Plastic Free July

By Jane Paterson

In May 2017 I was roped into attending a Living Smart course with two of my best friends that I’d know for over 30 years. Little did I know it would change my thinking and life forever. It was during the course that I learnt about Plastic Free July (PFJ) which also coincided with the War on Waste on ABC TV.

I was so horrified at learning of the amount of plastic pollution globally – a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, billions of straws and a billion coffee cups a year in Australia alone – that I knew I had to do something about it. I joined up to the Plastic Free Julychallenge in 2017 to say No to the Top 4 single use plastics; plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and plastic straws.

Plastic Free July encourages people to ‘choose to refuse’ single-use plastic during July. You can register quickly online and choose the level of challenge that best suits you:

  • Avoid the big 4 takeaway plastic items (plastic bags, coffee cups, plastic straws and bottled water / soft drinks), or
  • Take on a bigger challenge and avoid as much single-use plastic and plastic packaging as possible.

I found it easy to say ‘No’ to plastic water bottles, coffee cups and plastic straws but had to work a little harder to say no to all plastic bags. I made up a re-usable kit of 2 coffee cups (one gets used and washed during the day) a BPA free water bottle and re-usable bags. This year I sourced some reusable produce bags to add to my kit, along with a beautiful woven basket. I also regularly attend a local farmer’s market on a Sunday so I don’t buy pre-packaged produce and now compost all my food scraps. I think being organised is the key and planning ahead, it really doesn’t take much effort.

PFJ has been a fantastic catalyst for significantly reducing my and my family’s plastic use. The results were immediate which encouraged me to start spreading the word to family, friends and basically anyone else that would listen. Because of my commitment, enthusiasm and the fact it’s been so easy, I love sharing my journey with others and encouraging them to be as plastic free as possible. I have had many positive conversations with people and feel there is a real shift occurring in people’s thinking and attitudes to single-use plastics. I have found most people I speak to are also concerned about the problems of single-use plastics and are interested in supporting PFJ.

Although I am not totally plastic free, I have easily been able to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in my and my family’s life. I feel that I am doing something positive and worthwhile to help the environment. This initiative, combined with composting my food scraps, has enabled me to halve my landfill bin and reduce my re-cycling by at least a third.

I’ve signed up for the challenge again this year, and look forward to using July to cut down on my single-use plastics further.

Join me in the Plastic Free July challenge – register (it’s quick and free) at and receive some helpful emails to encourage you on your way.

This is a great opportunity to also spread the ‘reduce’ message to family, friends, workmates, shops, schools etc. I have found that participating in Plastic Free July has led to so many great conversations and now is a great time to encourage others to sign up too.

I will leave you with this quote:
Mother Nature can win if we give her a chance – Jane Goodall

For some great Plastic Free July inspiration, check out:

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