Are you one of the millions of people worldwide who take part in Plastic Free July? It’s OK if you haven’t heard of it. You do know how bad our plastic pollution problem is though, right?

You know that nearly 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, and that plastic waste is growing at an annual rate of 9%. You’re aware that 70% of all litter on beaches worldwide is plastic and one million marine animals die every year due to plastic pollution. Somewhere you’ve probably read that 75% of all plastic produced has become waste, and a shockingly high 91% of plastic is not recycled. And you’re probably disappointed but not surprised that the U.S. is the world’s top generator of plastic waste. (Learn more about these stats at Seed Scientific.)

Then there was this major discovery that The Guardian and other news outlets reported in March: “Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested.” (Read the study.) That’s alarming. But wait, there’s more.

“A recent study found that microplastics can latch on to the outer membranes of red blood cells and may limit their ability to transport oxygen,” The Guardian article reported. “The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the fetuses.”

So it’s more than unsightly trash and a lethal hazard for marine life. It’s in our bloodstreams, ten times more prevalent in infants than adults, and scientists are only beginning to study the health impacts. So let’s use the rest of this month – and the months beyond – to help address the problem.

Plastic Free July is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation, started by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team of local government leaders in Western Australia. Millions of people participate every year, and the program offers dozens of practical suggestions to reduce plastic pollution. “An IPSOS survey in 2021 of over 20,000 people in 28 countries revealed that 29% of global consumers surveyed were aware of Plastic Free July and, of those, 13% participated,” according to the foundation’s impact reports. “This meant an estimated 140 million people worldwide took part in Plastic Free July from 190 countries.”

Ready to join those millions of others? Start with the Plastic Free July Quiz to help the foundation track trends in the common plastics that households use, to discover for yourself all the plastics that you actually use, and to set up how you will measure your Plastic Free July success.

The Plastic Free July website invites you to take the Challenge, whether you commit to one day, one week, or longer. It also offers the real-life stories of individuals who have overcome challenges to reduce single-use plastic waste at home, at work, and in their communities. 

Perhaps the most useful resource provided by Plastic Free July is its extensive list of positive actions we can take at home, at work, at school, at events, in our communities, and in our local governments. Each of the dozens of actions offers additional detailed guidance. Here is a sampling:

ON YOUR OWN

  • Takeaway coffee cups: Bring a reusable coffee cup or dine-in at your local café.
  • Fruit & vegetables: Find plastic free alternatives when buying fruit & veggies.
  • Plastic shopping bags: Bring your own reusable shopping bags and help reduce plastic waste.
  • Plastic straws: Refuse plastic straws when buying a drink & BYO reusable alternative!
  • Plastic water bottles: BYO reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones.
  • Bulk food shopping: Avoiding pre-packaged foods by choosing bulk or loose food.
  • Buy less: Avoiding disposable products and packaging has a huge impact.
  • Soap: Swap liquid soap for bar soaps and avoid single-use plastic.
  • Dental care: Plastic-free toothbrushes, toothpaste and more.
  • Balloons & decorations: Celebrate in style with plastic free decorations.

AT WORK

  • Bin audit: Are you recycling, composting, or avoiding waste correctly?
  • Workplace kitchens: Reducing plastic use in your workplace kitchen is easy.
  • Workplace procurement: Make an impact on your workplace’s procurement practices.

IN YOUR COMMUNITY

  • Plastic free picnic: Share the solutions to single-use plastics and inspire people with a fun picnic.
  • Beach/park clean up: Getting a group together to clean up a park or beach.
  • Movie screenings: Organize the screening of a plastic-related film.

• • •

Are you interested in participating in the work of the Climate Action Team? We would love to meet you at our next meeting, this Monday, July 18, at 7:30 PM. Contact Nicole Haines at hip2bveg@gmail.com for Zoom details.

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