Roundup of Plastic-Free July Events Organized by Local Beyond Plastics Groups Across the Nation  

For Immediate Release: July 31, 2023


Event photos can be accessed here.

 Plastic-Free July was launched in 2011 to encourage people to avoid single-use plastic for the month of July, and Beyond Plastics activists took it to new heights this month by hosting events calling for solutions to stop plastic pollution at the source. Beyond Plastics’ growing network of grassroots groups across the country organized 28 events in 17 states on goals ranging from banning artificial plastic turf, policies to reduce single-use plastics, raising awareness of ocean plastic pollution, and supporting extended producer responsibility policies for packaging.

One Beyond Plastics’ volunteer — Suzette Munley of Upper Moreland Township, Pennsylvania —succeeded in passing a township-wide local law this month that bans single-use plastic bags, places a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags, bans polystyrene foam packaging, and makes straws available only by request. 

 “This would not have happened without Beyond Plastics,” Munley said. “Judith Enck’s educational work on plastic pollution really opened my eyes to all the issues and facts, and the [Beyond Plastics] Speakers Bureau was critical to honing my skills and persuasive powers. By the time I presented to our Board of Commissioners, I had already given multiple presentations on plastic pollution, which really made the difference.

The Beyond Plastics Local Groups and Affiliates program launched in February 2022 with the goal of growing a vibrant anti-plastics grassroots movement based on well-informed policy and advocacy goals. A strong grassroots network is instrumental to achieve the institutional, economic, and societal changes necessary to improve environmental and public health conditions from the plastic pollution crisis. This July, rePurpose of Washington state became the 100th group to join the Beyond Plastics grassroots network. 

Joan Green, co-founder of rePurpose commented, “By joining Beyond Plastics, rePurpose has expanded its landscape well beyond its small rural island home to connect with the Beyond Plastics’ vast technical resources and a people-powered network to end single-use plastics everywhere.”

Beyond Plastics local groups and affiliates hosted Plastic-Free July events in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. These included film screenings of “The Story of Plastic,” encouraging the New England Aquarium to drop plastic items and packaging from their gift shop, thanking legislators for sponsoring packaging reduction bills, urging government agencies to better enforce waste reduction bills, mayoral proclamations, and calling for the repeal of single-use bag ban preemption laws. All of the events called attention to the hazards of plastic and the systemic reasons for the plastic pollution crisis — including the siting of production and disposal facilities in low-income and communities of color, which bear the greatest burden along every stage of plastics’ life cycle; the prolific production of plastics from fossil fuels; plastic waste exports; and the failure of recycling for plastics.

Reduction policies, accompanied by reuse and refill, can be implemented to reduce plastic pollution and its environmental justice impacts and associated health risks. According to a 2020 Pew report, solutions available today have the potential to reduce the annual flow of plastic into the ocean by about 80% by 2040. Policies such as single-use plastic bans, extended producer responsibility, and beverage container deposit laws (aka bottle nills) have already been proven to work throughout the country. 

 Beyond Plastics Santa Fe, a project of Eldorado/285 Recycles, kicked off the month of events with its “Freedom From Plastics" float in the city’s Independence Day parade calling for plastics reduction and removing food scraps from the municipal waste stream. 

 Member Stephanie Levy reflects, “From the time I was taught not to waste food as a child, I became focused on how to avoid waste. Eldorado/285 Recycles' four most successful projects — Beyond Plastics Santa Fe, community vermicompost installations, Zero Waste, and the creation and maintenance of the Santa Fe County Reuse Center — all satisfy my desire to work toward solutions to reduce waste and help offset climate change.”

 Beyond Plastics Brooklyn, Beyond Plastics Queens, and 350NYC (a Beyond Plastics affiliate), alongside other environmental groups and New York City residents, delivered a letter to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Region 2 office in Queens calling for the agency to improve enforcement of two key plastic pollution reduction laws: the Bag Waste Reduction Law (aka plastic bag ban) and the bottle bill. Despite New York State enacting the single-use plastic bag ban in 2020, many stores in New York City continue to distribute single-use plastic bags at the checkout. This is not a problem in other parts of the state.

Beyond Plastics Queens cofounder Carolina Korth pointed to the importance of enforcement of laws that are already on the books, commenting, "I make a point to shop locally in Queens as much as possible, and the number of stores still handing out plastic bags — mostly made of thicker plastic and touted as "reusable" — makes a mockery of the law. The state legislature and governor passed a bag ban for good reason, and it's the DEC's job is to enforce it. Our job as activists is to call them out when they're not doing that job."  

Karen Goodheart — a member from It’s Easy Being Green, another NYC affiliated group — says of her advocacy to reduce plastics, “It has been truly shocking to me to learn about the impact that plastic has had on our environment and on our health, and it's imperative that we work to pass legislation that reduces the use of single-use plastic, and to educate ourselves about alternatives. Single-use plastics have been around for only the past 50 years, and previously we lived very well without them.”

 Also on July 20, members of Beyond Plastics Greater Boston gathered at the Massachusetts State House, where they handed out postcards while speaking to legislators and the public about current bills to reduce plastic pollution in Massachusetts. Greater Boston leader Eileen Ryan wore a necklace of found plastic straws and a hat decorated with empty plastic nip bottles that contained the message “Expand the Bottle Bill and Ban Chemical Recycling.”

 After leaving the statehouse to meet with New England Aquarium management staff to urge the aquarium to align with their mission by removing plastic products and packaging from their gift shop, Ryan stresses, "We can't end the plastic crisis with individual choices. We need to advocate for plastic reduction legislation at every level of government and for institutional and corporate policy changes that promote reuse and refill options."

 While Plastic-Free July is a month-long challenge for individuals to make plastic-free choices in their own lives, organizing efforts to curb plastics on a larger scale happen year-round. Fenceline groups living and working near plastic production facilities like Concerned Ohio River Residents and Rise St. James have dedicated their lives to stopping the petrochemical infrastructure buildout in the United States. The international coalition Break Free From Plastic, of which Beyond Plastics is a member, works year-round to amplify marginalized voices, promote environmental justice, slow climate change, and implement sustainable alternatives to plastic, like reuse and refill systems. Beyond Plastics local groups and affiliates are supporting that effort by empowering more people to be anti-plastics activists. 

 Photos of their Plastic-Free July activities can be accessed here.


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