Plastic Free July is an initiative from The Plastic Free Foundation that has been running since 2011. It is a global campaign that encourages people to try and eliminate single use plastics from their lives - from making a few small changes to trying to go completely plastic free.
Respect for the environment is one of the 10 principles of Fair Trade and Fair and Fabulous had its beginnings in the campaign to ban single use plastic shopping bags, so this is a an issue we have always felt very strongly about. But this year, as we deal with the effects of the Covid pandemic, it seems even more relevant than ever.
So what has coronavirus got to do with plastic pollution? Well the most obvious effect Has been the necessary increase in PPE for gloves, masks and gowns in medical settings and for personal use. Although much of this has been unavoidable, Keep Wales Tidy are reporting significant amounts of PPE littered across the country - something that we have all seen on a daily basis! In our business, like everyone else we have had to use endless plastic bottles of hand sanitiser and face masks. We haven't found a solution for hand sanitiser yet (suggestions welcome!), but we are very glad that to have been able to support the people's mask initiative by selling and using fair trade washable face masks. The production of these masks has provided work for producer groups at a time when many other markets had dried up completely during lockdowns. And they are also very comfortable, even when worn all day in the shop, and fun to try to match with your outfit for a bit of fair trade chic!
Another, less predicted, outcome of the pandemic has been the problems caused by so many activities having to take place outdoors. Lots of people took to walking and other forms of exercise, but it can be difficult to top-up your reusable water bottle on the go when the places you relied on as refill stations have been closed. And caution about handling other people's stuff has also made using your own re-usable coffee cup for takeaway drinks more difficult, with several coffee chains banning people using their own cups altogether. In fact the move to so many more takeaways of all sorts has led to increases in all of the associated single use plastics that come with them, as well as many other sorts of other pollution.
So that brings us to the photo above. We were at lovely Aberporth beach, the first plastic free village in the UK, when we saw what we initially thought was a huge jellyfish in the sea. Closer inspection showed it to be a discarded foil birthday balloon. If we mistook it for a jellyfish then so might a lot of the wildlife that feeds on then, such as dolphins. We were relieved to be able to fish it out and dispose of it properly, but are afraid that this might be, quite literally, just a drop in the ocean!
But its is never enough to just complain about these things - we need to take action. So this Plastic Free July we have been making daily videos suggesting alternatives to the single use plastics in our lives. You can find these on our social media posts or on our new YouTube channel (get us being vloggers!!!). Some of them are obvious and you may have made the switch already, but some of them are less so. As restrictions are lifting and we all try to go back to something more normal we all need to make the changes necessary to make the new normal the best that it can be!