Top tips to break free from plastic

Sustainable City Our Wellbeing

Going plastic-free might seem like an impossible challenge but tearing yourself away can open a whole new world of produce, products and people!

Plastic is an ever-present force in our lives, from our youth in plastic nappies, to our cling-wrapped school sandwiches and our morning coffees consumed through a plastic lid. Plastic Free July challenges us to kick our life-long habit and give up single-use plastics for a whole month. Sound difficult / easy / fun? It’s all three. Here’s how to prepare and why it’s important.

During COVID-19 restrictions, some of the options discussed here may not be available at select stores and eateries. Chose the options that are most suitable for you and meet hygiene recommendations during the pandemic.

Why take the challenge?

Plastic Free July is an exercise in reducing; it’s not to say you can never use single-use plastic again. It’s a great way to test your problem-solving skills and challenge yourself to break a bad habit. When August comes around you might keep a handful of your new-found habits and be one step closer to joining the ranks of Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

It’s not breaking news that our environment is having a tough time with plastic waste. What might surprise you though is that these plastics, often in the form of microplastics, are ending up in our body through water, food and even air.

“Humans are being exposed to both plastic particles and chemical additives being released from the plastic debris of consumer society … What started as a marine environmental contamination issue is in fact very much a human health issue as well.”
A. Dick Vethaak and Heather A. Leslie, Plastic Debris Is a Human Health Issue, 2016

There are a lot of people working to make changes on a larger scale, but if we all do a small part it adds up to make a real difference.

Soap arcade


Five tips to go plastic-free

Not all products are created equal. When you can, swap a plastic-clad product for an environmentally friendly counterpart. A simple switch would be instead of using teabags that contain plastic (surprise – a lot of them do!), look for teabags that confirm they are compostable or switch to loose leaf tea.

Keep in mind that biodegradable does not mean compostable. For example, compostable bags are made entirely of plant materials and will break down naturally. Biodegradable bags have limitations in how they can break down – if they’re in the ocean or under a pile of rubbish, they will not break down.

If there’s no plastic-free alternative, you can sometimes say no. No straw thanks. No bag thanks. No coffee until I’ve run and grabbed my reusable cup thanks. The environment will say thanks to you!

When choosing a spot to catch up with friends, steer clear of places and events that don’t have sustainability in mind. The best way to find out is to give them a call or skim their social media for signs of sustainable practices. Lots of bars and restaurants are starting to make the switch with straws.

Yes, plastic containers are a-ok to use during the challenge. Single use plastic just means you’ll use it once and throw it away. Stash a selection of containers in your everyday bag so you can easily deflect plastic temptation. This is an easy way to avoid a takeaway container for lunch, leftovers or when grocery shopping. Most butchers will also be happy to put your order in a supplied container.

Reusable cups


Where to buy plastic-less produce in Adelaide

House of Health and Whole and Some (formerly: Goodies and Grains) let you scoop your own cereals, flour and a nearly endless list of grains and nuts.

Lucia’s Fine Foods in the Adelaide Central Market sells fresh pasta which you can put directly into your own containers. They also sell olive oil on tap!

Kappy’s Tea and Coffee on Compton Street near the market, lets you buy exactly the amount of beans and tea leaves you want and will put it in your own container on request.

Hong Kong Grocery on Moonta Street Chinatown sells herbs without plastic – which is surprisingly difficult to find! They also sell tofu in reusable containers.

The Honey Shoppe and Soap Box in the Central Market Arcade sells cleaning products that you can pour directly into your own containers. They also carry products without harsh chemicals and of course, honey!

Market museli


Prepare your eco-tool belt

It pays to be prepared so stock up on sustainable tools to save you money while you’re saving the earth.

Leave the roll of disposable plastic bags alone! The House of Health in the Adelaide Central Market sells reusable produce bags for only a few dollars each. If you forget, repurpose a paper mushroom bag.

If you’re carrying soup or a juicy lunch in your bag you might like to use a plastic bag in case of a leak. Save the bags and invest in a lunchbox. Have You Met Charlie in Regent Arcade carries insulated lunchboxes by Kollab.

Let your clingwrap become obsolete by switching to beeswax wraps. They’re available all over the city at places like E for Ethel on Melbourne Street or you can make your own!

As long as you use a reusable cup more than a dozen or so times, studies have shown it’s better than a disposable cup in terms of energy use. Some cafes even offer a nice discount if you bring your own cup. Fleur and Brew on Gilbert Street sells beautiful handmade ceramic cups – lid and all.

Good luck on your journey and remember it’s ok if you slip up during the challenge. It is hard to make the shift, but each plastic piece avoided will give you peace of mind.

Article by

Georgie Smith

Georgie Smith

Maker and curator of things

Georgie has been BFFs with Adelaide her whole life. They’ve shared many special moments: over cheese platters at art exhibitions, cycling through the park lands and immersed in sequin-clad theatre shows.