BY Helen Zhang

Australians consume approximately 130kg of plastic per person each year, with only 9% of that being recycled.

Single-use plastics remain in our oceans almost indefinitely, and are severely endangering our marine life.

Why don’t you join the movement this month to create a Plastic Free July by reducing your plastic consumption or pledging to cut out plastic completely?

Here are five (student budget friendly) tips on how you can reduce your plastic consumption this July.

#1 Bring your own shopping bags

Have you ever been carrying your shopping before the plastic bag breaks on you, and all the contents come spilling out and you are left embarrassed, standing there wondering… could my life get any worse?

Not only is bringing your own bags the solution to no more breakages, it also helps to preserve our wildlife and reduce pollution. Support small artists and creators by purchasing their artwork printed on tote bags which can double as shopping bags. Alternatively, get creative with your existing Coles and Woolies bags by upcycling them into some trendy and fashionable designs!

#2 Do your shopping at bulk food stores 

Did you know that UNSW has its own bulk food store? Thoughtful Foods is located across from the Roundhouse, and provides minimally packaged and ethically sourced products to the local community. Reduce plastic packaging in your household by bringing your own reusable bags and containers to stock up your pantry. You can also get 30% off your shop there if you volunteer for a two-hour shift!

By choosing to purchase bulk or loose products, you can avoid wasting food by only buying what is needed and help reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. This can also help you to save more money whilst already on that tough student budget, so you can put more savings aside for that long awaited holiday after COVID.

#3 Invest in a metal straw or cutlery set

Single-use straws and cutlery are convenient, but it can make a huge negative impact on the environment for many years to come.

Don’t be fooled by biodegradable and compostable options, they’re not as eco-friendly as it seems. Most of these options require an industrial composting facility with very high temperatures for it to be fully broken down and won’t actually break down within your home compost. By using reusable alternatives, you are helping to create a sustainable change and setting an example for others.

What are you waiting for? Go buy a pack of metal straws and share them with your friends to help save the turtles!

#4 Ditch the cling wrap

Here’s a challenge: name something more fun than making your own reusable beeswax wraps.

Not only is this a great way for you to get crafty and be more environmentally sustainable, it also doubles as a fantastic procrastination activity. Get a bunch of friends together (of course, whilst adhering to social distancing), pick out some cute fabrics to make some fancy beeswax wraps.

I promise they will make the inside of your fridge look cooler with colourful designs covering your leftovers, and you will be reducing your contribution of plastics ending up in our oceans!

#5 Switch to bamboo toothbrushes

Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush once every three months. That’s four times a year, and could equate to about … 300 toothbrushes over your lifetime!!!

This simple switch to bamboo toothbrushes will not only help reduce the amount of plastic that is dumped into our oceans from plastic toothbrushes, but bamboo is also a rapidly-growing, renewable resource which contributes to creating a more sustainable future.

Make sure you don’t leave your toothbrush sitting in water though as it can go mouldy. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

If you would like to take part in Plastic Free July, sign up to join the challenge - https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/take-the-challenge/

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