#PlasticFreeJuly: A Month Long Campaign Against Plastic Waste
It was low tide that sunny afternoon. A perfect opportunity to take photos and walk further up the beach to the rock pools and see the huge slabs of reef now lying exposed under the sun.
With an hour still left until the tide was high enough to surf again, me and my friends decided to make use of the remaining time exploring the reef. I’ve been going back to this place since 2014. I have had my fair share of experiencing how the shore changes appearance due to the tides and waves.
It’s an automatic reaction from me to pick up any trash that I see on the beach and stuff it in my suit or hand it over to the boys who have pockets in their board shorts. It was fun at first. Then it grew a bit wearisome as there was more trash than usual that afternoon.
As I was walking for quite some time already and still picking up trash, I looked towards the stretch of the beach in front of me. I stood there horrified as I saw and realized that what I thought was seaweed lining the beach was all trash. Heaps load of microplastic mixed with seaweed and other normal things found along the shore.
It felt hopeless. I wondered how in the world could we clean this up when the waves keep dumping more trash onto the shore when the current has brought all this trash from who knows where?
If you’re wondering what microplastics are, these are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life. We all know that plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in bodies of water like oceans, rivers or lakes.
We too are also too familiar with the horrors of plastic as it clogs our waterways or canals, blocks stomachs of birds, creates little islands in the ocean for marine life to get stuck in and how it pollutes our rivers.
Despite these, plastic is still everywhere. Look in a sari-sari store and you see heaps of junk food wrapped in plastic hanging on the screen windows. Get a take-out cup of coffee and there’s a plastic lining in about 99% of disposable cups, according to an article by Melanie Tait from The Guardian.
From the grocery or supermarkets all our items are wrapped in plastic. Not to mention the items we buy like fresh milk and biscuits all come in plastic packaging. We buy, consume and then throw the packaging away.
I would admit that before, I didn’t even give a single thought about what happens to all the plastic I throw away. Does it get segregated properly and recycled? What happens after the garbage is collected? Where do they throw it?
I haven’t found the answers to all these questions but I did make sure I would be a step ahead by segregating my trash wherever I am. It’s not convenient but it makes a huge difference.
What else can we do to lessen our plastic waste?
#PlasticFreeJuly and Beyond
We need to start the plastic free alternative in our daily consumer habits, here are other suggestions we can immediately do to become a solution and be plastic free this July (and the rest of the year).
Instead of using the black plastic garbage bags, use old newspapers to line up your garbage bins. You can use as many layers as needed. Old newspapers need recycled anyway and are biodegradable too.
For the doggy parents, we buy those plastic doggy doo bags where we place our dog’s waste. A plastic free alternative to this is again, newspaper! It’s cheap and biodegradable.
One of my personal favorite non-edible items in the kitchen is clingwrap. It’s clean and can easily be wrapped on anything you want to eat for later. I’m changing my preferences now, in favor of the plastic free choice. Instead of wrapping in plastic, I place them in reusable food containers, fabric wraps or paper bags.
As with almost all things in supermarkets, milk comes in plastic containers. Look for milk in refillable glass bottles or in carton boxes instead. Just be aware though, even if the outside looks like carton. The inside still has plastic lining.
In need of a new hair brush? Opt for one that has wooden or bamboo bristles. It lasts longer than its plastic counterparts. Wooden bristles naturally condition your hair, evenly distributing your hair’s natural oils. Wooden bristles are mostly crafted from bamboo which is a sustainable resource. Quickly grows after being harvested and thrives even in damaged soil.
For the parents, one action we can take is buying less disposable diapers and using more cloth nappies or looking for a plastic-free one. Imagine how many babies are there in the world? That’s the amount of trash we produce just for taking care of our babies’ waste and when thrown carelessly, these end up in our oceans.
I remember when I started surfing, I wouldn’t care where I’d surf just as long as there would be waves that would carry me. There’s a spot notorious for its filth and for its easy access to waves in the city. One of my greatest fear would be wiping out and surfacing to breath, only to find myself face to face with a used diaper floating only inches away! Worst nightmare ever!
Buying from local businesses where most of the time, the packaging is at a minimum, even using sustainable materials, are better for us. We create a community that helps each other. Humans helping other humans make businesses sustainable and at the same time, helping the environment.
Sometimes, I’d think it wouldn’t be fair to exert so much effort in reducing waste and segregating trash when other people just don’t care about what they throw away. But every single time, I’d see the effects of pollution in the places that I care about, I say to myself that every effort is worth it.
Let’s celebrate small victories. One small change in our actions each day becomes habit. I still hope for the day where we don’t need to remind people where to throw their trash and what products to avoid. I dream of the day where companies large and small think of sustainable ways to operate and place a premium on the use of sustainable resources.
You can also check out www.plasticfreejuly.org to learn practical steps on how you can be plastic free for life!
#PlasticFreeJuly: How You Can Be a Solution
We already talked about what microplastics are. To refresh you, these are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long and known to be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.
We all know that plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in bodies of water like oceans, rivers or lakes.
Our familiarity with the horrors of plastic is an everyday sight as we see it clog our waterways or canals, create a nasty sight on our roads and float around us in our oceans.
I'm sure that I’m not the only one thinking of ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste. Here are some practical ways each one of us can start doing right now.
1. Stop eating junk food.
Not only will you have a healthier diet, you’re helping lessen single-use plastic waste that most often ends up in our sewers or seas.
Junk food packaging is almost either plastic foil or the flimsy easy-open type which I usually find floating around the beaches I frequent. Im sure this happens in other places in the Philippines as well.
I have yet to find a junk food brand that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Either way, cutting off from consuming junk food is always a better option in life. Win for our health and a win for the earth.
2. Bring your own drinking bottle.
If there’s one more single-use plastic that’s out of control aside from junk food packaging, it’s the single-use plastic water bottles made from PET.
Polyethylene Terephthalate, known commonly as PET is globally recognized as a safe, non-toxic, strong, lightweight, flexible material that is 100% recyclable. In fact, it’s THE most widely recycled plastic in the world!
You’ll notice these plastic water bottles have a symbol recognized by the #1 in the middle surrounded by “chasing arrows” which seem like the recycle symbol.
3. Coffee on the go? Leave the lid.
Most often it’s the lid on our take out cups that are made of plastic. Whenever you need your daily dose of caffeine on the go, make sure to leave the lid behind if it’s made of plastic. Another better option is having your own coffee mug or tumbler when you get coffee. Some establishments actually prefer this and even give discount if you bring your own container. It’s a win-win for both the business as they save on cost, you since you get to save on your usual caffeine fix and for the environment.
4. Refuse the straw!
Five million straws are used every day in the United States alone according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. In the Philippines alone, we are the 3rd biggest source of plastic leaking into the ocean. That’s coming from the international group Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.
That’s quite a LOT of plastic. While plastic straws are always expected to be served in every drink. A perfect example of extreme waste that’s generated for minimal convenience. I personally prefer drinking the natural way, from my lips!
Plastic straws are terribly short-lived tools that are immediately thrown into the garbage and if not carefully disposed, end up becoming an instant source of pollution. We see them scattered on our roads, in garbage disposal areas and in our seas.
The good news is that you have the power to refuse. Upon ordering drinks, immediately request having no straws and politely encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Now, how about you? Do you have your own ways of helping save the environment by going #PlasticFree? Share your tips below!