Plastic Free July: Take the challenge

July 16, 2022

With so many global sustainability challenges to address, it’s understandable why some aren’t aware of the extent of the global plastic pollution problem.

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. The movement has inspired 100+ million participants in 190 countries to make a small change that will collectively make a massive difference to our communities.

Take 3 for the Sea is also leading a movement of people who are connected to the planet to remove plastic pollution from the environment and support measures to prevent waste and pollution.

Read on to learn how kids and their parents can get involved in being part of the solution.

The plastic problem


Here’s the cold hard fact at the centre of the plastic problem: of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic made since mass plastic production began in the 1950s, only 9% has been recycled. The other 91% is sitting in landfill, floating in the ocean, or it has been burnt. That means there are billions of tonnes of plastic contaminating our air, land, and sea because unfortunately plastic doesn’t break down in the environment—it just keeps “breaking up” into smaller pieces which eventually end up as microplastics and nanoplastics.

Plastic in the ocean is a particularly big problem. It’s estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, causing injury, suffocation, starvation, and often death to the countless sea animals who mistakenly believe the plastic to be food. For example, plastic pollution is decimating the global marine turtle population because plastic bears a striking resemblance to jellyfish, one of their main food sources. So plastic pollution is a cruel and painful problem for innocent sea life such as turtles all around the world.

Human health is also at risk


The plastic pollution problem doesn’t end there. Plastic also poses risks to human health since plastic contamination of our air, land, and sea is leading to plastic entering our bodies and potentially causing health problems.

In a recent pilot study involving eight people, microplastics were found inside all eight of them. The researchers estimated that on average humans may be consuming between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles each year, and when you include inhaled microplastics, that number jumps to over 74,000. Considering a microplastic particle is defined as any plastic particle with a diameter of under 5mm, 74,000 microplastic particles is a lot of plastic to be entering our bodies each year!

When plastic enters our bodies, these small plastic particles may do all sorts of damage to our health. The main health risk comes from the fact plastic products contain chemical additives, and a number of these chemicals are associated with serious health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility, and neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD and autism. Then, there are also the issues which arise from the pathogens which are attracted to the microplastics when they sit in the environment. If these pathogens also enter our bodies when we ingest microplastics, there’s a risk they cause infections.

Suffice to say, we want to limit the plastic we consume and inhale as much as possible!


Take action: it feels good


As with all sustainability challenges, once kids have talked, listened, and learnt about the extent of the plastic pollution problem, it’s time to take action. This is the fun part for most kids. It not only combats the feelings of helplessness many kids have about the world’s sustainability challenges; it’s also the only way things change.

So what can kids do to help with the global plastic pollution problem?


Plastic Free July


Plastic Free July is a great way for kids to get involved in helping address the plastic pollution problem. It’s a global movement involving millions of people who want to be part of the solution by refusing single-use plastics. The idea is that the small changes each and every Plastic Free July participant makes will contribute to a much larger change at a global level, both in July and thereafter.

The great news is Plastic Free July has already become a global success. A 2021 survey revealed that 29% of global consumers were aware of PlasticFree July, and of those, 13% participated. So an estimated 140 million people around the world participated in Plastic Free July last year. On average, Plastic Free July participants produced 3.5% less waste than non-participants and they reduced their plastic consumption by 300 million kgs. And importantly, the positive changes they made continued after July, with 86% of participants reporting their changes became longer term habits. It’s clear that Plastic Free July has become a powerful global movement of change-makers.

So how can kids get involved in PlasticFree July? Well, it’s as simple as saying no to single use plastics. Here are some simple ideas:

  1. Avoid buying disposable items in general.
  2. Avoid using plastic bags when shopping by bringing your own reusable bags.
  3. Ask your parents to use an environmentally friendly alternative to cling wrap when packing your school lunch.
  4. Ask your parents for plastic free food when they are shopping for the family.
  5. Refuse a plastic straw when buying a drink – BYO a reusable alternative.
  6. Celebrate your birthday party with plastic free decorations.
  7. Organise a plastic rubbish collection at the beach or park with friends.
  8. Inspire your friends at school to go plastic free by telling them about your plastic free efforts.
  9. Use your own reusable water bottle at school rather than buying single use bottles.

The more kids start reducing their plastic consumption, the more they tend to understand the huge amount of plastic we all use every day. Over the course of Plastic Free July, it’s an opportunity for them to learn about the extent of the plastic problem and to take action by making small changes which are likely to become embedded into their mindset longer term. It’s a great opportunity for kids, parents, and the planet alike.


Take 3 for the Sea


Here’s another great idea for kids to help with the global plastic pollution problem. It’s called Take 3 for the Sea, and it’s based on the beautifully simple idea that if each of us take 3 pieces of rubbish away with us whenever we leave a beach or waterway, we’ve made a difference. Just like Plastic Free July, Take 3 for the Sea is about making small changes to our longterm habits which add up to make a huge difference over the longer term.

For example, if a family of four who visit the beach every weekend were to each “take 3 for the sea”, that adds up to 624 pieces of plastic rubbish collected by that family each year. Imagine how many pieces of plastic rubbish collected that adds up to over a decade by that one family, and then imagine the scale of the difference which can be made if millions of families all over the world join the movement.

The great news with Take 3 for the Sea is that collecting 3 pieces of plastic rubbish is an easy step which can be made fun for kids by turning it into a game or competition. By doing so, not only have those kids and their families made a difference, they’ve also enjoyed themselves at the same time.


The next generation of planet protection


The plastic pollution problem isn’t going away in a hurry, but if we all get involved by becoming part of the solution we can eventually address the challenge, thereby creating more sustainable futures for us and our kids alike. Both Plastic Free July and Take 3 for the Sea offer powerful habit-changing opportunities for kids and their parents to learn about how to live more sustainably while having fun doing so.

And while we’re talking about fun games which lead to positive long term changes, check out the latest Genus missions which blend online fun with real world missions to help kids build a brighter, more sustainable future.


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Jon Owen
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