We need community effort for Plastic Free July

We Need Community Effort for Plastic-Free July

It’s July and time for the annual global initiative: Plastic Free July. This campaign encourages individuals, communities, and businesses worldwide to reduce their plastic usage, particularly single-use plastics, to combat plastic pollution. But why is it so vital to cut down on plastic use, and how can we, as a local community, contribute to this critical cause?

Plastic pollution is an escalating global crisis. Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in our oceans and waterways, posing severe threats to marine life and ecosystems. While commercial fishing is the main source of plastic in the oceans, single-use plastics from everyday individuals also contribute to the issue. Bags and packaging are particularly problematic because they are used briefly but stay in the environment for centuries, breaking down into microplastics that infiltrate our water, food, and even the air we breathe.

The problem is not limited to far-off sea locations; plastic and other waste are widespread in our cities, including Sheffield. This litter not only looks unsightly but also poses a hazard to urban animals, local biodiversity, and public health. It contributes to air pollution, releasing harmful toxins and fine particles that can cause respiratory issues and long-term lung damage. Additionally, living in littered areas can negatively impact mental and emotional well-being, leading to feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. Reducing our reliance on these plastics is essential to protecting our environment and health.

The government should make firm commitments to addressing single-use plastic, littering, and fly-tipping. They should also make it easier and more widespread to recycle plastics that are currently difficult to recycle. Furthermore, they could offer incentives to organisations to use more eco-friendly alternatives to excessive plastic use. 

As Sheffield residents, it’s important to take practical steps to reduce plastic waste, starting this July and continuing throughout the year. Here are a few ideas that you can do in your everyday life to help. 

Choose recyclable packaging for food, like paper, glass, or metal packaging. These materials are easier to recycle and have a lower environmental impact than many single-use plastics. Alternatively, opt for no plastic at all by buying local, unpackaged produce. The Moor Market, Stannington Fruit & Veg, Fruit a Peel, Pat O Brien butchers, Ozmens and Just Natural are all shops where you can take your own bags and containers to get fresh food. Or sign up for a veg box scheme with one of Sheffield’s amazing city farmers such as Sheffield Organic Growers, Moss Valley Market Gardens or Regather. Supporting environmentally friendly businesses helps establish plastic-free options as the standard and encourages more companies to adopt similar practices.

Most people in the city have access to recycling bins at home. Help keep waste off our streets and out of landfills by recycling what you can, especially plastics. You can put the following plastic in your brown bin: kitchen packaging like squash, pop and milk bottles; cosmetics like shampoo, conditioner and hand soap bottles; and cleaning packaging like bleach and sprays. Another way you can stop more plastic from going to waste is by repairing and reusing items. Mending and fixing anything that has broken instead of throwing them away is a fantastic way to use the resources we already have and can save you a lot of money. Green City Action is a great example of a make-do and mend initiative. They run a community Toolbank which provides low-cost tool hire to people and community groups in Burngreave and the surrounding area. 

As I mentioned before, it’s not solely up to individuals; we all need to work together to make a significant impact. Here are some ways you can seek help from those in positions of power/authority to bring about real change:

Engage with local representatives: Write to your local MP or councillor to inquire about their efforts to reduce plastic use in our community. Political advocacy can lead to substantial changes in policies and regulations.

Involve educational institutions: Discuss with schools, colleges, or universities you’re involved with (either as a parent or student) about their initiatives to reduce plastic. Educational institutions can greatly influence young minds and promote a culture of sustainability.

Support sustainable practices at work: Encourage your employer to implement measures to reduce plastic use, such as eliminating single-use plastics in the office and promoting eco-friendly products and practices.

One local organisation making significant strides in this area is Sheffield Action on Plastic. This community environmental group works with residents, businesses, and organisations to reduce single-use plastics. Their initiatives include educational workshops, community clean-ups, and partnerships with local businesses to promote sustainable practices. By supporting such organisations, we can amplify our impact and work towards a plastic-free Sheffield. 

Plastic Free July is not just about individual actions; it’s about fostering a collective mindset shift towards sustainability. Every small change contributes to a larger impact. When we, as a community, commit to reducing our plastic use, we not only help the environment but also inspire others to join the movement. Reducing plastic use is a journey, not a destination. By taking consistent, mindful actions, we can make a lasting difference. This July, let’s come together as a community to embrace the challenge and commit to a future free of plastic pollution.

For more information on how you can get involved, visit Sheffield Action on Plastic sheffieldactiononplastic.co.uk or sheffood.org.uk. Together, we can pave the way for a cleaner, greener future.

Growing & Composting