Choose to Refuse! Plastic Free July is here!
If you’ve been looking for the sign to finally make the change, now is the perfect time to drop those pesky single-use plastics once and for all – Plastic Free July is here!
Plastic Free July began as a small project based in Australia but has turned into a global movement of people who are committed to cutting out single-use plastics from their lives to stop plastic pollution and save the planet. “Plastics” refers to a wide range of synthetic materials that can be molded and shaped into a variety of flexible and stiff byproducts. Believe it or not, there’s plastics in our chewing gum, skin care products, and even our clothes!
Since 2011, Plastic Free July has empowered consumers to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics by sharing educational resources and encouraging people to come up with creative ways to reduce plastic usage at the source, reuse any plastics that can be used more than once, and properly recycle what can be recycled!
Why is Plastic Free July Important?
In 2021, the planet reached a total estimated number of 363,762,732,605 pounds of plastics across all the oceans. Plastics are one of the most prevalent pollutants across the globe, polluting waterways, habitats, and damaging the health of ecosystems and humans alike. Many durable plastics will take up to 400 years before they will breakdown.
While recycling has helped make a dent in our plastic waste, the overarching goal is to reduce consumption.
Some plastics, like laundry detergent containers and milk jugs, are highly-desirable plastic products for recycling. However, other items like straws, plastic bags, and other flexible packaging, are harder to recycle, and often end up being a burden to consumers trying to properly dispose of them. Making some easy switches to eliminate unnecessary plastic waste at the source is an amazing way to start building a world without plastic waste and practice sustainability.
(We recognize that the problem of plastic waste is not just a consumer issue; in fact — it’s much more systemic and related to the way corporations make products and the laws governing those practices. This is why Salt Lake City has signed on as an activator to the U.S. Plastics Pact. But while we work for larger, systemic change, we can also take matters into our own hands as consumers and reduce single-use plastics, where possible, in our own lives).
How Can I Participate in Plastic Free July?
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to take the Plastic Free July Challenge! By registering for the challenge, you’re joining a community of people who are committed to reducing plastic pollution. You will also receive email updates with tips, tricks, and stories to help you keep your plastic free promise.
How Can I Get Involved Locally?
One of the amazing things about Salt Lake City is how many opportunities there are for you to practice sustainability in your everyday life.
First, let’s get into some general sustainability practices, and then we will highlight a few locally based sustainability businesses.
Good Wastewise habits:
- Shop with your reusable grocery bags. Don’t have any? Head on over to your local thrift store and pick up a few! Many grocery stores also sell their own branded tote bags for very cheap. Make sure to keep your grocery bags in your car or by the door so you never forget to bring them to the store with you. You can also purchase reusable mesh produce bags so you never have to worry about the plastic produce bags ever again.
- During your summertime picnics and backyard BBQs, avoid disposable dishes and silverware. Ask your guests to bring their own plates, cups, and utensils for dinner. Or, head to your local thrift store and purchase a cheap set of “BBQ dishes” that you will always have on hand for when you are hosting guests.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle and reusable coffee mug. Most coffee shops will allow you to provide your own cup or mug when you order, so you can avoid their disposable cups altogether. Many of the reusable products on the market work well for hot or cold beverages. However, in a pinch, bringing your own mug from home, or a mason jar, will work too (just be mindful of spills).
- Avoid buying food and household products that are packaged in plastics. Many household items at the supermarket come packaged in plastics, which means an amazing opportunity to make the switch! For example, laundry detergent normally comes in large plastic jugs. To avoid the plastic packaging, switch to products such as laundry strips and plant-based laundry pods. These sustainable options are just as compatible with high efficiency (HE) washing machines as detergent in plastic jugs. Don’t just toss your old detergent jugs though, the plastic they are made of is a highly desirable recyclable material!
- On the topic of laundry, ditch the scented dryer sheets. While dryer sheets may make your clothes smell fresh and floral, they’re made of polyester which is a type of… yep, you guessed it, plastic. If possible, line dry clothes straight out of the wash, but if this isn’t an option, then invest in some reusable dryer sheets or wool dryer balls to keep your clothes soft and static free. Both products can be reused for over a year!
- Other items, such as household cleaners are often sold in disposable plastic bottles. To avoid the plastic, check out sustainable cleaning concentrates! Instead of purchasing a full bottle of the cleaner in a plastic bottle, you can buy a concentrated mixture of a cleaner in a tablet form that you can put into a reusable glass spray bottle and dilute with water to have a plastic-free cleaner. Most of the products listed above can be found at local bulk markets and stores (see details on SLC’s own Hello Bulk below!).
Make sure to avoid disposable dishware products marketed as “compostable” or “biodegradable”. While these might sound like an amazing idea, these products cause some problems for processing waste. While these products are labelled as “compostable”, in reality, they are only able to be properly composted at industrial composting facilities that reach much higher temperatures than our commercial facility or your backyard pile will reach. These products are also NOT recyclable. At the recycling facility, they will be sorted out of the recycling stream as contamination. Either way, these products will most likely end up in the landfill and create excess waste.
At all your group gatherings, make sure to properly dispose of any single-use items you may use. Here are some handy signs to remind you and your guests of how to properly recycle some common disposable products. Cans, glass, and hard plastics are all easily recyclable.
Sustainability in SLC
Thankfully, Salt Lake City has a very wide variety of businesses that are committed to sustainability, and specifically working to eliminate single-use plastics. Let’s learn about a few of our favorites:
Hello!Bulk is a zero waste grocery store with an amazing variety of products, from local vegan candy to fresh produce to multi-surface cleaners to haircare and skincare. In addition, many products stocked at Hello!Bulk are sourced from locally-owned businesses. Hello! Bulk makes shopping package free incredibly easy with their bring your own container system. While the store offers a selection of reusable containers for purchase, this Plastic Free July, we’re challenging you to get creative and use containers that you probably already have in your house. Got an empty salsa jar? The perfect container for a refill of coconut oil. Empty hand soap container? Reuse it by filling it up with hand soap at the store!
Check them out at the following locations:
1185 S 300 W
Salt Lake City
parking in back during construction
2065 E 2100 S inside
The Neighborhood Hive
Parking in The Neighborhood Hive lot
Animalia is a shop located in Salt Lake City that is committed to ethical sourcing of their products and embraces sustainable practices through a commitment to offering locally sourced goods and products, while also cutting down on waste. Animalia contains a bulk refill station inside the store where you can purchase household and personal products in bulk by bringing your own container. In addition, Animalia also contains a drop-off location for food waste to be processed at the Wasatch Resource Recovery anaerobic digestor. To drop food waste off at their location, they ask for a small payment to cover the cost of their drop off fee. More information can be found here.
280 E 900 S, Salt Lake City
Clever Octopus is a craft store with a more sustainable approach. Products sold at Clever Octopus are all recycled and reused arts and crafts supplies that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. Many arts and craft supplies contain high amounts of plastics (think markers, scissors, rulers, beads, and other jewelry items) and you can extend their lives and divert them from heading to the landfill by shopping at Clever Octopus. In 2021, Clever Octopus diverted over 88,000 LBS of materials from the landfill!
2250 S West Temple St, South Salt Lake
Wherever you go, reduce your plastic waste!
Even when shopping beyond these sustainability-focused stores, we still have the power to reduce our plastic pollution in any store that we go to. Remember your reusable bags, avoid disposable plastic packaging if possible, and be mindful of any potential wasteful consumption.
This July, make the change and go plastic-free! We hope you check out some of the shops we mentioned above, as well as begin to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in your life!
If you haven’t already, we challenge you to take the Plastic Free July Challenge! And tell your friends to take the challenge! And their friends! And remember, when you do use plastics, make sure you are recycling or disposing of them properly.