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Plastic-Free July Challenge can begin with reusable dishes, etc. at July 4th parties

By David Pendered

As Plastic-Free July Challenge 2020 begins for many with a July 4th party amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, advocates have a simple suggestion – eat, drink and be merry, and be sure to use something other than single-use plastic plates, glasses and flatware.

plastic free july challenge

Kicking the plastics at July 4th parties by bringing reusable cups, plates and flatware from home is one way to start the Plastic-Free July Challenge 2020, according to Paulita Bennett-Martin, Oceana’s representative in Georgia. Photo illustration: Kelly Jordan

“This is an unprecedented time, but there are plenty of great ways to reduce single-use plastics while following safety precautions of public health authorities,” said Paulita Bennett-Martin, campaign manager in Georgia for Oceana, a global organization that seeks to protect oceans.

Bennett-Martin said she recognizes that single-use plasticware may seem like the quickest solution to reduce fears of transmitting the virus through containers for food and beverage. The use of disposable dinnerware and utensils is not cited among the federal advisories on coronavirus.

That’s why Bennett-Martin feels safe in offering this simple suggestion:

  • “Bring a real plate and reusable cup when you go out, and pack everything in a cool washable tote bag.”

And with that simple step, folks can join an initiative that has spread to some 170 countries around the world from its origins in 2011 in western Australia.

Plastic-Free July, as with many movements, started small. This one began in Australia, with a decision to change the waste stream that was implemented by the governmental entity that manages waste and recycling in its region, the Western Metropolitan Regional Council. A foundation grew from the council’s effort. Here’s how the Plastic Free Foundation describes its beginning:

The amount of plastic produced globally is forecast to quadruple from 2014 to 2050, according to projections reported by Oceana. Credit: usa.oceana.org

  • “In 2011 our (now) Executive Director Rebecca and staff from the Earth Carers education program and volunteers decided to try and avoid single-use plastic for the month of July. They kept any plastic they did use in a dilemma bag, and shared their wins and areas for improvement. And so, Plastic Free July was born….
  • “Spreading the message, the WMRC took the challenge to make a community event plastic free. They started with disposable coffee cups, then tackled giveaways and worked with vendors. This resulted in a huge reduction in waste and saved the council money.”

A few Georgia governments have taken steps to reduce the amount of plastics consumed. In metro Atlanta, for example, Fulton County halted the use of single-use plastics in county-owned buildings and facilities. Atlanta followed suit, with a similar measure that’s to take effect by Dec. 31 – including at Atlanta’s city-owned airport.

The Georgia Senate declined to take up two proposals submitted this year that were intended to reduce single-use plastics.

Leadership sent Senate Bill 280 to the Economic and Development Committee, which held it; SB 434 was sent to the Agriculture and Community Affairs committee, which held it.

In the meantime, the Plastics Free Foundation posts a blog with tips for consumers who want to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics. Recommendations include:

  • Fruit and vegetables – Buy loose items and put them in a something other than a plastic bags;
  • Soap and shampoo – Shift from shower gel to bar soap;
  • Trash can liners – Use liners made of compostable products;
  • Pet food – Buy food in bags, or in tins that can be recycled, but check the nutritional value with a vet to ensure a balanced diet;
  • Toothbrushes – Bamboo and other sustainable, compostable materials are now available. Remove plastic bristles, if they’re present, before composting or reusing the handle.





David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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