The Plastic Free July challenge sounded easy in writing but boy was I in for a shocker…
ICYDK, it’s Plastic Free July! Led by the Plastic Free Foundation, the amazing global campaign aims to free the world of plastic waste. Over 326 million people have participated in the campaign. And we’ve saved a whopping 900 million kg of plastic waste, including single-use drink bottles, coffee cups, straws and plastic bags.
So, what’s the challenge? Simply avoid single-use plastic in your day-to-day life. Sounds easy in writing but trust me, I was alarmed at the amount of single-use plastic encounters during my challenge.
Did I pass the Plastic Free challenge?
But first, let’s talk about the why. I’m in the middle when it comes to conscious plastic consumption. Pre-Covid, I had my reusable cup, cutlery and metal straw handy in the office; or an extra bag for shopping. I’ve always been wary of using too much plastic and recycling, but I wasn’t always consistent.
The situation in Singapore
It got worse for me when the pandemic hit. The increase in food deliveries meant more single-use packaging. Since I went out less, I’d always forget to pack an extra bag or reusables. According to the National Environment Agency, plastic waste generated dropped by seven percent in 2020. But the total waste generated (868 tonnes!) and recycling rate (a measly 4%) is still alarming. Crazy, right?
Let Plastic Free July begin!
Here’s what went down during the first week…
Day #1: Off to a good start
Working from home has its perks so it was really easy to stick to the rules! I had a light brunch, coffee and a home cooked meal.
Number of plastics used: zero. I was pumped for the week ahead.
Day #2: I think I’m a pro at this
Grocery shopping day! Since I’d already planned ahead, I packed a few reusable bags for my items. Thanks to my mum, I’ve been practising this since I was young.
My mum always had extra bags to store heavy or wet items so the habit stuck with me. We’ve recently taken it a step further using net bags for fruit and veggies so we don’t have to turn to that horrific roll of plastic. I didn’t buy a lot of items so a couple of bags were enough.
Number of plastics used: I’d like to say zero bags. But technically, the groceries I bought came in plastic packaging too. I’m going to give myself a pass on this. It’s just more convenient to go to a supermarket nearby than a specialty grocery store that uses less plastic. What I’ll do however is reuse as many bags as I can (including bread wrappers and boxes) and dispose of the rest correctly.
Day #3: I’m on a roll
After a month of working from home, I went back to the office for a shoot. I brought my reusable cup that came in handy for my morning cuppa. My colleague and I decided not to tapao our lunch for a change since we’re rarely in the office. Not only was it a great catch up, I avoided using any plastic containers or bags. *Pats on back*
Number of plastics used: zero.
Day #4: Houston, we have a problem
It’s the weekend! Everything was going fine until I had to take away my dinner due to a change of plans. I didn’t go prepared so it was plastic city. My heart sank when I received plastic containers packed in plastic bags. I don’t think it would’ve affected me as much before the challenge. I was also charged an additional 30 cents for each container.
Number of plastics used: four containers and two plastic bags.
Day #5: Making an effort
I got a cool enamel tingkat carrier from a media drop a while back but never used it until today. I was feeling a little guilty from yesterday’s fiasco so I skipped the food delivery and visited my neighbourhood hawker centre.
I was afraid the hawker uncle would nag at me for the inconvenience. But he just laughed at how big my tingkat carrier was for one dish and cheekily asked me to order more food. He also appreciated my gesture as it saves cost on plastic containers for his takeaway orders. Sadly, he mentioned it’s still a rare sight to see people bringing their own containers.
Number of plastics used: zero.
Day #6: Oh no, not again
Thanks to a light lunch, I was already starving before dinner time. My husband was on the way back from work and decided to tapao dinner for us. I was too hungry to think of a plan B so I caved in. He didn’t take up the Plastic Free July challenge so he came back with… more plastic. Sigh.
Number of plastics used: 2 plastic bags, 2 plastic containers (small and big) and 1 paper box.
Day #7: Ended the week on a right note
I went back to the office again. This time I came prepared. Collapsible silicone container, reusable cups and cutlery – you name it, I brought it. I was carrying some bulky items anyway so adding a few more didn’t make a difference. I was also determined to complete the challenge so pardon my enthusiasm. Well, it worked!
Number of plastics used: zero.
Takeaways from my Plastic Free July challenge
Though I didn’t pass the test, it was a pretty good attempt. I stayed away from single-use plastic – yes, I’m reusing all those plastic bags. I’m also more aware of plastic encounters. Tip: plan your day ahead. Just like setting reminders for your day-to-day activities, set one every night so there’s always an extra carrier or reusable container in your bag. Sure, it’s tough to train your mindset to avoid using single-use plastic at first, but simply make an effort and you’ll see results.
Aside from plastic bags, there are other ways to live a conscious lifestyle. I’ve since used silicon bags to store produce and reused bread packaging as trash bags. I’ve discarded glass bottles and paper items properly in a recycling bin and removed cotton pads and cotton buds from my beauty routine. All the packaging from my online shopping are also given a second life as garbage bags.
Overall, I believe we can all do our part to reduce plastic waste in our daily lives – beyond a campaign or time frame. I’ll continue to do my utmost best in this plastic-free journey.
Do you have a Plastic Free July experience to share? DM us @Honeycombers!