Waste Free July Promotes Less Plastic Use

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For the month of July, the Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives is asking residents to consider giving up disposable plastic.

Waste Free July campaign organizer and Alternative Waste Specialist, Eilanwy Slyboom, said the county isn’t asking people to give up necessitates like their laptops and phones, but to think on a smaller scale in what is wasted every single day.

The top four most disposed of plastics are straws, to-go cups, water bottles and plastic bags. You can take plastic grocery bags to Publix for recycling, but everything else, including Ziplock bags, can’t be recycled, she said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States alone uses 1,300 plastic bottles per second, and only 1 in 6 are recycled.  The Waste Free July campaign was originally implemented in 2011 in the suburbs of Perth, Australia, to bring awareness to how much daily life involves plastic, Slyboom said.

“We wake up in the morning and brush our teeth with a plastic toothbrush,” Slyboom said. “And, pretty much, every aspect of our lives revolves around plastic.”

The campaign was launched this month to get residents to think about their plastic consumption during summer when people go to the beach or the springs, she said. Summertime is when many bring plastic cups or water bottles for outside activities and occasionally leave small plastic objects behind, like bottle caps, cups and straws.

Residents are invited to workshops where they can learn how plastic is woven into daily life and how to cut back on consumption, Slyboom said. The workshops are scheduled for July 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Millhopper Branch Library and July 21 at 2 p.m. at the Alachua County Library Headquarters.

The workshops will discuss alternatives to plastic and offer lessons on making soap and toothpaste.

In support of Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives, two Gainesville businesses are helping make the transition to less plastic a little easier. Curia On The Drag and We Are Neutral are working together to reward people for not using one of the most disposed of plastics, like straws, cups and bags.

Curia will give every customer who brings in a reusable mug for their drink a 25-cent discount on his or her purchase, general manager Kelley Taksier said. We Are Neutral has pledged to plant a tree on conservation land for every person who brings in a reusable cup during the month of July.

The discount will continue past July for the coffee shop, but the number of trees planted will only be based on July customers.

“Rewarding customers who bring in their own mugs and reducing plastic use is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” she said. “It was the motivation we needed to move this to the front burner.”

We Are Neutral is a non-profit that creates locally generated carbon off-sets. They do this by planting native trees, providing free energy audits to low-income households, and by doing local methane captures from landfills, general manager Anna Sampson said.

For this campaign, they’ve promised to plant a long leaf pine, a native tree species in the area.

As part of a partnership with the Alachua County Conservation Trust, every tree will be planted on 3,000 acres of land right outside of Hawthorne, she said. The trees will be planted October through February because the survival rate for trees planted in the summer is low.

Organizers said they will hold an event one Saturday during those months so anyone interested in helping plant the trees can attend. As many as 2,000 trees can be planted in one morning.

“We always make sure to plant on conservation land,” she said. “So long after we’re gone, the trees will never be touched.”

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