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Union County Celebrates Plastic Free July by Asking Residents to “Take the Challenge”

The Union County Board of County Commissioners and Union County Clean Communities would like to encourage residents to celebrate and participate in Plastic Free July!

“Finding ways to go plastic free is easier than you think and residents can certainly do a lot on a personal level to help save the environment,” said Commissioner Chair Rebecca Williams. “The information provided here are great examples of how you can make a big impact on the environment and reduce the amount of plastic waste you or your family use on a daily basis. I hope you will all join us in participating in this challenge.”

Plastic Free July is an annual, month-long event started by the Plastic Free Foundation in 2011, to work towards their vision of a world free of plastic waste.  Every year, individuals and groups take the challenge to reduce the amount of single-use plastic items they use and purchase throughout the month of July. 

It is easy and free to participate – just go to www.plasticfreejuly.org and click on “Take the Challenge.” By taking the challenge, you pledge to make whichever changes you are able to make – whether starting small with a few easy swaps or overhauling your plastic consumption – to reduce the amount of plastic waste you are contributing to the waste stream.

According to National Geographic, 40 percent of all plastics made are single-use items, which are used for a few minutes and quickly discarded, able to persist in the environment for hundreds of years.  It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic waste get added to our oceans every year.  Plastics do not biodegrade, however, and instead break into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics, at just 5mm across or less.  These tiny plastic pieces are almost impossible to remove once in the open ocean, and instead wash up on coastal shores or get consumed by wildlife.  In fact, almost 700 species are known to have been negatively impacted by plastic pollution, and microplastics have been found in 100 aquatic species, including those that humans regularly eat. 

The State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection took steps towards single-use plastics reduction in 2020 through the passing of P.L. 2020, c.117, now called the “Get Past Plastic Law”.  This law enacted a ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers, and required single-use plastic straws to be give only upon request from all NJ food service businesses.  All parts of this law have been in effect since May 4, 2022. 

Plastic Free July is a great opportunity to continue this mission by finding other single-use plastic items we use in our day-to-day and swapping them out with reusable or plastic-free alternatives!  Here are a few examples of simple ways to reduce plastic this month:

  • Instead of using disposable plastic utensils at lunchtime, pack a fork, knife, or spoon from home.  Just use it to eat your lunch, and remember to pack it back up to bring home and wash at the end of the day.
  • Rather than drinking water from a single-use bottle to stay hydrated, fill up a reusable water bottle to bring with you. 
  • When packing up lunch for the day, skip the baggies and plastic wrap and opt for washable and reusable containers that can be used over and over again.

If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can try:

  • Switching to bars for soap, shampoo, and conditioner rather than purchasing liquid forms that come in plastic bottles.  Alternatively, if your shampoo bottle is empty, you could refill it at a refill store rather than disposing of your old bottle and purchasing a new one.
  • Purchasing deodorant sold in paper packaging instead of traditional plastic tubes.
  • Swapping out your usual disposable k-cups for a refillable, washable version.

In 2021, 140 million people participated in Plastic Free July, preventing 2.1 million tons of plastic waste from being thrown into our landfills, incinerators, and the environment. 

Union County residents are invited to join in the challenge this July, and take the pledge to reduce single-use plastic this month and possibly beyond!