July signifies the beginning of environmental campaigns heavily focused on the issues of plastic output. Devised as a mechanism to shed light on the direness of plastic pollution, #NoPlasticJuly engages social media users and pushes the issue in front of the unaware.
A key driver for #NoPlasticJuly is prompting people to share their own plastic reductions. But, this has transgressed the intended direction of the month and become a show in greenwashing and a PR move.
#NoPlasticJuly has been whittled down to #OnlyConvenientPlasticJuly. For the most part, people have been complacent with brandishing their plastic saving measures on social media. However, come August or even another meal where the situation is not so convenient or when the fad has died out, and people quickly return to plastic usage.
Studies indicate that convenience trumps sustainability impulses; that people may wish to pursue environmentally-minded avenues, but will falter when faced with inconvenience.
Unfortunately, #NoPlasticJuly has become a token gesture. Those that are truly concerned about the environment and recognise the serious issue of plastic live a #NoPlasticLife.
Convenience has fuelled the surge in plastic usage. But, many of its issues begin in production. Specifically, over 50 percent of the plastic we use is single-use. Meaning, it is designed to be thrown away after a single use. This includes food packaging and most plastic bags. For scale, 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used around the world every year.
After usage, there is no optimal way to dispose of these plastics because they are pollutants by nature. When burned they can produce highly toxic dioxins; when buried they leech into soil causing depletion, water pollution and subsequently loss of plant life; when concentrated in dump grounds, it breakdowns into micro-plastics, again, polluting water and soil.
“Plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest”
– Plastic Pollution Coalition
Most troubling of all these issues is the ruinous relationship between plastic and environmental water. When properly contained on land, plastics will have a dramatic effect on localised areas, but the peripheries can still remain relatively healthy. (It’s not a solution, but it kicks the can down the road). This is not the case in water.
Plastic affects water directly with pollutants, such as micro-plastics, rendering it unfit for consumption and life. It is a difficult task to halt this contamination. A 2018 study by the State University of New York found that 93 percent of surveyed bottled waters contain micro-plastics – this prompted WHO to conduct an international health review of bottled waters.
The rise of plastic pollution has driven a surge in marine life deaths. Our denizens of the deep inadvertently consume plastics or mistaken them for food or become entangled in it. Some 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic annually. This number is only rising! And so are the statistics.
- Every day, 8 million pieces of plastic reach the ocean.
- Plastic makes up to 90% of marine debris.
- 5000 pieces of plastic have been found per mile of UK Beach.
- Every year 13 million tonnes of plastic leaks into our oceans.
- 91% of plastic is not recycled.
- 500 million plastic straws are used every day in America alone.
- One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
- If plastic pollution is not curbed, it will outweigh global fish stocks by 2050.
- Many plastic products will not biodegrade for hundreds of years – almost all plastic that has ever been made still exists.
Plastic pollution is on the rise! These statistics are a snippet of some of the startling facts to come out of #NoPlasticJuly. So…
What can you do?
Plastic has no essential qualities, despite its qualities seeming essential. It can be used to transport groceries; siphon fluid from a cup; and keep food fresh and more. But, in each of these circumstances, plastic does not need to be the default.
Plastic is purely a product of convenience.
Alternative and sustainable materials and methods are always available. They are just not as mainstream. Reusable grocery bags, fresh greengrocers, biodegradable straws and food containers, for example, are all alternative and sustainable measures for common uses of plastic. (These may seem like trivial examples, so for deeper analysis of removing plastic from your life visit Trash is for Tossers or The Rogue Ginger).
The key to minimising plastic usage will be decoupling this notion of convenience and plastic, completely. Even removing plastic as the occasional and affable back-up for when, say, you leave your reusable grocery bags in the car.
By conditioning yourself to reject plastic as a convenient back up, you will find that you stop forgetting the recyclable bag in the car or considering a plastic straw in your drink. As many people are finding out, the inability to purchase some convenient plastics as back-ups has simply meant people have become proactive in their planning and their resourcefulness.
#NoPlasticJuly was formulated as a genuine way to get the word out about the harm of plastic. While it has not lived up to that potential through the bane of social media, it is symbolic of the enlightenment some individuals have towards achieving a better future.
With stores in Australia initiating plastic bag bans to Mumbai illegalising some plastics to Kenya issuing potential jail time for plastic usage, it is clear that the word is starting to get out. No matter how faint the calls, people are uniting for a plastic free future!
Is plastic reduction on your radar?