The Tips And Swaps To Help You Do Plastic Free July Beyond Just July

So. Let’s talk about plastic. If you’ve been on the environmental—or wildly eco-anxious—beat for a while, you’re probably more than aware of the problems related to our extensive plastic use. In some cases, plastic is an incredibly durable and useful material. Particularly in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve seen the need for plastic because of hygiene and medical reasons—a lot of PPE gear wouldn’t be feasible if it weren’t for plastic. Unfortunately, our increased reliance on plastic has led to a “pandemic of plastic pollution” according to The Economist. Disposable face masks and latex gloves are drifting through the ocean like schools of fish. The comfort of takeaway and delivery during iso, as well as packaging from online shopping, has only added to the plastic waste problem.

This Plastic Free July, we’re navigating not only our reliance on the convenience of plastic but also the fact the pandemic has increased its usage in some unavoidable ways. Even if we’re cleaning out our hummus containers and sorting our recycling with the best of intentions, actually reducing our single-use plastic and packaging has to be a priority. Australians use an average of 130kg of plastic per person each year and it’s estimated only 9% of this is recycled. Further, of that 9%, only a small fraction is ever recycled more than once. Recycling as a solution is flawed, to say the least.

Up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic will find its way into our waterways and into the ocean, endangering marine wildlife and polluting our beloved beaches and coastlines. And the thing is, it’s not just nature that it hurts, all that plastic ends up coming back to us. Whether its tiny particles, pellets or microplastic fibres, our choices for convenience ends up in our tap water, our food and even in the air we breathe.

While the climate crisis is something that desperately needs governments to initiate policy changes and carbon taxes on industries to shift the dial, we can help lessen the negative impact we’re having on the environment with some personal changes. These are our top tips, swaps and initiatives to support for Plastic Free July, but hopefully we can keep them going a lot longer than that.

Make your period more sustainable

We have talked at length about how many great sustainable period options are on the market. From period underwear to menstrual cups, to plastic-free and organic pads and tampons there’s probably an option that’ll suit you whatever kind of bleeder you are. And if you’re concerned about the whole sterilising a cup sitcho, the good folks at The Tom Co have just come out with a cup that comes with its own microwaveable sterilising container. Sometimes human innovations are really good.

The Period Cup, $40 from The Tom Co.

Drop the (bottled) soap

Guys, if it ain’t broke, why did we fix it with excessive packaging, labelling and dilution with water? Bar soap exists and it’s not only widely available completely packaging and plastic-free, but it also is usually more concentrated than it’s bottled body wash counterparts. If you’re still searching for the perfect shampoo and conditioner bars for your hair—we get it, those can be tricky—bar soap is the waste-free bathroom swap that everyone can get behind.

Organic cube soap with Australian red clay, $14 from Frankie Organics.

Remove waste when removing hair

We guess the truly zero waste option for Plastic Free July when it comes to grooming body hair is just… embrace it. Go full au naturel French honey and grow everything out, who cares, c’est la vie. If you’re not quite on that beat yet, there are a bunch of great replacements for disposable plastic razors. PSA, The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 2 billion razors and refill blades get tossed out in the U.S. each year, so it’s a hairy problem. Switching to a plastic-free razor is not only way better for your wallet overall, but they last a lifetime and the metal blades can be safely recycled. If you’re into waxing, we recommend switching to a home-compostable option.

Leaf Shave Reusable Razor (with 20pk Blades), $135 from Biome.

Natural Body Wax Strips, $17.99 (currently on sale at $12.59) from Priceline.

Shop as low-waste as possible (for you)

Those little plastic trays of apples boggle my mind. How did they fall so far from the packaging-free tree? If there’s the option, choose loose fruits and vegetables, free of extra unnecessary packaging. You’ll also probably end up wasting less food because you’re buying just what you need. Bring a couple of reusable produce bags with you or repurpose some old totes for bagging ’em up. We’re also big fans of the bulk food store and bulk bin section of supermarkets. Things like oats, rice, beans and other pantry staples can be pretty commonly found sans packaging.

Encourage politicians to phase out single-use plastics

If you wanna take your concern about plastic up the chain, the team at WWF-Australia have created the Don’t Let Nature Go to Waste campaign. They’re urging governments to ban the most problematic single-use plastics and promoting sustainable alternatives. They’re state and territory-specific actions too: you can sign the pledge here and send a message to your Environment Minister.

Minimise your takeaway or choose options with better packaging

If you can’t give up a takeaway, a joy that’s been a light through these dark times, try and figure out how you can enjoy it in a plastic free way. That could be planning ahead and bringing your own reusable containers when you’re visiting your favourite local Indian restaurant, which most often people are happy to accept. Or note down which of the delivery options around you use minimal or compostable packaging.

Monisha Rudhran (@monishamay) is a writer and chronic Pisces. Formerly at Syrup, she's now a Digital Content Producer at ELLE and marie claire Australia. She’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.