cutlery and Straws
As restaurants reopen many worldwide can only offer take out options. Good for our tummies but, with plastic boxes, cutlery and straws accompanying the take out menu, this is bad news for the planet.
You can politely request “no cutlery” and pass up on the straws easily, especially if you’re planning on eating the meal at home. You can also ask if the restaurant will accept using your own takeaway box, or has any alternatives to plastic boxes, as this could encourage them to make the switch to compostable cardboard boxes in future. We’re trying to reduce plastic for life, not just for July, so every little change helps!
Now that sanitiser is back in stock and the scramble for disinfectant has calmed down, we have access to more sustainable options. There are biodegradable sanitising wipes available, often in stock in health food shops, and most supermarkets are now providing sanitiser spray and paper towels to wipe down your basket and trolley. Be aware though, many wipes that are deemed flushable still aren’t biodegradable and make their way out to sea.
You can also look for hand sanitiser alternatives, such as those packaged in glass or keep a family size bottle in your car rather than giving each family member a small plastic bottle each.
Small steps, big changes
These are just a few ideas on how you can stay safe and reduce plastic this #PlasticFreeJuly. They may not seem like big actions but they lead to big impacts if everyone adopts new habits.