Our world is literally drowning in plastic. Plastic is choking our oceans and waterways. Micro-plastics are in our drinking water and our food chain. If we don’t change our ways, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 20501.
Plastic Free July is all about fixing the plastic problem. It is perhaps one of the most important campaigns out there – and one we can all participate in. So what exactly is the plastic problem?
Plastic lasts forever
Plastic was ground breaking when it was invented in the early 20th Century. It was the new miracle substance that solved engineering problems that nothing else could solve. It was waterproof, flexible, durable – and would last forever.
Plastic once created, never naturally breaks down. Plastic objects just break up into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic - but they remain plastic. These tiny plastics are called micro-plastics – and they are everywhere and in everything. They have infiltrated our ground water, our oceans and our drinking water – and are digested by animals, including us.
The irony is that most plastic created is now created for a single use, then discarded – often after just a few seconds. 660 thousand tonnes of plastic waste every year are created by Australians. 80% of plastic waste in Australia is never recycled2 – most of which ends up in landfill, to last forever in our eco-system.
Plastic and Climate Change
Plastic also has a direct impact on the warming of our oceans and our world. Plastic is made from fossil fuels – 4% of the world’s petroleum production is used to make plastic and another 4% gets burned in the refining process. That’s equivalent to approximately 189 coal-fired power stations.3
When plastic is not recycled, if it does not go to landfill it is usually burned – which releases even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
So what can we do about it?
They are sobering statistics, aren’t they? The good news is that we can solve the plastic problem.
There are things we can do every day to help. Every time we use a reusable coffee cup or water bottle instead of a takeaway one – we are making a difference. By not using cling wrap and switching to wax wraps – we stop soft plastics going to landfill. By using plant-fibre cleaning brushes instead of plastic brushes, we stop micro-plastics entering our water and ending up in our oceans. Refusing a plastic straw is an act of hope.
Even more than that, we can look at our homes and workplaces for every opportunity to reduce plastic use – and free ourselves from single-use plastics completely. We can look for products that are proudly plastic-free in their supply chains and their packaging.
The Fair Trade movement’s role
One of the things that people often ask when looking at these big problems is: How do we solve this – and all the other problems our world faces? What about poverty – and modern slavery? What about gender equity? What about supporting education and developing communities?
These questions are what brings me back to the Fair Trade movement – which is focused on an approach that covers all of these issues in their 10 Principles of Fair Trade. One of the 10 Principles is Respect for the Environment – which has recently been strengthened to have a strong focus on reducing plastic waste. The World Fair Trade Organisation’s theme for 2022 is Climate Justice – putting the environment front and centre in 2022.
We cannot solve the plastic problem in isolation. We need to look holistically at how we support communities with living wages, good working conditions and access to market – so that they can work with us to solve the plastic problem.
My journey – and how you can help this Plastic Free July
Working with the Fair Trade Association across the past decade, I came across so many wonderful businesses who are working to create a better world.
I realised that it doesn’t have to be that hard for us to life a life that is good for us and good for the planet. That led me to launch All of the Good Things – which is all about making it easy for people to find beautiful gifts and products for their homes and daily lives.
Simply by choosing a product that is free of plastic packaging, that is made with Fair Trade principles, you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Simple Swaps to make this Plastic Free July
Here are some simple swaps you can make to start you on your plastic-free journey:
There are so many ways you can help us solve the plastic problem this Plastic Free July. Please join us in working to heal our world.
By Nimmity Zappert