How to manage Plastic Free July and stay COVID-safe

16 July, 2020

Tips for reducing your plastic use and environmental footprint while dining out

Every year, Plastic Free July challenges us to reduce the amount of plastics we are using, in particular single use plastics. Some of the big culprits include plastic water bottles, takeaway
coffee cups, plastic straws, plastic bags and plastic cutlery – all things that you could expect to get when you’re getting a takeaway meal.

The challenges for Plastic Free July have an extra dimension this year. In response to COVID-19 and wanting to keep everyone safe and healthy, some cafes temporarily stopped the use of reusable coffee cups, and while dining in was off the table, there was an increase in takeaway meals, frequently dished up in plastic containers. If you found your use of single-use plastics crept up again over the past few months, you’re not alone – many people found the same thing. But as Wired outlines, there’s no reason to let COVID-19 trash your waste reduction efforts, and reusables remain a safe option with normal hygiene measures followed.

Let’s take a look at some of the simple actions you can take to reduce your plastic and still keep public health as a top priority.

BYO cutlery

An easy way to reduce some of your plastics when grabbing takeaway (or even dining in at the food court) is bringing your own cutlery. There’s loads of options of convenient reusable cutlery sets that you can keep in your bag, ready for all occasions. Grab a simple set with just a fork, spoon and knife, or get the full bells and whistles with reusable chopsticks and a straw as well! Do a search online or browse the stores around Chatswood to find a set that works for you.

Ask if reusable containers are an option

Many venues are increasingly open to customers bringing your own container, like these options that you can buy at Japan Home Centre. If there’s worries about contamination, Plastic
Free Places has a guide to contactless transfers for cafes. In addition, there’s a growing number of schemes that promote shared reusable containers that you can borrow and return to the venue, or other food venues within the network. This includes Green Caffeen for coffee cups, Retub for takeaway containers and Returnr for takeaway containers and coffee cups. Why not ask your favourite takeaway spot if they’ve considered signing up to these ‘swap and go’ programs?

No straw, thanks!

Saying no to a straw, unless you really need one, is one of the most effective ways to reduce your single-use plastics and prevent these light, easily blown about, bits of plastic from ending
up in Sydney Harbour. Just like for reusable cutlery, there are loads of straws on the market so you can bring your own, or many venues are providing paper straws instead. But paper straws are still single-use, so only use one if you really need it.

Of course, you’re not going to be able to avoid all plastics

Even at the best of times, eliminating all plastics is near impossible. And now, that’s even more the case. One of the things that’s currently not allowed is shared condiments, so be prepared for single-use soy sauce, individual containers of other sauces and packets of salt and pepper. And while it’s important to reduce as much plastics as possible, remember that many businesses have taken a big hit over the past few months and are focused on financial survival. So if environmental considerations aren’t top of their list right now, stay supportive and encourage them to think about changes when the time is right.