Local birth of Plastic Free July

It was a visit to the Regional Resource Recovery Centre (RRRC) back in 2011 that triggered Rebecca Prince-Ruiz to begin what is now a worldwide movement with a record-breaking 326 Million people participating in Plastic Free July this year!

Plastic Free July, now in its tenth year, helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution.

Whilst working in Waste and Sustainability Education in local government, Rebecca was mortified to see first-hand where her waste ended up when it was ‘thrown away’.

“We put things in our kerbside bins and throw them ‘away’ and never think of it. And this is ‘away’,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca at the RRRC with the Materials Recovery Facility in the background

“It wasn’t until I came here [to the RRRC] that I was suddenly confronted with the actual enormity of my own waste. What my waste looked like with my neighbours and everyone in my street and my suburb. And then that was such an eye opener for me.”

Rebecca said the visit inspired her to take responsibility for her own waste and her recycling in particular, and actually put less into the system in the first place.

She went to work the next day and asked her colleagues if they wanted to join her to be part of the solution—going plastic free for the next month. And so Plastic Free July was born.

“With our volunteers, we set out to try and look at some of those single-use, takeaway plastic items in our lives and start to look for ways to reduce them and choose alternatives,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca’s journey has since led her to exploring the plastic issue around Australia and internationally as she really wanted to understand what the challenge was. She participated in marine debris research expeditions, undertook a Churchill Fellowship to explore the issue and solutions to plastic waste around the world and met many organisations, individuals and groups that are tackling this problem.

When asked how the massive success of Plastic Free July made her feel, Rebecca is very modest.

“It makes me feel just so happy and I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this movement that so many people around the world have taken on,” she said.

“Because at the end of the day if it wasn’t for other people joining in and doing stuff to reduce their plastic waste in their own lives and schools and their communities and workplaces, it would still just be me and my family and our bin.”

Plastic Free July is about lots of people making small changes.

“Just look at what are some of the plastics in your life. Look in your own household bin. Choose one or two single use plastics that you can either avoid, replace with a reusable or look for an alternative in your community where you can start to buy things that are reducing your packaging,” she says.

“If we all did that, if we all took one or two small steps together, that adds up to make a big difference.”

The full video with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz can be viewed online.