In the children's film, "WALL-E", the waste pollution on planet earth grows so bad that it forces all the humans to evacuate on a spaceship, leaving behind robots to clear up the mess, periodically sending back probes to see if the planet has recovered enough to support life again. Whilst this is charming children's story on one level, and on another, it could be viewed as a dystopian view of humanity's future- a doomed, everlasting existence floating round space because we couldn't solve our planet's pollution problems!
Perhaps we should all see it as a warning and put all our efforts into finding a practical solution before it genuinely is, too late.
The Covid-19 pandemic may be waning, but it has revealed some unexpected benefits for our planet as air pollution levels dropped during lockdown and nature seemed to breathe easy for a short while as we humans ceased our non-essential activities. So, there is hope, and we at Parenta believe there is also the will – and as the old adage says, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!”
Plastic Free July is one initiative which aims to get everyone around the globe doing their bit, however small. It’s not so much about pressuring governments or making grand gestures (although no one would disapprove of that), it’s more about getting a ground swell of support for small changes that have a big impact.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is a global movement started by the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Australia in 2011 as a way to reduce waste. They started by replacing disposable coffee cups and moved on from there. So far, their ideas has inspired over a quarter of a million people in over 177 countries to make a difference and reduce their reliance on single-use plastic.
Often, we as consumers feel that we are presented with a fait accompli regarding plastics, as food comes ready-packaged, alternatives seem costly, or we simply cannot see another option. But the organisers of Plastic Free July use the tagline “choose to refuse” in an attempt to educate us and show us that we really do have the ability to redress the balance in our shopping choices and everyday decisions. They recommend everyone starts small – by choosing one thing such as plastic water bottles, single-use coffee cups, or plastic cutlery, and go from there.
Their website hosts a free downloadable poster for getting started called, “My challenge choices” which gives suggestions on how to begin. Whether it’s using beeswax covers instead of plastic cling wrap, or shopping at the deli counter instead of always opting for the pre-packed bacon, the website is full of great ideas and resources.
Over the last few years, nurseries and their clients have become more and more aware of the impact that plastic pollution has on the environment, as well as the large contribution that the early years sector makes to this, with its use of disposable nappies, plastic cutlery/straws/plates and plastic toys and games. We’ve run several articles in the magazine over the last few years to promote alternatives, and you too can join in the crusade and get on board now with Plastic Free July.
Here are a few ideas from the website to get you started:
As an individual
- Refill water bottles
- Buy and use a reusable drinks cup for your take-away drinks
- Look at alternatives to disposable tampons and pads for plastic-free periods
- Switch to reusable nappies
- Exchange liquid soap for bars of soap to reduce packaging, or choose brands that will refill old, cleaned-out bottles
- Seek out plastic-free alternatives to toothbrushes and toothpaste such as bamboo ones or refills
- Visit the deli counter and only buy the amount you need, wrapped in biodegradable packaging
- Always take reusable bags with you when you shop
- Refuse single-use plastic straws or bring you own reusable alternative
- Avoid teabags that use plastic – you’ll be surprised how many there are
In your setting:
- Set up a water refilling station and advise the parents
- Buy refills for everyday supplies rather than new bottles - things such as hand soap, washing-up liquid and cleaning products
- Buy food supplies in bulk and decant into reusable containers rather than buy pre-packaged food
- Reduce or eliminate your use of balloons and glitter
- Use alternatives to plastic straws such as paper or reusable ones
- Organise a park or beach clean-up (following social distancing rules of course)
- Link up with other nurseries or groups who want to reduce plastic waste too, to see if you can make savings together (once we are fully out of lockdown, of course!)
- Hold an awareness event or encourage the parents to get involved in Plastic Free July too by using your influence and your social media connections
- Challenge your staff to join you in your commitment
- Campaign in your local area by writing to your MP or local council for better recycling facilities, policies and practices to reduce waste
There are many useful resources on the Plastic Free July website which you can find and download here. These include posters, informative videos, promotional products and social media assets to help you promote the event. Even if your setting is not fully back from lockdown, this is a great time to begin planning for your future, which should include reducing your setting’s impact on the environment.
Remember that 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and we absolutely have a duty to protect the environment for the benefit of future generations. What will be the point if we spend all our time raising a generation of responsible, well-rounded and caring individuals and then let them inherit a waste mountain? Surely they, and we, deserve better? Which means taking action NOW.
We’d love to hear your ideas for reducing your plastic consumption – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you’re doing and the impact you’re having
For more information, see: