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July 09, 2021

Our extra tips for Plastic Free July: An image of two jars and a bento box on a surface with a white background

So, you’ve got your reusable coffee cup and drink bottle, switched to shampoo and conditioner bars and started shopping at the bulk food shop. Great! What’s next in your plastic-ridding journey this Plastic Free July? 

As we know, the plastic pollution problem is a multifaceted one. Let’s take a dive into some of the other ways our insidious plastic use is causing issues for the planet — and what we can do about it — with our extra tips for Plastic Free July.

SunButter's extra tips for Plastic Free July: An image of a laundry with a timber benchtop, washing machine and baskets  

  • Fast fashion and microfibres

Not only is the fashion industry responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions and water wastage due to our culture’s love of fast fashion — it’s also an issue because of microplastics. When you think of microplastics, you might think of plastic bottles breaking down into tiny pieces in the ocean, but microplastics also come in the form of microfibres. Microfibres are released by synthetic materials when they’re being washed, and they’re so tiny that they evade filtering systems and end up in our waterways. A single piece of clothing can release 700,000 microfibres in one wash. 

Microfibres released from synthetic clothes represent 35 per cent of microplastics found in the ocean. Fish are unknowingly consuming these microfibres, which are full of toxins, and we are consuming these fish. Microfibres can also be found floating in the air and have been shown to contribute to breathing problems. 

So, what to do?

  1. Wherever possible, avoid synthetic items and invest in organic fabrics instead (for example, linen, bamboo, tencel, cotton, wool and silk).
  2. Wash larger loads of washing. As well as saving on water consumption, this will mean less friction between the clothes and less shedding of microfibres. Washing your clothes less frequently and on a lower temperature setting also helps.
  3. Purchase a Guppyfriend to capture microfibres in the wash.
  4. Reduce the amount of clothing you purchase in the first place. Buy second-hand, and keep the circular economy flowing by upcycling your own clothes, bed linen etc. through the fantastic Upparel (they’ll come to your house and collect your donations!).
  5. While we’re talking upcycling… You can also give your old wetsuits and thongs a second life through Rip Curl’s recycling/upcycling program.

Our extra tips for Plastic Free July: A white takeaway coffee cup sits on a table

  • Recycling methods

It’s always best to reuse containers and reduce the need to purchase single-use plastics in the first place, because only a portion of what we put in the recycling bin actually ends up being recycled. But when it comes to recycling, there are some key things to know to ensure that we’re not contaminating the recycling bin (which can mean nothing in the bin ends up being recycled!). 

To improve your recycling habits:

  1. Wash your containers properly before popping them in the recycling bin to increase their chances of being recycled. This means rinsing out bottles and cartons and properly cleaning out that container that just held your takeaway potato salad.
  2. Know what can be recycled in your area. This differs from council to council, but generally speaking, most plastic, aluminium, steel and glass containers, coffee cup lids, empty aerosol cans, aluminium foil, shampoo and conditioner bottles, egg cartons, wrapping paper, the top part of pizza boxes, books, paper and cardboard can be recycled. Lids and bottles or jars should be kept separate.
  3. Know what can’t be recycled. Again, this differs from place to place, but generally this list includes coffee cups, the bottom of pizza boxes, cling wrap, soft plastics (although some supermarkets have soft plastics recycling drop-off points), polystyrene, crockery and glassware, plastic cutlery, disposable razors and butchers paper.
  4. This should be a given, but… Don’t bundle your recycling up in plastic bags. Plastic bags can’t be recycled! 

 Our extra tips for Plastic Free July: A cardboard box with recycling, compostable, plastic free and biodegradable symbols on the side

  • Biodegradable and compostable packaging

While it seems great that there are more restaurants and cafes serving up takeaway dishes in “biodegradable” or “compostable” containers, the reality is that a lot of this packaging ends up in landfill or contaminating recycling bins. Often “compostable” items can’t be composted in home composts, and there is only a small selection of industrial composting facilities. Unless you’re sending these items to one of these facilities, they need to go in the rubbish bin as they can’t be recycled.

Plus, the word “biodegradable” is broadly defined. Technically, a container can still be called “biodegradable” even if it’s going to take a long time to degrade. Items also need specific conditions in order to biodegrade — including a certain temperature and moisture level. If they’re simply sitting in soil or floating in the ocean, they won’t biodegrade (or, they’ll break into harmful fragments!).

Lastly, even though this kind of packaging seems eco-friendly, it might actually be made primarily out of fossil-fuel based materials. This is especially true of items labelled “oxo-bioplastic”.

Packaging tips: 

  • Check the instructions on the compostable container. In Australia, the code AS4736 indicates that packaging is only commercially compostable. AS5810 indicates that it is home compostable. If it’s the former, find a commercial facility or chuck it in the rubbish bin :(
  • Don’t think of “biodegradable” or “compostable” takeaway containers as necessarily more eco-friendly. When you can, bring your own containers or sit down to eat! 

To learn more about our favourite plastic free products, check out our blogs here and here.

And for a whole lot more plastic-free tips, check out this book from our beloved ambassador, Kate Nelson (aka Plastic Free Mermaid) here.