Welcome to Plastic Free July with Green Venture! Over the course of the month, we’ll be learning all about what it means to move towards a world that’s plastic free – and we’ll be sharing tips, tricks, and local resources to help us along the way.
Started by the Plastic Free Foundation in 2011, Plastic Free July is a global movement encouraging people to reduce plastic pollution in the month of July and beyond.
To kick off Plastic Free July, we hosted our friends at Park Market & Refillery for a pop-up at EcoHouse on June 30th. Swapping out products that come packaged in plastic, like personal care and household cleaning products, for refillable, package-free options is a great place to start reducing your plastic use! We also hosted a staff litter clean-up in our neighbourhood, and Veevers Park, where we were able to pick up several bags of trash. Much of what we picked up included small, non-recyclable pieces of plastic.
Over the next few weeks, be sure to keep up with us on social media as we profile our Green Venture staff team and share their journey towards being plastic free, learn about tips and tricks to bring zero waste into our lives, and share the chance to win a zero waste product.
You can check out the first #StaffSwap profile shared by Miranda, our Manager of Green Infrastructure Programs, here!
We also invite you to join us at our first ever Repair Cafe event, happening on Tuesday, July 27th, from 4-7PM at EcoHouse! We’ll be bringing together some of our mending, sewing, and fixing friends from the community to help repair products. Keep watching this space for additional event details.
Park Market & Refillery will also be at our Repair Cafe for another pop-up shop on July 27th – catch them from 4-6pm!
Plastic waste has come to touch every aspect of our lives. Earth Day reports that 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually, with one garbage truck’s worth of plastic dumped into the ocean every single minute. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
It can take anywhere from decades to centuries (WWF) in order to decompose, and as larger plastic breaks down into microplastics, it pollutes our environment at a microscopic level.
Breaking It Down: What’s the difference between something that decomposes, and something that biodegrades?
Decompose: When something decomposes, it breaks down into its component parts. Some things decompose quickly, others take hundreds or even thousands of years (and sometimes even longer).
Biodegrade: When something is biodegradable, it can be broken down by microorganisms in the environment within a relatively short time period. These microorganisms might include bacteria or fungi. Biodegradable materials should return back to our earth, but recent studies have observed that this isn’t always the case – for example, “biodegradable plastic bags” were still completely intact after a few years in the natural environment. Biodegradation is a type of decomposition.
Compost: Compost is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms over a short period of time. When we compost things like our food scraps, we can return the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients back into our earth in the form of totally natural, organic materials. For something to be considered compostable, it must decompose into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic materials, and organic matter called humus. It also needs to break down fully within about 90 days to be considered compostable, although most municipal compost facilities require that materials break down much faster. Composting is a type of biodegradation.
Microplastics, or tiny plastics less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter (National Geographic) have infiltrated our water systems, and have now been found in even the most remote geographic locations. They affect our ecosystems and natural food chains when animals accidentally consume them, like marine life and birds. In Scotland, it has been over 20 years since a fulmar seabird has been found without some form of plastic ingested. When wildlife is unable to digest plastic, it results in starvation.
But microplastics don’t just find their way into the diets of wildlife – they also work their way into ours. A 2019 study by the University of Newcastle observed we now consume, on average, one credit card’s worth of plastic (in the form of microplastics) every week. This adds up to the consumption of approximately 40lbs of plastic over the human lifetime. Microplastics are in our food, water, and air. WWF cites that our water – both bottled, and tap – is the largest source of the microplastics that enter our bodies.
The good news is that we have the power to reduce our overall plastic consumption when we go plastic free! Saying no to unnecessary and single use plastic means less plastic and microplastics in our environment. Simplifying our routines and swapping our products are two great ways to get started. We know that this can feel overwhelming, but small changes add up (and our Green Venture team is here to help you navigate the way).
While it’s true that proper recycling practices can help reduce the amount of plastic waste that gets lost in our environment, policies vary by region, and can often be tricky to navigate. Stay tuned for our Hamilton Waste Policy Blog post, which will break down waste regulations in our city, to help you know what we can and can’t recycle (and why).
In addition to following along with us for Plastic Free July, we will be connecting with some of our community partners throughout the month. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of our plastic-free or zero-waste friends:
- A Greener Place
- Bay Area Climate Change Council
- Bulk Barn
- Eco Hamilton Collective
- McMaster Sustainability Academic Sustainability Programs Office
- Mohawk Sustainability (MoCo)
- Mrs. Greenway
- Mustard Seed Co-Op
- Park Market & Refillery
- The Glass Jar Refillery
- The Pale Blue Dot
- Zero Waste Hamilton
You can also visit our zero-waste resources webpage here for more information, local businesses, and ways that you can integrate plastic-free options into your home.