Be the plastic pollution solution! Learn how to reduce plastic.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Welcome to Plastic Free July!
Close your eyes and envision a future with cleaner beaches, streets, and neighborhoods. When you become the plastic pollution solution, we're one step closer to making this vision a reality. Take this annual pledge to combat plastic pollution.
(Editor's note: no matter what month you're in reading this, you can still sign the pledge.)
Here’s what we’ll cover step-by-step:
Quick unrelated note: one of our Soapbox members, Liuan, published a piece in Grist on how children can inspire us to reimagine climate solutions. We're so excited to share that our community is prominently featured! It’s a beautiful and uplifting article that’s part of Grist’s Joy edition, so if you’re looking for some sunshine, check this out.
Okey dokey. Now, let’s talk about plastic pollution.
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
We're highlighting three key FAQs from Our World on Data on plastic pollution. The whole article is worth a read — it’s a very helpful, consolidated view of all things plastic waste. Here's what you'll learn in this Q&A:
1. How much plastic do we produce?
Plastic production since 1950 has increased ~200x. Two. Hundred. Fold. In 2015, annual production had reached 381 million tonnes, which is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population.Today, with cumulative production from 1950, we have more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive. MORE THAN ONE TONNE. That’s like a cow’s worth of plastic for each one of us. 🐄
2. Which industry causes the most plastic pollution?
Maybe not a huge surprise, but it’s packaging. The thing that did surprise us is the runner-up: the textile industry causes the second-highest level of plastic pollution. 👕
3. How much of global plastic is recycled?
In 2015, ~55% of global plastic waste was discarded, ~25% was incinerated, and ~20% is recycled. Historically (since 1950), that cumulative percentage is closer to 10%, but things seem to be looking up for recycling. Managing plastic waste has been a hot topic as more people have been learning that our precious recyclables are actually often thrown in landfill, so definitely check out the article to get a deeper dive into recycling and waste management.
Plastic pollution affects our oceans, our food systems, our land, and so much else of the planet we live on and love. Check out the rest of the FAQs here to keep yourself informed. If you’re stressed out by the cows worth of plastic you’re representing in this world, make sure to sign the Plastic Free July pledge! 🖊️
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
Why is 99% of ocean plastic pollution is “missing”? Basically, we emit a buttload of plastic into the ocean and we can't find it.
Vox is here to investigate The Case of the Missing Plastic.
You'll learn that:
There’s no official answer on where exactly the 99% of missing plastic goes, but we have some pretty robust clues: the seafloor sediment, un-broken-down at the bottom of the ocean, the shoreline…
This Twitter account posts regular updates of their simulations of ocean plastic pollution around the world. If you’re a data nerd or an ocean nerd or just a regular nerd, follow them! Also, http://plasticadrift.org/ is an interactive tool for seeing where ocean trash can come from.
So yeah, we’re creating so much waste that we are LOSING IT. Yikes yikes yikes. Big problems mean big solutions, and that’s what we’re all here for, right?
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
Here are 5 actions of varying time commitment, difficulty, and fun-ness.
1. Pick ONE plastic replacement to commit to every day.
As Linkin Park said, “It starts with one thing." Pick ONE plastic item you’re committing to replacing in your own life. For our founder, Nivi, it’s produce bags. She's been doing this since last July and she's noticed that just starting with one thing makes the whole process SO much easier. It also helps her talk about it to friends and family since she's not trying to tackle a zillion issues at once.
2. Get inspired through stories.
We talk about this a lot — Soapbox operates with the lens that hope is really important + imagining the futures we want to live in is key. Take 5-10 min to browse Plastic Free July’s story library. Bonus points if you submit your own.
3. Upstream plastics packaging FREE course.
Take this course with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. By “course mean watch this YouTube video. We’ll learn stuff we can apply to our businesses + workplaces!
4. Support your local zero-waste/refill store
Google “zero waste store near me” or “local bulk store” or click here. If you live in a city, there is a VERY high chance you have a small zero waste store nearby and don’t know about it. These margins are tricky and the stores are struggling — they need to know we care!
Here’s the thing. Plastic recycling is pretty much a scam. If you’re doing it, keep doing it, but the real landfill diversion happens when we compost! There are SO many resources online on how to compost, so start there: Google “how to compost”. 🪱🎉
Solving the plastic problem requires policy and upstream solutions, and we should never forget that WE are part of these solutions. Our individual actions add up and they get us to keep caring about the big picture while finding others who are down for this journey.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
Let's talk about habit-building. Yes, it’s not a plastic pollution-specific topic, but I’m CONSTANTLY seeing us create more plastic waste not because we don’t care, but because we forget our various mugs/totes/bottles/etc.
Ready to make our lives better with sustainable habits? Let’s do it!
Before we go through all the habit-building stuff, we did want to share an article about how plastic recycling doesn’t work and never will based on the material itself.
The main point:
Chemical recycling is not viable. It has failed and will continue to fail for the same down-to-earth, real-world reasons that the conventional mechanical recycling of plastics has consistently failed. Worse yet, its toxic emissions could cause new harm to our environment, climate, and health.
The other main point is that proven solutions to plastic pollution reduction exist, like single-use plastic bans.
Ok onto habit time!
Many of you may have read Atomic Habits — it’s one of the highest-sold ✨lifehack✨ books ever — and if you haven’t, here’s what you need to know: James Clear, the author, breaks down the four steps of habit-building in a way that is applicable to basically everything.
We're going to teach you the steps below along with an example of how I might do this with my goal of bringing reusable produce bags with me when I go to the store to reduce plastic.
Your action is to pick your plastic-breaking habit (e.g. bring sustainable produce bags to the store) and map out the four steps.
And with that, it's a wrap! (But not plastic wrap, no no no.)
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!
Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!