Plastic Free July Challenge!!

During the month of July both of our summer students participated in the “Plastic Free July” Challenge. The challenge is to avoid using all single use plastics. Any single use plastic (Ziploc bag, saran wrap, takeout cup etc.) that they did use they had to save in a “dilemma bag”.

As July is coming to a close, the “dilemma bags” will become public! On Thursday, July 28th at 11am, Ridge Meadows Recycling will be hosting its first live stream! Visit to watch our summer students reflect on their plastic free experience – and go through their “dilemma bags”. Tune in and ask questions or share your plastic free experience!

Here are Annie & Taylor’s perspectives on their experience so far…


Annie Goodwin - Plastic Free July 2016Hi! I’m Annie, one of the Recycling Society’s summer students and I am participating in the Plastic Free July Challenge. For the month of July I am trying to reduce (ideally eliminate) my reliance on single use plastic. Any single use plastic item I do use I have to put into my “dilemma bag” which I will post a picture of at the end of the month.

It is now July 15th and I have gone plastic free at the movies, the bar, restaurants, a backyard barbeque and even a first date. So here are my thoughts and reflections on this challenge at our “halfway point”:

Things I finally don’t feel awkward saying:

  • “no bag please” and “no straw please”
  • “May I please get this in my own container/a cardboard box instead/my own mug/water bottle?”
  • “I actually brought my own, thank you though”

It’s been two weeks of this challenge, so most of my friends and family know about the challenge (and keep me very honest!). I’m finding I’m not explaining why I have my own cutlery/bags etc as often as I was in the beginning. This may be because everyone already knows, or because I’m starting to become more comfortable with it.

Things I haven’t found plastic free alternatives to, or am finding difficult to go without:

  • Tortillas and crackers without any plastic packaging. A lot of the plastic free websites and guides recommend making your own- but I find that a little intimidating. Unfortunately I do have some packaging from these items in my dilemma bag.
  • I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t want to give up my shampoo and conditioner for the plastic free options available at Lush. I do buy the largest bottles I can, so they do last me about two months.
  • Sunscreen/Moisturizer that is affordable and doesn’t come in plastic. My moisturizer does come in a glass bottle, which I love- but it still has a plastic top/pump. I haven’t been able to find any sunscreen that doesn’t come in plastic, which is unfortunate because I’ve been going through a lot with this great weather.
  • Yoghurt that doesn’t come in plastic. I’ve noticed this with other dairy products as well, but yoghurt is one of my go-to quick breakfasts and I have been missing it.
  • Deodorant- I cannot find a non-plastic deodorant anywhere. Even the all natural/ aluminum free ones come in plastic. I really don’t think a homemade baking soda deodorant is going to last through my work day, never mind when I go for a run or a long day hike.

Plastic free things I think I’m doing well- or am proud of:

  • I have finally started making my own hummus (apparently I’m late to this party- has everyone else been making hummus forever without me?). It is so easy to make and so delicious that I’m embarrassed to admit how many (plastic) packages of hummus I’ve bought in my lifetime.
  • I was out buying new sheets last weekend, and I found a great organic cotton set of sheets that was packaged in a organic cotton bag (that I am now using to carry my gym shoes). The packaging for these sheets consisted only of 2 small pieces of cardboard and it made me so irrationally happy.
  • The paranoia of what my orders will be shipped in (layers on layers of plastic!) has effectively curbed my online shopping habit- which is definitely for the best.


Taylor Robinson - Plastic Free July 2016Hello! I’m Taylor, one of the summer students at Ridge Meadows Recycling. I’m more than halfway through the Plastic Free July Challenge, and I must say, it’s been very interesting. My goal was to eliminate as much single-use plastic from my life as I possibly could. Before starting, I definitely wasn’t aware just how much plastic was being used for my food, purchases, and hygiene. I was confident in my success; I really didn’t think this would be that hard. I rarely took plastic utensils and always re-used them, I already had a re-usable water bottle and containers, and I was pretty sure that my food didn’t use that much plastic.

Boy was I wrong.

I still live at home, and my mother, frustrated by my dietary restriction for the month, asked me to try picking up some groceries. So, I perused our normal grocery store, only to find that all of my favourite foods came with plastic! Tofu, cereal, cheese, berries, granola bars, bread… At your typical grocery store, it seems that almost everything comes in plastic, and then they offer you more plastic to carry it all. I’d never really noticed it before, and I was surprised, to say the least.

Some things I found particularly challenging:

  • My own forgetfulness! On the first day of the challenge, I went to a friend’s house, and they had Chinese food. I was halfway through a fortune cookie before I thought about the plastic it was wrapped in. It also takes a lot of diligence to stop workers from giving me plastic – bags, cup lids, straws, you name it. It also takes a lot of diligence to stop family and friends from giving me plastic.
  • Personal hygiene products. I haven’t been feeling particularly adventurous with these. I guess I’m somewhat attached to the products I know and use. I do plan to start buying bamboo toothbrushes, but I’m not sure I can trust homemade deodorant, lip balm, or shampoo.
  • Dairy products. During the school year, there are at least 5 people living in my house at any given time, so we always buy the big plastic milk jugs. I haven’t seen any cheese without plastic packaging. Cream cheese, another staple in my house, also has no plastic-free alternative that I’m aware of. And when looking for a morning option that didn’t have a plastic bag like cereals do, I came across a delicious-looking recipe for cold oatmeal, which I was very excited about until I noticed that it needed Greek yoghurt. Yoghurt, of course, seems to always be in plastic. So it’s back to the drawing board for me!

While I’m certainly more comfortable bringing my own cutlery, containers, and bags everywhere now, I must say that this challenge has been a big wake-up call for me. I had no idea how much plastic was needed to sustain my lifestyle, especially my diet. To be honest, as someone who really cares about the environment, I’m kind of ashamed about it.

Some things I’ve done well, and some things I plan on doing:

  • I don’t have a single plastic utensil, shopping bag, or bottle. I’ve gotten much better at asking cashiers to forgo the bag and at bypassing any awkwardness when I buy items in my own container.
  • I’ve completely stopped personal use of saran wrap and sandwich bags, and I exclusively use reusable containers. I’m also planning on buying some Abeego, a natural alternative to saran wrap.
  • It is my intent to buy more local, plastic-free food, particularly in the summer.
  • I will be purchasing some reusable bags to buy bulk items, and I’ll store them in my own containers (probably used plastic peanut butter jars). Until then, I will bring my own containers to grocery stores for bulk food. They weigh them at customer service, so that when you check out, the weight of the container is subtracted from the weight of the food (this does take a little explaining, but I think it’s worth it to bypass the unnecessary plastic).

After this month, I’m going to stop holding on to all my plastic, but I’m not going to give up my goal to reduce my waste in general, particularly my plastic waste. Who knows, I may even start making my own deodorant!

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