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Plastic Free July

Plastic-free July began in Western Australia in 2011. Eleven years on from its humble beginnings in local government, it’s an initiative that has spread to 190 countries, and has been taken on by an estimated 140 million people. I am one of those people. You can be too.

There’s nothing exceptional about July; it was simply the first full month after coming up with the idea that its pioneers had to take action. I have – both knowingly and unknowingly – been participating in plastic-free July for years. I knew I wanted to reduce plastic the minute I learned how detrimental it is to the natural world, and the animals that inhabit it. That includes us: humans.

You might have heard the statistics. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight. But recently studies have also shown microplastics in human blood for the first time. Not only that, but lots of plastics contain phthalates – an endocrine-disrupting chemical (they mess with hormones) – a seemingly conspiratorial type of fact, but it’s so frighteningly well-documented that the scientific community even tell us which plastics to avoid: recycling codes 3 and 7.

Rather than navigating this plastic minefield, worrying whether your cow’s milk contains phthalates because it’s travelled through a plastic tube, or been stored in a plastic bottle, we could just avoid the plastic. Rather than worrying if your food has absorbed some of the BPA from its packaging, we could just avoid the plastic. Rather than buying from big supermarkets where plastic is rife, we could support small, independent, minimal plastic stores, like mine, and avoid the plastic.

I bought Earth Warriors – a minimal plastic shop on Skinnergate that sells refills of lots of household liquids and foods – back in February. I did this because I was determined to provide a service to the people of Darlington that would allow us to reduce our plastic waste.

We ship half a million metric tonnes of plastic to the other side of the world every year, because we have maxed out the capacity for recycling in the UK. Eliminating plastic may not be possible for a long time to come. But cutting down can happen any time we want. We just have to want it enough.

Plastic-free July is the start, but it doesn’t have to be the end. I’m grateful for every customer through the doors of Earth Warriors, because I know they’re going out of their way to be the change they want to see in the world.

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