Your guide on how to thrive during Plastic Free July

You’re probably here because you already know that:

You’re also probably here because you are interested in or committed to being a part of the Plastic Free July movement this year, so let us help you out.

close up of hands holding a bunch of plastic packaging

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a pledge taken to reduce and refuse single-use plastic in July.

Take a note of the word reduce – this challenge certainly doesn’t demand that you to convert to a zero waste lifestyle! You don’t have to be 100% plastic-free all month to succeed.

It’s estimated that in 2019 around 3 million people worldwide will make a conscious effort to ‘choose to refuse’ over the month of July.

Who can do it?

Everyone – individuals, households and businesses can sign up to the challenge.

Lady holding a tin lunchbox

You have the power to reduce and refuse plastic items every day

How do I take part?

Step 1: Make it official – sign up!

Signing up is important for two reasons; firstly, it’s a great way to hold yourself accountable over the course of the month. You’ll receive reminders and tips to help keep motivation levels high. Secondly, you’ll want to make your efforts count! Help the movement grow so that even more people are encouraged to do it in future years.

Visit the Plastic Free July website to register.

Step 2: Think about the changes you can make

Personalise your ‘choose to refuse’ pledge. Think about your lifestyle and how far you’re willing to go. Your challenge could be to:

  • eliminate the four most common disposable takeaway items - bottles, coffee cups, straws and shopping bags
  • avoid all single-use plastics
  • go completely plastic-free
Just say No. Social media tile

Aim for an achieveable goal – pledging to eliminate ‘the big bad four’ is a great starting point.

If you are relatively new to reducing your waste, we suggest starting with the disposable items – you can build up from there.

If you are already pretty good at carrying around your reusable cups, bottles, straws and bags, then why not flex your impact-owning muscles and make the effort to avoid all single-use plastics for a month. This will likely mean making changes to how you source your groceries, making some adjustments to what you eat, and more widely paying close attention to the packaging of the other items you buy during the month.

If you’re already a pretty savvy single-use plastic avoider and feel ready to take the next step towards a zero waste lifestyle then why not use the challenge to go completely plastic-free. This will require a commitment to seek out plastic alternatives to all of the items you purchase – everything from clothing (goodbye polyester!), accessories and appliances.

Whichever goal you choose, know that by personally choosing to refuse plastic – whether that’s 10, 100 or 1,000 pieces over the course of the month – it does make a difference.

Step 3: Plan for success

Plastic Free July is about taking a step to re-program your thinking and habits so let’s be clear, when we say plan for success we don’t mean stockpiling items in June or putting off purchases until August!

  • Your reusable kit

If you don’t already have one, now is the time to put one together. (You can find a list of our favourite on-the-go items to include in your kit in this article about how to wage war against single-use plastics).

If you own all of the items but find you don’t have them to hand when you need them you’ll need to dig them out, dust them off and devise a strategy on how to change this. It might be that you need to switch the bag you use so you can carry them with you, or perhaps it’s about moving them into your car or keeping a spare set at work. 

bunch of disposible cups next to a single reusable cup

Replacing single-use items with a reusable one is a great way to cut your daily waste footprint.

  • Research low waste alternatives

If you’re looking to eliminate single-use plastic you’re going to need to shake up your routines a little.

Now is the perfect time to get acquainted with your local bulk food store and independent greengrocer. Research the markets near you too – buying direct from a producer or maker typically means less packaging so these may become a go-to destination for things like gifts and clothing.

various bulk foods in glass jars

Get yourself acquainted with your local bulk food store if you want a packaging-free grocery shopping experience.

  • Tell other people

Letting others know you’re doing the challenge adds an extra level of accountability – you’re less likely to abandon it part-way through now that everyone knows! Recruit family members, make sure colleagues know, share it on social media. You may even motivate others to get on board or choose to refuse alongside you, something which will double the impact! 

close up of hands holding reusable coffee cups

Let people know you’re doing Plastic Free July – they might event decide to join you.

  • Be realistic

You might be handed a drink with a straw in it, a friend may turn up with a bunch of flowers wrapped in plastic or perhaps you are caught short and have no other option than to accept a bottle of water to starve off dehydration. You need to know that that’s ok, you haven’t failed! The very fact that you are mindful of this plastic consumption, when you previously wouldn’t have been, is a huge step in the right direction.

plastic packaged sushi roll next to sushi roll on paper bag

Asking for a plastic-free alternative is easier than you think. You just have to remember to do it.

Step 4: Just go for it

You can start refusing plastic at any time of the year and in all kinds of settings. Don’t be afraid to ask for an alternative – this is your opportunity to reclaim control of what you are putting in the bin.

Good luck!

Plastic-free swaps

Here are 22 (relatively) simple swaps to get you started on thinking about reducing your plastic consumption.

Plastic Plastic-free alternative
Barrier bags (for fruit and veg) Reusable produce bags, or go loose
Bin liner (plastic bag) Line your bin with several layers of newspaper. Learn how here.
Bottled drinks Use a reusable drink bottle, look for glass bottles or dine in
Cereals Purchase from a bulk food store
Chips / crisps Purchase similar snacks from a bulk food store
Chocolate Seek out chocolate wrapped in paper and tin foil, or purchase from a bulk food store
Coffee cup Take a reusable cup
Deodorant  Choose cardboard wrapped versions or make your own
Dog poo bag Use folded up newspaper
Facial wipes Use a flannel or muslin cloth
Gifts Give a voucher for an experience
Plastic wrap / cling film Use a reusable container, aluminium foil, fabric wraps (beeswax or similar)
Milk Look for milk in refillable glass bottles
Disposable nappies Reusable cloth nappies
Pasta Make your own, buy in bulk or look for cardboard-packaged pasta
Plastic bag Carry in your arms, or use a cardboard box or reusable bag
Sanitary items (pads and tampons) Reusable pads or menstrual cup
Shampoo and conditioner Solid bar varieties


Go without or choose a metal, glass or paper straw
Toilet paper Look for toilet paper wrapped in paper
Toothbrush Look for a wooden bamboo toothbrush
Toothpaste Make your own

Share your Plastic Free July journey

We love to see people taking steps to own their impact so please don’t forget to share photos. Remember to include #wastesorted and #plasticfreejuly when you post about your efforts.

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