Hi, my name is Lauren Sweetman, and I am on work experience with Woking Borough Council. I am a year 10 student from Winston Churchill school, and I have written a case study from my perspective about Plastic Free July for Planet Woking.
Climate change and global warming are huge environmental risks to all wildlife and habitats on earth and can be frightening when we think about the repercussions of unsustainable living. An increase in droughts, storms and the rising sea levels are a threat to life and are about to take effect on us and other species unless we change the way we live and save our planet; humans’ harmful behaviour is changing the world negatively and consequently Woking has had to declare a climate emergency. Now, we all need to come together as a community and put in a collective effort in order to help reverse climate change and restore earth to its natural self.
Luckily, Woking Borough Council has started Planet Woking, which focuses on changing the way we live in order to make Woking greener, more sustainable and ultimately become carbon neutral. Planet Woking was created after the climate emergency was announced in 2019, however their efforts to tackle climate issues has been going on in the background since 1990, with the first strategy put into place in 2002. This project continuously works towards helping the environment and raising awareness throughout the community of how everybody can adapt and contribute in easy, fun ways for the good cause. It is compulsory that we change our ways in order to keep earth healthy and safe for future generations, and by engaging in their tactics, we can all contribute towards a good cause.
One strategy that Planet Woking is supporting is Plastic Free July. Plastic free July (www.plasticfreejuly.org) is a global movement that helps millions of people be a part of the solution to plastic pollution so we can have cleaner streets, oceans and beautiful communities. During the month of July, we ask all of you in the Woking borough to refuse use of single-use plastic where possible and instead resort to sustainable, recyclable, often cheaper materials that can carry out the same task. According to HM Treasury: “single use plastics can be defined as all products that are made wholly or partly of plastic and are typically intended to be used only once and/or for a short period of time before being disposed”. Single use plastics include plastic lids and bottles, cigarette butts, cotton buds, plastic bags, balloons and many more. The materials used in these items cannot be recycled and often take millions of years to decompose, filling up landfill sites and according to www.water.org.uk, 16 million plastic bottles end up in landfill per day throughout the world. These plastics pollute the earth, and often end up at beaches and in the oceans. Plastics in the sea destroy marine habitats, marine wildlife and disrupt the eco system, which can lead to hundreds of species dying and the system collapsing. The greenhouse gases released through plastic exposure is absorbed by the sea, resulting in rising sea levels and sea temperatures, increased erosion of rocks and land, which leads to destruction of habitats, and increased climate temperatures. Planet Woking is encouraging plastic free living for the whole of July in the hope of reducing pollution and improving Woking’s recycling rates- by avoiding single use plastic, we limit the amount of waste that goes into the waste stream. Supporting this campaign builds on a pledge made by the council in 2018 and have created a single use plastic policy as a part of Woking 2050 (www.woking.gov.uk). The community can pull together and support this campaign, and your participation will be greatly appreciated and worthwhile.
This may be quite overwhelming, and you may have no idea how to limit your intake of single use plastic. So here are a few helpful tips to give you an idea:
- Stop using single use plastics with easy alternatives- for example, stop using plastic straws. Simple household items such as this are really damaging for the environment, and can easily be replaced by paper straws, which perform the same whilst also being recyclable.
- Bring reusable cups to coffee shops- coffee shops or places alike often give out takeaway cups that use single use plastic and are non-recyclable. If you ask the staff to use your reusable cup, many if not all places will accept this, and some may even give you a discount! Many people have reusable cups made of environmentally friendly materials such as ceramic or stainless steel.
- Avoid pre-packaged fruits and vegetables- this may be convenient to buy, but most pre-packaged fruit and vegetables are wrapped in single use plastic. By supporting local stores that offer loose fruit and vegetables or who offer paper bags, you’d support your local community, and also reduce unnecessary waste.
- Avoid pre-packaged meat- this may be convenient to buy, but most pre-packaged meats are wrapped in single use plastic. By choosing butchers or delis who offer meats loose, you’d support your local community, and also reduce unnecessary waste.
- Avoid single use plastic shopping bags- instead of paying the tax for a plastic bag, taking your own bag-for-life’s or only accepting paper bags avoids hurting marine life and the ecosystem.
For more tips, visit the Plastic Free July website (www.plasticfreejuly.org).