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Plastic Packaging and Chewing Gum: Challanges in "Plastic-Free July" Participation

Masters' Student Lark Starkey Reflects on Her Recent Participation in the "Plastic Free July" Challenge

My biggest Plastic Free July fail consisted of an 8 foot long, 4 inch thick, blue and white striped piece of foam with three pieces of hard, thick, durable black plastic triangles attached to its underside - known as the Wavestorm, Costco's quintessential beginner surfboard. As an added plastic fail, it came Saran-wrapped in an extra layer of plastic packaging. The waste was obvious, but I still bought it - right in the middle of my plastic free July (and I have been enjoying it immensely.)

Plastic Free Fails Plastic Free Fails

Other fails included garbage bags, individually packaged granola bars, cheap and delicious Mexican food (even dine-in tends to use plastic plates and silverware), taster cups, shampoo, conditioner, razors, mascara, packaged pretzels, tortilla chips, popcorn and essentially every other supermarket snack. Those persistent and pointless fruit stickers, milk carton caps, cellophane windows that needlessly provide a food preview, Amazon packages, yogurt, and my personal Achilles – gum.

Wins included using Dr. Bronner’s paper-wrapped bar soap, saying no to coffee cup lids and straws, asking for paper always (including paper cups for cold coffee), adding silverware as a staple of my bag, making my own granola from the bulk bin bought ingredients. Bulk bins in general. Boxed or paper bagged goldfish crackers, making toothpaste, washing Ziploc bags, bringing my own bags everywhere (including for fruit/vegetables and bulk bins), and the most important of them all – increased awareness of our society’s excessive and often needless plastic consumption, and an adjustment of my own habits in an attempt to avoid it.

Plastic Free Wins Plastic Free Wins!

Moving forwards, I’ll continue being that sometimes weirdo who'd rather carry home my leftover tacos wrapped in a meek blanket of paper napkins rather than consume one bit of Styrofoam. I’ll keep that silverware tucked into my bag and give up gum. The gum seems insignificant compared to a Wavestorm, and while giving it up won't reduce the size of the Pacific Garbage Patch tomorrow, it certainly won’t add to it either. Maybe pulling out your own silverware at a barbecue seems a little strange today, but internalizing these habits brings us closer to a future where plastic-fee is the norm.