• Animal Care
  • Marine Conservation

What is Plastic Free July?

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: July 15, 2022

One day in the far future, archaeologists won’t just be digging up bones and building fragments as evidence of our time – they will be digging up plastic, too. 

One scientific paper suggested that plastics might one day be used to date the sediment they are buried in, in the way that geologists use fossils. Plastic has been spread so far and wide around it is changing the earth’s surface. 

Plastic is a problem, one that Plastic Free July is trying to address. Plastic Free July is a global movement to get millions of people involved in solutions to plastic pollution. Choosing to take action and refusing to use single-use plastics can help to create cleaner communities and environments. Even if you just make small changes, collectively this adds up.

Here’s what you need to know about the plastic crisis, and how you can get involved in Plastic Free July and environmental studies internships


The plastic crisis


Original photo  by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash


One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world, according to the UN Environment Programme. And that’s not the only grim statistic; up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. At least half of all plastic produced is intended to be used once and thrown away.

And despite our planet choking on plastic, plastic production is increasing. We’re producing twice as much plastic waste compared to two decades ago and only 9% of that is successfully recycled – the rest ends up in landfill, the environment or is incinerated, a report from the OECD says. 

In the environment, plastic kills millions of animals each year. Marine life is particularly vulnerable – nearly every type of seabird is known to eat plastic, National Geographic says. And as many as 56% of whales, dolphins and porpoises have consumed plastic, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Eating plastic also causes animals to starve to death, when their stomachs are so packed with plastic waste they physically can’t eat. Many other deaths are caused when creatures like whales, turtles and seals get tangled up in plastic. 


What can you do? Some tips for living with less plastic


Making a few simple swaps can help to reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce. You don’t have to make the changes all at once, or throw away things you already have – you can simply start integrating plastic free alternatives into your daily routine until you have phased out the most common culprits for single use plastic. 


For Plastic Free July, here are some great places to start:


Don’t forget your reusable bags


Skip the plastic bags and take a reusable shopping bag instead. As well as your main shopping bags, remember your reusable produce bags for bagging fruit and vegetables. 


Use a reusable coffee cup


Disposable coffee cups are convenient, but if you’re a frequent coffee drinker, they add up. Find a reusable coffee cup you like drinking out of and remember to grab it on your way out of the house in the morning. 


Make a reusable kit for on the go


Getting food on the run often means plastic containers, cutlery and straws.

Make yourself a small kit with a reusable fork and spoon (they can even just be old ones from your cutlery drawer) and straw, so you can say no to single use plastic options if you order food to go.  

Bonus points if you take your own takeaway containers as well. 


Refill when you can


Cut down on food packaging waste by shopping at refill stores when you can. You don’t need fancy containers to refill, you can simply reuse glass jars.

You can also shop for food in bulk to reduce plastic packaging. 


Switch from bottles to bars


These days, you can buy most toiletry products in solid form, from shampoo bars, to solid conditioner bars, face washes and moisturisers. Switching out plastic bottles of body wash or hand wash to old fashioned soap bars can help reduce the amount of plastic you go through. 


Other ways to tackle the problem



If you want to take more action for Plastic Free July, consider signing up for a relevant GVI environmental studies internship. Within these programs, there are several different ways of addressing plastic waste, in practical ways that will also give you great work experience. 

GVI volunteer participants can contribute to citizen science databases by collecting data on plastic pollution. Recording and analysing data on plastic pollution is an important part of understanding how to combat it. In the plastic pollution and convservation internship in Thailand, conducting plastic awareness workshops helps to promote better waste disposal in the community. 

GVI is committed to tackling plastic waste through a number of initiatives as part of other environmental studies internships, too. 

In Dive for Debris, participants in our diving locations help to clean the seafloor. Regular beach clean ups at our bases also contribute to supporting plastic free marine environments, as well as using plastic bottles and soft plastic waste to create eco bricks.  

When joining a GVI program, you also have the flexibility to work on your own initiatives, letting your passions guide you through valuable work experience that can boost your CV. For example, a GVI volunteer joined a four-week virtual internship with our Chiang Mai base in Thailand. During her internship, she was asked by one of our partners (Breathe Ocean Conservation) to create a social media plan for Plastic Free July. 


Support the environment for long after Plastic Free July when you sign up to environmental studies internships with GVI. To find out more about what you can do to preserve the natural world, get in touch today. 

Disclaimer: Images in this article were taken pre COVID-19

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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