10 easy swaps for Plastic-Free July and beyond

Are you taking part in this year’s Plastic-Free July? If so, this week’s blog is for you – 10 quick and easy swaps you can make straight away to help you hit the ground running and head towards a plastic-free lifestyle.

What is Plastic-Free July?

As you may already know, Plastic-Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people reduce their plastic use in order to help tackle how plastic pollution is contributing to the environmental crisis.

Some people cut out plastic for a day or week during Plastic-Free July, while others commit to a whole month (or longer) without buying anything made from or packaged in single-use plastics. You can cut your plastic consumption at home, work or school, tackle all of your plastic usages at once or make a few easy swaps – it’s entirely up to you!

Whatever your involvement in Plastic-Free July, well done for taking part. Every piece of plastic kept out of landfills and our waterways makes a difference.

This is the campaign’s 11th year since launching in 2011. In 2021, 140 million people took part in 190 countries.

Plastic-Free July participants:

  • Reduce their household waste and recycling by 15kg per person (3.5% less waste)
  • Have globally reduced 2.1 billion tonnes of waste and recycling, including 300 million kilograms of plastic consumption
  • Have reduced global demand for bottled water by 2.3%, for fruit and veg packaging by 3.1% and for plastic straws by 4%

Apparently, 86% of people who take part end up making plastic-free swaps and adopting habits that become a way of life.

Our 10 favourite swaps for Plastic-Free July

We think one of the best ways to stick to Plastic-Free July is to find easy and lasting swaps for your favourite essentials. Here are 10 quick but meaningful wins:

1.      Take reusable shopping bags out with you

In many countries, there’s a charge for single-use plastic shopping bags so hopefully, you’re already in the habit of taking reusable bags out when you go shopping.

Try to get into the routine of having reusable bags with you whenever you go out – this way you’ll never get caught out.

2.      Buy fresh produce from local shops

When was the last time you visited your local greengrocer or baker? Supermarkets typically sell fresh fruit, veg and bread that are heavily packed in plastic. A local supplier, on the other hand, may sell items loose. Not only are they often bought from local farms and in season (or, in the case of bread, baked on the premises) but you can also buy as much or as little as you need, minimising any waste.

Most greengrocers and bakers will also be happy for you to bring in your own basket or cloth bags to take your purchases home. Cloth produce bags are perfect for keeping food fresher for longer.

3.      Use reusable cutlery and containers for your work pack lunch

In the UK, the average adult spends £10-£15 a week on lunch while at work; most of this money goes on plastic-wrapped sandwiches, crisps and soft drinks or plastic-wrapped salads with disposable plastic cutlery.

Making your lunch at home and packing it in a reusable lunchbox with reusable travel cutlery is a fantastic way to save money, eat food that’s kinder to your body and ditch all that plastic packaging.

4.      Switch to a reusable coffee cup

Did you know that, in the UK alone, people throw away more than 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups every year? Only one in 400 of these gets recycled; the rest end up in landfills.

If you’re someone who loves their takeaway tea or coffee, one of the easiest plastic-free swaps is to buy a reusable travel cup made from recycled and recyclable plastic, stainless steel, bamboo or glass.

Many cafes and coffee shops now offer discounts to people who bring their own mugs, meaning that you can quickly make back the price of your reusable cup and then save money with every purchase.

5.      Fill up a reusable water bottle

Single-use plastic water bottles are another major source of plastic pollution. According to Water UK, the average person gets through 150 bottles of water a year – that’s an average of three per week! If just one in 10 British people refilled one bottle a week, it would keep 340 million bottles out of landfills and waterways. Now imagine what the impact could be worldwide if everyone swapped to reusable water bottles!

6.      Buy loose leaf tea

Did you know that most tea bags contain some plastic in order to stop them from disintegrating when put in hot water? If you’re a regular tea drinker, try switching to loose leaf tea or looking for plastic-free tea bags.

We found this great guide to plastic-free tea bags (as well as those still using plastic) here.

7.      Use plant-based bin bags

The great thing about going plastic-free or even just reducing the amount of plastic you use is that it takes a lot longer to fill up your bin. Even so, opt for bin bags made from plant-based materials. Biodegradable or compostable bin bags will break down to nothing over a much quicker time period than plastic bin bags (think two years instead of hundreds). This means that any biodegradable items in the bags are more likely to break down quickly rather than generate harmful greenhouse gases.

8.      Choose plastic-free cookware

Prior to the invention of Teflon in 1954, cookware was widely made from eco-friendly materials such as cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic. Despite non-stick Teflon having taken the world by storm in the latter half of the 20th century, we now know that this plastic coating (especially in cookware made before 2013 that contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)) may be harmful to humans, the environment, birds and some other animals. For this reason, more and more of us are returning to the cookware materials of old, which is a great way to reduce the plastic in your kitchen.

9.      Opt for plastic-free toilet paper

Apparently, we each get through an average of 127 rolls of toilet paper a year. Not only do many toilet rolls brands contribute to deforestation and are heavily packed in single-use plastic but each roll also uses 37 gallons of water to manufacture. Approximately 17.3 terawatts of electricity are used every year just producing and transporting toilet rolls.

A simple plastic-free swap is to opt for toilet paper without plastic packaging that is made from recycled paper and/or paper produced from sustainable wood sources.

10.  Switch to paperless billing

This is a really easy plastic-free swap that can also help to reduce the amount of postal traffic on the roads, reducing carbon emissions. Most companies now offer paper-free billing. Why not spend an hour or so at the beginning of July switching your preferences to paper-free? Each envelope with a plastic window that you save from being used is a small but powerful way to reduce your plastic consumption.

Do you feel more empowered to join the Plastic-Free July challenge?

Hopefully, these simple swaps have reassured you that there are plenty of things you can do to cut down how much plastic you use. The Plastic-Free July campaign website has loads more helpful hints and tips.

Most people find it very hard to go plastic-free overnight, simply because plastic is so widely used in modern life. Reach out to your local zero waste shop as well plastic-free groups on social media and in your community for support, motivation and ideas.

Many of the Ethical Globe directory members offer plastic-free, ethically-sourced products so do have a look at the listings for inspiration.

And remember…

Going plastic-free doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all of the plastic items you already have. In fact, the more ways you can find to reuse, repurpose, repair or – as a last resort – recycle them, the better. The biggest difference we can make is by ditching single-use plastics and showing businesses that we want plastic-free alternatives.

Good luck! We’d love to hear how you get on.


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