Hacks for Plastic-Free July


BEE’S KNEESMade of washable waxed cotton, beeswax wraps can be wrapped around everything from sandwiches to a bowl of food to keep it fresh, just like cling film.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

What’s so special about July, besides the fact the most of us are able to venture out to our favourite places again, finally? Well, loads of people around the world will be taking the Plastic Free July challenge, to see how they reduce their use of plastic for the month and hopefully forever.
The initiative began locally in Australia in 2011, and has since grown to be a global movement thanks to social media. It’s never been a better time to join in, as there are so many ideas about how to reduce waste, so start with whatever you can.

Cold turkey
The first way to start reducing your reliance on plastic is to buy less. Go ‘cold turkey’ on new plastics that you can live without: plastic bin liners, food storage bags and cling film. These are all items we spend money on to use once and throw away, and they can easily be replaced.
Reuse a paper or plastic bag for your rubbish, or ‘go naked’ and put your rubbish directly into a household bin without a liner, and then empty it directly into the outdoor bin (rinse out the indoor bin if it’s soiled). Cling film and food storage bags can be replaced by handmade beeswax wraps, reusable glass containers, reused jars or plastic food pots (from items like hummus, peanut butter, etc), which all can be used to store leftovers in the fridge or transport food for lunch.
Storing food in a bowl with a plate over it in the fridge works too.

Shop shakedown  
Take an audit of the top five items you buy in a weekly shop that are covered in plastic. Bring a reusable cloth bag next time to see if you can pick up the same fruit and veg loose, or try to go to a local market to get the same items grown locally and without packaging.
Have a quick look around at other packaging options for foods you normally buy in plastic, as many more brands are reducing or changing packaging and they should be rewarded for their efforts. Speak to your local shop about your desire to have more plastic-free options – if even a small percentage of us did so, it would send a strong message.

Scale up
Try to gather a few items that you can have in the car to help you avoid single-use items. Most of us have a shopping bag to grab before we go in for the weekly shop, but you should also take a reusable bag into non-food shops to avoid bags there as well.
Then, get a good quality reusable water bottle – it is estimated that worldwide around 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, so if we all got used to bringing our own water and asking for refills, we’d make a massive difference to the amount of plastic produced and discarded daily.
Once you get used to that, try a reusable flask or cup for tea or coffee, and a box for lunch, takeways and goods from the deli and butcher counters.

For more information on Plastic Free July, see www.plasticfreejuly.org.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.