4 Ways To Reduce Plastic Use This July
by Karl Azzopardi
The month of July is most famously known for its scorching weather, seaside escapades and regular barbeques with family and friends. However, since 2011, this month has become synonymous with the plastic crisis we are facing as countries all over the globe challenge themselves to go a month without using plastic products.
This is a result of the Plastic Free July initiative, spearheaded by waste expert and educator Rebecca Prince-Ruiz in Western Australia. It aims to offer people, organisations and businesses free resources on how to reduce the use of plastic in their daily life and operations. While recycling (which is great for paper, metal and glass materials) received a lot of attention in recent years we are slowly realising that when it comes to plastic, the best solution is to reduce it entirely due to it being so difficult to recycle.
This constant struggle with plastic can seem like a helpless situation, but, a little goes a long way — as Prince-Ruiz states, "individual behaviour change is the seed of cultural and systems change." And it all starts by taking the initiative to 'Choose to Refuse'.
So, here are some pointers on how you can choose to refuse plastic in Malta during July in the hopes that some of them might become second nature for months to come!
1. Choose to Refuse Plastic Water Bottles
It comes as no surprise that plastic water bottles are one of the prime culprits for the uncontrollable plastic levels on the planet. They are the most convenient way to get the number one essential human resource into your home and yet, in doing so, we are threatening an even more vital resource — the earth itself.
Now there are multiple ways to go about refusing plastic bottles, the most impactful of which being introducing a Reverse Osmosis System in your home. Imagine having guaranteed drinkable water 24/7 without any worry of it running out. There's truly no better life investment than this!
Understandably, this option is not accessible to everyone be it for financial or housing reasons but there is still the option of using WaterPoints found across the islands to refill your existing water bottles. This will not only reduce your plastic waste but also your expense as it only costs 15c per litre, meaning that a typical 12L packet of water would cost you only €1.80! The only arguable downside to this is transportation.
However, there is still another alternative if that's the case — getting a Water Filter Pitcher from your preferred household store. These can be seen as the affordable alternative to a Reverse Osmosis System. The only downside to these Water Filter Pitchers is that they are typically made of plastic. However, they will outlive hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bottles you'd have to go through to get the same amount of water.
2. Choose to Refuse Plastic Bags
This is another core polluter that we have heard much about over the years due to its influence on our daily lives. Plastic bags have always provided a convenient solution to grocery shopping, but such convenience has always come at the cost of durability and thus reusability. More often than not, plastic bags end up tearing on first use or maybe a couple after that, leaving us no other option than disposing of them in our landfills.
All it takes to eradicate this problem is keeping a pile of reusable bags handy at all times, be it in the boot of your car or next to your front door. This way you'll always be prepared for your next monthly grocery shopping, or even when you need a quick run to the store for some last-minute supplies.
This also applies for trips to the bakery. Instead of picking up the readily available plastic packaged sliced Maltese bread, ask to have it in a paper bag or opt for a whole one and take it home in hand or a reusable bag.
3. Choose to Refuse Prepackaged Meat, Delicatessen & Produce
With our climate, it is no surprise that we love to grill up something good every now and again but this doesn't mean we cannot be a bit more mindful about our choices.
We hear you, prepackaged items allow you to easily get what you need without having to wait in a long queue at your butcher, fishmonger, deli or greengrocer. However, most of these products come in polystyrene trays or plastic containers which, though being marketed as being fully recyclable, cannot really be recycled after having been contaminated with food. Remember, for things to be recycled, they need to be clean and dry otherwise they will contaminate the entire recycling bag which will then be tossed in the landfill. On top of this, these are typically wrapped in saran wrap or single-use plastic bags which are not recyclable whatsoever.
And who could argue against the fact that fresh meat, delicatessen and produce directly from the counter or green stand is not tastier than these prepackaged alternatives? Just plan ahead and take some reusable containers (preferably glass ones) from home as most places still utilise single-use plastic products to wrap your purchase in.
4. Choose to Refuse Balloons & Plastic Decorations
Summer calls for all kinds of celebrations whether it's an evening cookout with the family, a birthday party or a bountiful gathering in the name of the village's patron saint. Anyone who has hosted or at least attended such events understands the mountains of plastic waste that is left behind once the party's over; from popped balloons to disposable cutlery, plates and cups.
Now, being mindful about decorations doesn't mean sucking out all the fun from organising a party. It actually adds to the excitement as making your own sustainable decorations leaves room for collaboration and creativity. Imagine all the fun you could have with the family as you craft up some paper lanterns or confetti made out of dry leaves. Borrowing decorations from friends and family is also a great option!
As for cutlery, plates and cups, there's really no harm in asking attendees to bring their own. And if you are looking for some straws, nowadays there are multiple stores which offer paper and compostable straws in different colours and designs.
Do your part this July and make these small changes that will make a whole world of difference for future generations.
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Resources & Local NGOs combatting plastic waste in Malta