Reduce Plastic in Your Community

If you want to reduce plastic in your life - this is already a huge commitment to help wildlife – you can visit our plastic free page!

In this page, we guide you to try the even bigger challenge of reducing plastic use at a larger scale: in your township, your city or even your council area, to have an awesome impact on human health and wildlife.

Plastic from beach clean-up...

Why Reduce Plastic in Your Community?

We all know the impacts of plastic:

  • on ourselves: we eat it when it leaks from plastic containers and when it breaks down into smaller and smaller bits and get eaten by fish and other seafood that end up in our plates,
  • on our environment: plastic pollution contaminates soil, waterways and oceans,
  • and on wildlife: plastic causes animal death by entanglement, starvation and poisoning.

For a more detailed account on the consequences of our sad addiction to plastic, see our plastic free page.

Every square mile of ocean contains on average 46,000 pieces of plastic.

Plastic also takes an extremely long time to decompose and disappear – up to 1000 years for your plastic bag.

Producing plastic uses energy and precious and non renewable resources, like petrol.

The average bag gets used for 12 minutes,

yet stay on earth for up to 1000 years.

So, on this basis, it’s not surprising that many of us want to decrease our plastic consumption. It’s pretty cool to do it for our home, but some of us might feel this is not enough. We need to think bigger than that!

Successful Examples of Communities that Have Reduced Plastic

Around the world, entire cities are changing and showing us that an alternative is possible. After all, we used to live without plastic, so we can do it again.

Plus the alternatives are often painless – reusable bags, reusable water bottles, reusable coffee take-away cups etc.

Success is:

  • Plastic bag ban:

- cities like San Fransisco and Los Angeles (one-third of California’s population lives in plastic bag free area), Seattle, Austin, Mexico City, Delhi, Mumbai, Modbury (UK),

- councils like Fremantle (Australia),

- regions like the Northern Territory in Australia or Hawaii,

- even entire countries such as Bangladesh and Rwanda

  • Plastic bottle ban: San Fransisco, Concord (Massachusetts)
  • Styrofoam food container ban: San Fransisco, New York City
  • In April 2014, the European Parliament back new rules requiring countries to cut plastic bag use 50 percent by 2017 and 80 percent by 2019.

Look closer to home too! Maybe the next suburb in your town or the village next to yours has already a group trying to achieve the same outcome. Maybe they already are plastic free!! They will be a great source of inspiration and help for your campaign…

To find communities near you that have a plastic ban, visit the map of plastic free campaigns.

Reduce Plastic in Your Community: Where to Start?

Reduce Plastic Step 1: Recruit your team

Usually, to get the outcome you want – whether it’s a plastic bag ban or a reduction of all single use plastic – you will need a team behind you. There will be much legwork and different talents will be needed. Try to recruit a committed team that will be able to meet regularly and devise and implement your plans.

To recruit the dream team, organise an event where you present the why and how to reduce plastics:

  • show a movie about the global impact of plastic (see below),
  • or even better: have a local researcher present data for your area,
  • give an information sheet to the members of your community to keep and reflect on,
  • have some alternative bags (containers, reusable coffee cups, bottles…) that they can see and touch,
  • and then ask who is in!!

Local research on the impact of plastic in your area help make it real...

Here, the impact on marine turtles, and tubs of plastic from beach clean-ups...

Once you have a core group, choose a name for your group, a logo if you have the arty people and you want to be a bit fancy and start meeting straight away on who will do what of the steps below...

Reduce Plastic Step 2: Spread the word on the WHY

I need to understand an issue before I act, and I think many people are like this.

Plastic is popular because it makes life easy in many ways. But it is actually poisoning humans, the environment and wildlife. Educate your community on the dangers of plastic before asking them to come on board toward a plastic free life.

Pick and choose, or do all of these:

  • Organise free projections of insightful documentaries such as:

Bag It – The Movie: A highly entertaining movie about plastic, its consequences on human health and for the environment.

Tapped: This thriller doco not only shows the consequences of single use plastic bottles for the environment, but for the local communities that live where the water is extracted.

Message in the Waves: taking Hawaii as an example of the global pollution of our oceans and how we can turn the tide.

Plastic Paradise - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: an eye-opener on where our plastic garbage goes and who pays the ultimate price for our plastic addiction.

  • Make posters and postcards and display them on noticeboards and at shops.
  • Create a website or a Facebook page about getting your place plastic free.
  • Talk to your local Councillors, mayor, clubs and non for profit organisations. You might find synergies you would not have thought of!

Outdoor projection at the local museum of the hilarious "Bag It - The Movie"

Reduce Plastic Step 3: Get the businesses on your side

The theory

Nothing makes it easier for a business owner to change a specific behaviour than if:

  1. stopping what they are doing is actually making good business sense and
  2. they are presented with a readily available alternative.

So this is perfect for us, because we can present data to businesses that show that getting rid of plastic bags for example can save money and there are many alternatives!

Going plastic bag free has been great for our business

and great for our town.

It has really bound the community together and united us with this common goal. We are all now seeing how small changes to our habits can have a big impact on our local environment, and a huge impact on all the people who see what we have done down here.”

Ben Kearney, local bakery owner and coordinator of Plastic Bag Free Coles Bay. Australia.

By selling re-usable bags, shops and retailers have added advantages:

  • instead of giving away free plastic bags, they can now make an incomeselling re-usable bags,
  • the re-usable bags can be branded with the shop name and logo and provide free advertising for many years. 

Moreover, as consumers’ mentalities are getting more environmentally aware, businesses that are able to provide greener alternatives attract and retain customers.

But more practically, how do you convince businesses to reduce plastic?

Get to know all your shops and shop owners, go visit them, talk to them, invite them to events, give them information packs.

You can see whether some local shops are already plastic bag free and successful business, to get your point across to more reluctant shops.

Also start with the easy targets… Shops that have a green side or a green owner can lead the way and become great allies. You can use them as successful examples or local heroes to promote in the media.

Supermarkets and other chain-stores might be your biggest challenge. Sometimes to get them on your side you will need to prove to them the community want this to happen: start a petition or organise a poll for instance.

Reduce Plastic Step 4: Start your plastic free life with a splash!

Once you start having many retailers on board, you can get them to sign a commitment to be plastic bag free by a certain date, and organise a big launch on that date.

Some towns have set high targets for their launch, such as having 80% of the shops signed in!

Invite all the local businesses, your mayor and local councillors and as many media as possible. Make it a fun day if you can, free wine and nibbles are always great!

Reduce Plastic Strategy: Bring in the Media along the way

Write media releases and send them to your local papers each time you reach a milestone: at the launch of course, but much earlier too! Such as:

  • the formation of the working group,
  • first shops signing in on the program,
  • projection or information nights…

Always invite the media, they will promote your campaign for free!

Reduce Plastic Optional Step: design a re-usable bag for your area!

The launch of a plastic bag free area can be helped by freebies in the form of a re-usable bag. You will need to get some funding, and many options exist there:

  • get some support from the retailers ($50 donation per retailer to the campaign for example),
  • get some grant money,
  • get the chamber of commerce involved,
  • get a donation from your local Rotary Club…

An average cloth bag will save the owner

from using at least 1,000 plastic bags.

You can organise a competition to get the best design for your area, or get the local school involved. The more the design involves and reflects your community, the more successful the bag will be!

Get bold and think big: get rid of plastic in your town!

Start with plastic bags, usually an easier target.

Then why stop?

While you have momentum and your community is aware of the danger of plastic, use the same strategy to get rid of all single use plastic items: plastic bottles, plastic food containers, plastic cups…