Learning & Development

Are You Taking Part in Plastic Free July? Key Strategies for Reducing Plastic in the Workplace

Posted by iAM Learning

Every minute, a truckload of plastic is dumped into our oceans. 

Let that sink in for a moment. By the time you finish reading this sentence, another wave of plastic waste will have crashed onto our shores, choking marine life and polluting the waters. It won’t decompose for up to 500-1000 years, either. 
More than that, there’s a floating patch of plastic waste called ‘the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ between the West Coast of North America and Japan which is THREE TIMES the size of France. It's a sobering reality and one we can't afford to ignore.   

So, we can’t dive into part of the ocean anymore, but one thing we can dive into is Plastic Free July. It's time to take a hard look at our own habits and ask ourselves: are we part of the problem, or can we be part of the solution?  

This blog will peel back the layers on what Plastic Free July is all about, shine a light on the dark underbelly of plastic pollution, and equip you with practical strategies to make your workplace more eco-friendly. So, let's roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.  

What is Plastic Free July? 

Plastic Free July isn't just another awareness month; it's a global movement that's gaining momentum faster. Born from a simple idea in Western Australia in 2011, it's now a worldwide phenomenon that's got millions of people in over 190 countries sitting up and taking notice. 

But what's it all about? In a nutshell, it's a challenge to ditch single-use plastics for a month. That means saying 'no' to disposable coffee cups, binning those plastic bags, and giving plastic straws the cold shoulder. It's about making small changes that add up to a big difference. 
You’ve probably noticed some of the changes that are being made already. Plastic coffee stirrers? Boom, gone in favour of wood ones. Those plastic takeaway straws? A thing of the past, and a mild inconvenience. You can make that sacrifice. Shopping bags? Some of them are being made from plastic alternatives now. We’re actually making an effort. But plastic production is STILL growing. 

Let’s have some plastic stats, then. 

♻️ One MILLION plastic bottles are bought every minute across the globe 
♻️ The average time a plastic bag is used for is just 12 minutes 
♻️ Up to 95% of the plastic polluting oceans is carried by just 10 rivers  

Why is it important to join Plastic Free July? 

You might be thinking, "It's just one month. How much of a dent can that really make?" Well, buckle up, because here are some more stats to blow your socks off. 

We're churning out more plastic than ever before, but here's the kicker: only a measly 9% of all that plastic actually gets recycled. The rest? It's clogging up our landfills, littering our streets, and wreaking havoc in our oceans. 

Every year, we produce a staggering 300 MILLION tonnes of plastic. That's roughly the weight of the entire human population. And a good chunk of that ends up in our oceans. In fact, if we keep going at this rate, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. It's not just the fish that are paying the price, either. Tiny plastic particles called microplastics (particles less than 5mm across) are working their way up the food chain and ending up on our plates - and even in our bloodstreams. A recent study by the University of Mexico examined 47 canine and 23 human testes and found microplastics in EVERY SINGLE ONE. That’s nuts. (Sorry). 

Joining Plastic Free July isn't about being trendy or jumping on the latest bandwagon. It's about taking a stand against this plastic tide before it's too late. It's about saying, "Enough is enough" and doing our bit to make a difference. 

Top tips for a more eco-friendly workplace 

 So, you're convinced. Plastic Free July is important, and you want to do your bit. But where do you start? How can you make a difference in your workplace? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Here are some top tips to get you started on your plastic-free journey. 

1. Recycling and composting: Are you doing it right?

First things first, let's talk rubbish. Or more specifically, how we deal with it. Recycling is a great start, but it's not just about chucking everything in the green bin and hoping for the best. It's about knowing what can be recycled and what can't.  

Set up clearly labelled bins for different types of waste: paper, plastic, glass, and compost. Make sure everyone knows what goes where. And don't forget about those tricky items like batteries and electronics - they need special disposal. 

But recycling is only part of the picture. The real game-changer? Avoiding waste in the first place. Encourage a 'reduce and reuse' mindset. Can that report be shared digitally instead of printed? Could that plastic folder be replaced with a reusable one? Erm, yes, it probably can. 

2. Plastic-free kitchen revolution

The workplace kitchen is often a hotbed of single-use plastic. But it doesn't have to be that way. Start by swapping out those flimsy plastic cups for glass or recycled alternatives. They're not only better for the environment, but they'll give your cuppa a bit more class too.  

When it comes to tea, go for plastic-free tea bags or, better yet, loose-leaf tea. It's a small change, but it adds up. And don't forget the break room staples. Ditch the disposables and stock up on real cutlery, plates, and mugs. Yes, it means a bit more washing up, but Mother Nature will thank you for it. If you absolutely have to buy single use cutlery or plates (there could be an office thief, for example), well, use renewable ones. Also, rather than milk from plastic bottles, get a cow for the office, and drink it straight from… actually, scratch that one. Get some Oat milk in a cardboard container instead. 

3. Spread the word: Education is key

Here's the thing about change: it's contagious. Once people understand why something matters, they're more likely to get on board. So, don't keep your plastic-free mission to yourself. Spread the word! 

 Organise a lunch-and-learn session about plastic pollution. Share eye-opening documentaries. Challenge your colleagues to a plastic-free month and see who can come up with the most creative solutions. Make it fun, make it competitive, but most importantly, make it matter. 

And don't stop there. Tap into your Learning and Development team. See if they can provide you all with some courses on sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Even short bite-size courses can explain the issue, and give you some more ideas to help. Ask nicely and we may be able to direct you to a stunning Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) collection of eLearning courses. The more people know, the more they can do. 

Remember, you're not just changing habits; you're changing mindsets. And that's where the real power lies. 

The ripple effect of going plastic-free 

So, there you have it. A quick review of Plastic Free July and how you can bring it into your workplace. But before you go, let's take a moment to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.  

Going plastic-free isn't just about saving a few fish or keeping our beaches clean (although those are very good reasons). It's about creating a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable world for ourselves and for generations to come. 
It’s all part of the cycle. We create plastic, it arrives in rivers and other bodies of water. Plastic kills the creatures that live in the water. Other things, including us, eat those creatures, and in doing so, we eat the plastics. It’s already at the tipping point for the environment, but without making this effort, it could soon be game over. 

Every piece of plastic you don't use is one less piece floating in the ocean. Every colleague you inspire is another person fighting the good fight. It's like throwing a pebble into a pond - the ripples spread far and wide, even if you can't always see them.  

Here's the thing: change doesn't happen overnight. It happens one decision, one action, one person at a time. So don't look at that Great Pacific Garbage Patch and get overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. Focus only on what you can do, right here, right now. We’ve got great people working on the big stuff. 

Start small. Start today. Maybe it's bringing your own reusable coffee cup to work. Maybe it's swapping out that plastic lunch box for a stainless steel one. Whatever it is, just start. 

When it comes to reducing plastic, like a plastic-free supermarket delivery, every little helps. And who knows? Your workplace might just become the poster child for the plastic-free revolution. Now wouldn't that be something to write home about? 

So, are you ready to take on Plastic Free July? Are you ready to be the change you want to see in the world? The planet’s waiting. Let's not keep it waiting any longer. 

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