Global challenge, Plastic Free July, comes to the Spokane region

SPOKANE, Wash. — Think about how many single-use plastics you use daily (coffee cups, straws, water bottles, bags, utensils, and food containers, to name a few.) Now, imagine now using any of those for 1 month.

Small sacrifices for significant change. That’s what Spokane Zero Waste and Huckleberry’s are trying to bring to the Spokane area through a global initiative called ‘Plastic Free July.’

The effort to bring Plastic Free July to our community was spearheaded by Elyse Hochstadt, the Managing Director for Spokane Zero Waste.

“It’s so insidious and undermining the health and wellbeing of communities around the country,” Hochstadt said.

The problem is that plastic can’t be broken down and recycling it properly is rare.

“If you’ve ever ridden your bike, or ran on the trail or taken your kid to the park, and you just see plastic trash everywhere, we’re trying to get rid of that,” Hochstadt explained.

After 11 years, Plastic Free July has reduced global demand by:

  • 2.3% of all bottled water
  • 3.1% of all fruit and vegetable packing
  •  4.0% of all plastic straws

Hochstadt says we need to hold manufacturers responsible for what they’re doing because innovations are available and more costly. Hochstadt says we need an upfront investment for a long-term benefit.

According to Spokane Zero Waste, in 2021, over 26,000 pounds (that’s three 18-wheeler trucks!) of trash was removed from the Spokane River by volunteers. Much of this was single-use plastics.

“The irony about water in plastic bottles is that it pollutes our water,” Hochstadft explained. “In drinking water in a plastic bottle, you’re actually contributing to plastic pollution”

She says the No. 1 thing people can do is to start using a refillable water bottle, in lieu of plastic water bottles.

A small sacrifice by each of us, like choosing to reuse one single-use plastic, can have a big payout.