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June 29, 2021

Plastic Free July: An image of a discarded plastic water bottle on the sand. The sun sets in the background.

As far as we’re concerned, every month is an opportunity to break more strongly with our culture’s single-use plastic lifestyle! But we love Plastic Free July because it’s all about raising awareness around how plastics are choking the planet and the actions we can take, personally and collectively, to reduce our plastic footprint.

Of course, there is a long list of problems caused by plastics. As marine biologists and ocean lovers, one of our chief concerns is the 8 million tonnes of plastic that ends up in the ocean and kills millions of creatures each year. For us humans, plastics break down into microplastics that plague our air and drinking water. Unfortunately for all living creatures, plastic manufacturing is showing no sign of slowing down — in fact, it has doubled in the last couple of decades 

Plastic Free July: A fishing net entangled with plastic bottles

It’s a dizzying problem, but each of us can make a difference. The Western Australian crew that came up with Plastic Free July (the Plastic Free Foundation) tell us that people who participate in the challenge reduce their personal household waste and recycling by around 21kg each year. They also help reduce global plastic waste by a whopping 940 million kg each year, and 85 per cent of people continue their plastic free habits after the challenge. Those are some pretty encouraging stats!

Plastic Free July is all about becoming more conscious and getting creative. What did people do before cling wrap? Before plastic takeaway containers? Before plastic bags? They had other solutions, of course! It’s a month of sharing ideas and helping each other create a less plasticky world. In the spirit of sharing and caring, we’ve put together a guide to help you on your merry plastic-free way.  

Plastic Free July: A line-up of glass containers filled with fresh food

  • Single use food containers and wrappers 

  • Humans eat every day. And many of us are busy. And we like devouring delicious meals. And it shows. Because what are the most common plastic items we see strewn across foreshores and floating around in the sea? Coffee cups, plastic water bottles and straws. Food packaging accounts for around a third of all plastic pollution. That’s a lot. 

    Packaging manufacturers like to remind us that their products are recyclable, but the truth is that only a small portion of our used containers actually get recycled. There are also issues with “compostable” and “biodegradable” packaging.   

    Our tips?

    • You might already be using a reusable drink bottle and coffee cup (by the way, if you’re ever caught short without your normal reusable cup then a regular coffee mug or jar works, too!), plus carrying your own reusable straw and cutlery if you’re on the run. One of our favourite Australian brands for these items is Kappi Life.

    • When it comes to getting takeaway food, it’s a little inconvenient — but terribly helpful for the planet — if you BYO your own containers to the restaurant and ask them to fill them for you (it also prevents them from giving you a plastic bag). Most places do this. It’s how they did it in the old days!  
    • If you’re having a party, make the effort to use your own, reusable crockery and cutlery rather than plastic plates, knives and forks — or plan ahead and invest in a genuinely home compostable option like these sugarcane ones from BioPak
    • When buying groceries, opt for whole foods where possible. Do your snacks need to be wrapped in plastics? Do your vegetables? Can you make more of your own food? Can you shop at a bulk food store and fill up reusable jars?  
    Plastic Free July: Adult and child hands show the vegetable contents of a mesh bag
    1. Plastic bags  

    Most of us are probably now aware of the issues surrounding plastic bags — yet they still account for a large proportion (over 10 per cent) of plastic pollution. Plastic bags have a devastating effect on the animals that ingest them or become entangled in them. 

    This one is not just about saying “no” to plastic bags at the supermarket and bringing your own reusable bags (although this is important) — it’s also about reducing the use of items like ziplock bags and garbage bin liners.  

    Our tips?

    • When shopping for fruit and veg, bring some mesh produce bags (like these Melbourne-made ones from The Utility Co.), or use brown paper mushroom bags, which can be thrown in your home compost).

    • Instead of using a plastic bag in your household bins, line the bin with newspaper or go naked and wash the bin as needed (that’s right — rubbish doesn’t actually *need* to be contained in a plastic bag for the rubbish truck to take it away). 
    • If you’re using ziplock bags for food storage, check out Kappi Life’s — or get creative with beeswax wraps, mesh bags, glass jars or stainless steel bento boxes. 

    Plastic Free July: A jar of cotton buds and a jar of cotton balls sit on a counter

    1. Sanitary and cosmetic items 

    Far less bathroom plastics end up being recycled than kitchen plastics, so cleaning up our plastic habits involves looking at our bathroom products, too. Seemingly innocent items like cotton buds make sneaky plastic pollution culprits. 

    Our tips?

    • Switch from tampons or pads to period cups or undies — like these ones from our friends at Modibodi
    • If you have a baby, experiment with cloth nappies instead of disposable ones.  
    • Switch to shampoo, conditioner, soap and deodorant bars. We love these haircare products from The White Pigeon Said, soap from your local farmers’ market and deodorant from Exposed Naturals
    • Fill up empty shampoo or conditioner bottles at your local bulk food store. 
    • Swap out your tube of toothpaste for tooth powder, and your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one.  
    • Invest in a reusable razor (who wants to have to keep running out to buy plastic ones, anyway?).  
    • Make your own beauty products where possible — check out our DIY recipes for facials

      We’ll be sharing plenty more plastic-free ideas with you through the whole of Plastic Free July. Check out our Instagram page for the SunButter Swap Out Challenge, which will be running each week in July with a different theme. Every person who shares a Swap Out tip in their story and tags @sunbutterskincare will go in the draw to WIN a sunscreen, face oil, lip balm and surf zinc valued at over $100. 

    Happy Plastic Free July!