No more plastic: Plastic Free July movement seeks to inspire people to refuse single-use plastics

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July 18, 2021 2:30 AM

What started in 2011 as a key initiative by Plastic Free Foundation founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in the local government in western Australia is today one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world.

A file photo of workers separating different types of plastic at a plant in Portugal (REUTERS) A file photo of workers separating different types of plastic at a plant in Portugal (REUTERS)

The movement ‘Plastic Free July’ aims to address issues of accessibility and help create diverse, inclusive and equitable conversations for cleaner streets, oceans and communities. It also seeks to inspire millions of people to be part of the solution by refusing single-use plastics.

What started in 2011 as a key initiative by Plastic Free Foundation founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in the local government in western Australia is today one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world. “Plastic production is set to almost quadruple by 2050… we can’t recycle our way out of this problem. To create a world without plastic waste, we need to turn off the tap, not mop the floor,” says Prince-Ruiz, founder, Plastic Free July.

In her book Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters, Prince-Ruiz shares the story of how people, businesses and organisations have made positive changes in their lives, communities, schools and workplaces in the past 10 years, adding up to a collective impact. The pandemic, however, resurrected single-use plastics last year, thanks to takeaway cartons, disposable masks, PPE kits, etc. Yet enterprises promoting sustainable behaviours were able to minimise plastic waste, a common ingredient in our oceans, adding to an overwhelming pollution crisis.

Many innovative alternatives and solutions—such as recycled plastic, change in packaging solutions, etc—have also been introduced. Till March this year, Mother Dairy collected and recycled 7,284 metric tonnes of post-consumer use plastic waste in the country. The overall volume included both multi-layered plastic (MLP) and single-layered plastic (SLP) waste.

IndiGo Airlines has also productively utilised the pandemic to introduce automated solutions for ground support equipment, and has reduced emissions from ground support operations by 1,246 tonnes, amounting to around 5% decrease effectively.

Brands and businesses in the lifestyle space are also pushing sustainability with environment-friendly practices. Toxin-free natural brand Mamaearth links a tree to every order on its website. Through this initiative, more than one lakh trees have been planted in the last six months. The aim is to plant more than one million trees within five years. In the past one year, the brand recycled 1,135 metric tonnes of plastic, more than the plastic it used.

Oriflame’s rinse-off products are also biodegradable and break down over time without harming waterbodies. It has also made 76% reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions since 2010 and is working towards reducing plastic consumption with eco-friendly packaging. Natural products brand WOW Skin Science uses 30% post-consumer recycled packaging, which leads to reduced impact on garbage disposal systems.

Then there are waterless body, bath and shampoo products formulated with natural ingredients and concentrated solution with chlorhexidine, which help save about 250 litre of water per day per capita, and minimise the use of single-use plastic by saving 15 billion units of plastic waste per year. A commitment that biotechnology startup Clensta International provides in its environment-friendly homecare range.

Personal care brand L’Oréal is not far behind either. Its has its first cosmetic bottle made from plastic entirely recycled using French biotech Carbios’ enzymatic technology, which creates plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic using its specialised enzyme technology. L’Oréal had been working with Carbios since 2017 to develop the bottle. “A promising innovation for years to come that demonstrates our commitment to bring environmentally-friendly packaging,” says Jacques Playe, packaging and development director, L’Oréal.

Fabrics made from 100% regenerated materials or sourced from ocean wastes like sunken fishing nets are what Los Angeles-based sustainable swimwear label OOKIOH has started using. Inspired by the Japanese word ukiyo, which means ‘the floating world’, the luxury line of swimwear is in the list of favourites of American actor Gabrielle Union, model Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber’s spouse Hailey Bieber.

The Central Pollution Control Board estimates that around 707 million metric tonnes of plastic products are manufactured in a year—about 80% is for packaging applications. A small lifestyle change could help manage household dump, a massive problem, amounting to over 4,000 kg of plastic waste every year. One could switch to biodegradable garbage bags, toilet rolls and bamboo toothbrushes made from bamboo and corn starch. Eco-friendly homecare brand Beco has a solution here with its products range. Each of its reusable kitchen towel sheets can be used up to 100 times or can be machine-washed.

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