EARTH FIRST: July initiative puts the spotlight on our use of plastic

DOING THEIR BIT: Fiona Hawke and Stephen Nugent shopping with their Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange mesh bags. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

DOING THEIR BIT: Fiona Hawke and Stephen Nugent shopping with their Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange mesh bags. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

For the past few years my family has taken on the challenge of Plastic Free July (PFJ), an initiative of a Western Australian local council that encourages us to go without single-use plastic for some or all of July.

For me, PFJ is an opportunity to examine exactly how much plastic I use in my everyday life and how much I can avoid.

Over the years PFJ has changed my shopping behaviour. Now I never use plastic carry bags as I always go prepared with my own re-useable bags. I always take my metal water bottle with me when heading out the door, avoiding the need to purchase water in plastic bottles.

When I’m in a café or at the pub I always say “no straw please” when ordering drinks. If we’re not sitting down for a relaxed cuppa, we use re-useable coffee cups for our takeaways.

These simple actions help us avoid the PFJ ‘Big Four Baddies’: plastic carry bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cup lids and plastic straws. These four are the biggest polluters and, ironically, probably the easiest to avoid.

This year our family decided to take the PFJ challenge to the next level by avoiding all single-use plastic for the whole month. That means anything packaged in plastic that is designed to be thrown away when the item is opened is a no-no for us.

It’s hard to avoid some of these items and so far this July we’ve gone without things like chips and strawberries because they only come in plastic packaging.

School holidays have given us time to make our own biscuits so we haven’t missed out there. For the rest of July I’ll be on a mission to find somewhere that I can buy cheese that is not wrapped in plastic.

My butcher is happy to put our meat into the Tupperware container that I bring along so I’m hoping to find somewhere that will do the same for cheese.

With the recent broadcast of the ABC’s excellent War on Waste series, I think it’s fair to say that awareness of our wasteful use of plastic is on the rise.

In and around Orange I notice people and businesses reducing their use of single-use plastic. I see people with re-usable bags or choosing the cardboard box option for transporting their fruit and veg shopping. I see cafes signing up for the Responsible Cafe Movement. These are positive actions in the fight against plastic.

You don’t need have a completely plastic free July to make a difference and it’s not too late to sign up at the PFJ website: www.plasticfreejuly.org.

However, if you’re really game, try going without all plastic; it’s a real wake-up call to the insidious nature of plastic packaging in our modern world.