The Future Leap Team on Plastic Free July
Over the last month, the Future Leap team have attempted the Plastic Free July challenge in one form or another – whether that be cutting down on single use plastics, making simple swaps or changes in behaviour. We have all learned the difficulties behind minimising plastic usage, and how this can be almost unachievable in some instances, and for some people altogether.
Here is what we have to say to wrap up the challenge…
Future Leap General Manager
Plastic free July really highlights how dependant our modern society is on single use plastic, it’s inescapable. My plastic free July was not perfect. I find it fairly easy to avoid plastic in most day-to-day activities with a few simple swaps. Carrying a reusable bag, water bottle and even cutlery are easy to do once they become habit and that little extra effort in planning and packing for a day out is worth it to reduce waste. I have been gradually reducing single use plastic in my kitchen and bathroom again making a few swaps each month to things like bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tablets and refillable cleaning products. These things are pretty easy to do as you just need to be a little more mindful shopping around for household staples and Future Leap hub has lots of options.
I have become a more discerning shopper over the years but have most difficulty reducing plastic in the food I buy. Cooking more from scratch and buying veg from local green grocers can reduce a significant amount of plastic waste but sometimes the Supermarket is unavoidable for later opening times and convenience. There are ingredients (often refrigerated products) that are difficult to find plastic free alternatives for, such as Tofu. A few little wins I have discovered recently are: milk and oat milk subscription in a returnable glass bottle. Some (vegan) sausages and burgers are packed in carboard in the freezer section whereas those in the fridge sections are plastic wrapped. Making humous and tasty dips at home are cheap, easy and fun you just need a blender, a tin of beans and some spices. Making pop-corn in a pan at home rather than buying a packet of crisps makes a tasty and healthy snack.
Plastic free July has been eye-opening!
The realisations have been two-fold, I have discovered how plastic sneaks into my purchasing habits on such a regular basis almost without me noticing, and also how many non-plastic alternatives there are available including a host of new products I am excited to try.
I have found that traveling has provided the most difficult situations to avoid plastic, service stations and train station shops just do not supply enough plastic free alternatives, especially when it comes to cold drinks and food on the go. However, through learning about upcoming inventions such as CanCan sharing, who spoke at our Cicular Economy event this month, I am hopeful that this will change.
There are many products and ways of using household items which I intend to carry on with after plastic-free July, whether this is taking an extra few seconds to look for cardboard packaged products in the supermarket, browsing second-hand items on Facebook marketplace to avoid new plastic, shopping in plastic free stores or continuing with my veg box delivery, I am determined to make a conscious effort to avoid plastic where possible.
Megan Foster Flaherty
Marketing and Communications Officer
I started off my Plastic Free July not really knowing what more I could be doing to reduce my plastic use. I am already lucky enough to have zero waste shops such as Scoopaway and Preserve near the Future Leap Hub and my house. Plus, at home, we collect any single use plastic that can’t be recycled to make some very cool eco-bricks out of 2 litre lemonade bottles. It transpires that I was very wrong!
I found it particularly hard to avoid plastic whilst travelling in London. There are so few zero waste shops which take a while to travel to and aren’t any good on the go. I also found that most vegan alternatives are wrapped in single use plastic which is very frustrating and seems to defeat the point. Certain foods like frozen peas come in plastic and I haven’t been able to find any alternatives. However, it has made me look at small changes that make a real difference. Getting popcorn from a zero-waste shop and buying things like olives, falafel and hummus from local deli’s that use Vegware has hugely reduced my single use plastic waste. Not to mention that supporting local independent businesses is a great added bonus, and the olives from El Comado on Gloucester Road are the best I’ve ever had.
I’ve really enjoyed exploring more plastic free options through local businesses, but I have found that it is a huge privilege to have the time, money and access to so many plastic free options. It’s a lot harder to find alternatives in supermarkets, I was tricked into thinking that tacos came in a cardboard box only to open it and find them wrapped in plastic. But the alternatives are out there, and I found that it is worth the extra time looking for them. It helped to have the support of the team so we could share our struggles, but also our wins – of which there were many! I also found it useful to see how much plastic I was reducing. As a household of three, we can normally fill one eco brick every couple of months but since we made these changes it’s still less than a quarter full.
My plastic free July has been varied. It started really well. I made no purchases of plastic, but I also noticed that I was just making less purchases overall and eating and using what I had previously purchased. – Of which things used plastic, so I don’t know if it counts.
I also went on a camping trip to remote part of Scotland. I was not involved in the purchases for the trip but even if I was, I struggle to imagine how I could have gone completely plastic free and still be able to enjoy varied meals each day.
Plastic free July has made me look and make more considered purchases and reducing my consumption overall. It’s been a positive result, even if I wasn’t able to completely eliminate it.
Plastic free July was an incredible insight into how much plastic we use even when we are trying not to! From coffee to toothpaste and hummus pots to leafy greens, this month helped me highlight some key actions I can take moving forwards. I was actually already considering quitting coffee, and when I first picked up that plastic bag at the beginning of the month it felt like a good time to do it – so here I am 4 weeks later feeling calmer and more proactive with a lack of caffeine in my system! I’ve also found out handy tips such as Superdrugs with pharmacies in them recycle your empty tablet blister packs for you, and you can even recycle your toothpaste tubes if you do some research on Terracycle. The biggest lesson I learned was to rethink my use of plastic before I even got to the recycle stage – recycling should be the last resort in the 5 R’s!
Marketing and Communications Manager
This month’s challenge has really got me thinking about the infrastructure and firmly rooted systems we have in place within society, making it difficult to make conscious decisions in cutting down on single use items and packaging that ultimately leads to pollution.
Of course, many of us try to be aware of our waste to some extent. We might also think that we are already very good at it. But Plastic Free July bought the challenges, and how far we still have to go to the forefront of my mind.
I have clocked on to how complacent we have become in being able to pop to a supermarket, purchasing nearly everything that we could need in one go. As is widely known, the convenience of supermarkets has not only led to the detriment of local high street shops, green grocers, fishmongers and butchers, but the amount of plastic packaging is overwhelming. This month, I have tried to change my routine and patterns in behaviour to avoid supermarkets, instead opting for a round of my local shops – leading to minimal packaging, as well as keeping my money circulating in my neighbourhood.
After spending a weekend away at a friend’s community farm, I have also been reflecting on the space needed to cut down on waste. Due to the nature of this farm, there was plenty of space and the hands needed to maintain a thriving vegetable garden. This meant that we spent all weekend eating food straight from the earth, and there was no better feeling! Of course, in towns and cities we do not always have these resources available. Wouldn’t it be lovely for us all to pull together, and make the most of spaces available to grow food and develop local community food systems? Initiatives such as Plastic Free July have led to many constructive thoughts and ideas, and if we plant the seeds of these ideas, the rest is sure to follow.
Refill Stations – a great option in reducing plastic
Our Network members, Better Food Co, have a range of plastic-free options as well as a complete refill station. With locations across Bristol, be sure to pop in for a range of reusable, organic and sustainable products.