About the event
Plastic Free July was started in 2011 by a small number of local government employees in Western Australia. The project has since become an internationally recognised event with an estimated 140 million individuals and communities in 190 countries aiming to reduce their plastic usage. The month is all about encouraging change on a large scale, from our own homes, to institutions, community groups and companies.
How to approach it
This is a great time to educate students about the harms of plastic overuse and the wider problem of overconsumption. This WWF pack on the oceans and plastic use is a great starting point. You could show images of overfilled landfills, the great pacific garbage patch or animals caught in plastic. Be careful only to show a limited amount of negative images here. To balance this, show pictures of what a plastic free world could look like. Compare for example, a market stall with fresh produce and a supermarket where everything is individually wrapped in plastic. Ask students: why do we waste so much food, packaging and throwaway items? What would a world without this waste look like?
Secondly, a lot of discussion around plastic use and recycling is taken in isolation from the wider problems this is part of. It’s important that reducing plastic is not presented as a fix-all solution or recycling as the only thing required of us to ‘do our bit’. Show students that plastic use is connected to the wider climate crisis and overconsumption of fossil fuels. Show that if we tackle these problems together they can be solved more effectively. For example, cutting down on the production and use of fossil fuels will mean less available plastic and companies will be forced to find alternatives. Having a more localised, fresh food system will mean less products have to be vacuum packed for long distance transportation. Encourage students to make these connections through discussion.
Thirdly, you could encourage students to think about how they can advocate for change in their own communities. Explain to them that Plastic Free July is about launching initiatives to use less plastic individually, locally and nationally. This could be an opportunity to explore different types of collective action such as forming a community group, writing letters, lobbying officials, or starting a local campaign.
We know that, for the sake of the ocean and the land, we have to stop using so much plastic. But that’s not the only issue we have to tackle. We use too much plastic because we use too many fossil fuels in all parts of our life from the transport we use to homes that we heat. Cutting down on plastic is one aspect of climate action, can you think of another?