A season For Change, Plastic Free July, But Why?
By Mandy DelVecchio
This week marks the beginning of Plastic Free July. A worldwide, month-long initiative aimed at spreading awareness about reducing (particularly single-use) plastic consumables.
While our nation is looking at ‘domestic’ solutions for waste issues, I figured it’s a good time to flip the lens and look at our own domestic waste issues, and focus on coffee-consumer usage, or rather, “useless” habits
According to last week’s national senate inquiry all single-use plastics will be banned by 2023 in a push for Australia to embrace a “circular economy” – where all materials are recovered and reused domestically (within Australia).
It’s a really adult move for our nation.
Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson stating,
“The increasing amounts of material generated for recycling is placing the recycling industry under pressure.”
As it stands, Australia lacks appropriate systems to recycle the amount of consumable plastics waste we are ‘producing’ domestically. Until earlier this year we were shipping our recycling off to China to be processed. Expensive and pretty carbon-ironic really.
But in February China said enough is enough. And now we’re left to deal with our own ‘junk’, and as a result, our government is being forced to make responsible decisions about our nation’s waste.
Fact: It’s reached crisis level for Australia (and the planet, to be honest) recycling is no longer a sustainable solution for the amount of single-use plastics we use on a daily basis.
As consumers, Australians use an estimated 3 billion single-use coffee cups per year, and around 6 billion single-use plastic bags. That’s a lot of single-use junk that passes through our hands.
But it’s not just cups and bags, over 1million plastic straws are used and disposed of PER DAY. Insane. Plastic bottles, take away containers and several other incidental products in the food and beverage industry fall into similar numbers.
Items that are made up either wholly or partly of plastic are in our hands for an average of 7 minutes in total (straws sometimes less than a minute!)
How many of these items do you have in your hands per year?
If the answer is more than 1 and less than 1 billion, then the future of a “circular economy” could be in your hands.
I’ve made it easy for you.
Below are a few ideas and incentives for those who want to ditch single-use habits and try to be a more responsible coffee drinker
Drop it like it's hot:
3 hands-on ways coffee lovers can be better.
1. Drop: single-use cup.
According to Sustainability Australia, coffee drinkers in Australia use around 3 billion takeaway coffee cups every year, and the majority of those go straight to landfill. Imagine you collected all the single-use coffee cups you use? Visualise them piling up in the back seat of your car, or on your work desk for a few weeks, then times that by a billion. That’s what we’re dealing with in Australia RN.
How: Use a cup more than once.
Get yourself a great cup. Love it like you love your pet, or your car, or your Commandante grinder. Make that cup an extension of yourself. Weave it into your routine, bring it everywhere. Make it part of your personality, your outfit of the day. There are so many great cups out there, do your research, find one that fits you. Or, grab a Zest one here: ZEST KEEPCUP
Shallower incentives: Up your accessorising game – match your cup to your nail polish, shoes, or car. Plus, a proper cup of coffee tastes better in a proper coffee cup. Period.
2. Drop: other disposables and use-less habits.
Most of us are slowly getting used to reusing and with Greenbag and Keepcup becoming part of our new consumer lexicon it’s a positive sign for the future. But there are still a few less obvious and equally damaging plastics we may be overlooking.
Most single-use products we take out of habit, or disorganisation, when we could, in fact, replace it with a reusable product. Worse still, some of these items actually become zero use products – we are becoming use-less consumers.
Think of all the plastic straws, plastic cutlery, takeaway containers, that pass through your hands. Think of the extra soy sauce fishy from the sushi bar that floats around your handbag for months, eventually marinating your phone with an umami coating before you chuck it in the bin. Do you need this in your life?
How: get yourself a kit.
To help cut down your single-use habits, get prepared. Set yourself up a ‘reusables kit’. Stock your kit with reusable items such as reusable cups, reusable straws, forks, spoons, stackable coconut bowls, water flasks, a neat lunch box. Your reusable kit will come in handy in 2023 when those single-use items are banned.
Find some sweet eco and reusable items here:
If you do forget your kit and have to take plastic, try to reuse as many times as you can.
Shallower incentives: ‘Grammers, Plastic Free July is a great chance to try some new #hashtags and cross-promote some really great eco-brands.
Also, re-users feeds just look better online, filter or no filter.
**FOR BONUS POINTS**
How to be even better: Quit being use-less
Become aware of your consumption of zero use items
Straws, plastic forks, spoons, cups, paper towels/napkins, even business cards you don’t want and won’t use all instantly become zero use items. Ask yourself as they’re being handed to you ‘Do I Really Need This?’ 9 times out of 10, I promise you, the answer is no.
We usually take zero use items out of ‘politeness’. Honestly, no one’s going to care if you take them or not. (Except the whales and the turtles, and future humans, they’d prefer you not take them.)
To help, practice saying phrases like:
“No thanks”, “No straw”, “No bag thanks”, “No soy”, “No fork/chopsticks/spoon/knife; “No card, I’ll just pop your number in my phone/add you on LinkedIn.”
3. Drop: food on the go
Takeaway has become part of our culture. But do you really need to always be on the run during mealtimes?
Studies have shown people who eat on the run tend to stack on weight easier. When you sit and slow-down at meal times your body has time to digest, sending clearer signals when you’ve had enough, thus resulting in less calorie intake. More importantly, less excess waste.
How: Dine in.
Café owners create a space for you – a place to enjoy their food/coffee/service. They don’t love an empty café, on top of many other reasons, it looks bad for business.
Sit. Use their beautiful crockery, enjoy the ambiance created for you. Save a cup, save a bunch of packaging, save a business, save the planet. Win/win/win/win.
Alone? Even better. Dining alone is ace.
Some great Zest Cafes that are perfect for dining alone:
Selfish Incentives: Dining in, particularly alone, is a great chance for time out for yourself. Even if it’s just 10 minutes – it can be long enough for a sweet brew, some random thoughts, a time to call your mum, or catchup on the 457 messages you missed on that Whattsapp thread.
You don't have to feel over-whelmed, every tweak you make will have an effect, and it feels good. Start in July, tweak a few habits and see if you miss these things – I suspect you won't.
Let me know how you go, and if you have any other great Plastic Free July tips, drop me a comment!
**Cafes interested in exploring some sustainable practices or want advice on stocking/using some reusable products?