When Kaitlyn Gillies saw one of her friends sign up to take part in Plastic Free July, she decided to sign up as well so she could do her bit to reduce plastic pollution.
What started out as a one-month experiment to see how much plastic she could cut out of her life, turned into a year-long project and now a new way of life for the 21-year-old university student.
Looking at the past 12 months, Ms Gillies said it was a lot harder than she expected.
“It was a struggle and it doesn’t happen overnight but I stuck at it,” she told Region Media. “I remember coming back from grocery shopping and I was unpacking my bags into the fridge and pantry and I noticed all these things that were wrapped in plastic.
“So I turned plastic free July into a plastic-free year,” she said with a laugh.
Living on campus at the University of Canberra, Ms Gillies found that Plastic Free July was more than investing in a reusable coffee mug – and remembering to use it – but it was a way of life.
“Especially when I was very broke, I was shopping at supermarkets and I was looking at the most inexpensive thing rather than does it have plastic packaging on it,” she said. “There is a lot of balancing.
“I avoid buying food wrapped in plastic and if I do somehow obtain some soft plastic, I will recycle that at Coles with their red recycle program.”
While Kaitlyn thought going plastic-free may be an expensive project that would hurt her back pocket, she said that instead, she found it was a great way to save more money.
“People believe that going plastic-free is going to be really expensive because they look at the products and see that it is a certain per cent more expensive to buy it,” she shared. “But if you do make that investment, you save money in the long run by not rebuying single-use items.
“I got rid of my single-use plastics in the most sustainable way possible and swapped them for reusable options. To be honest, I saved a lot of money.”
And while the ACT Government is consulting with the public about its plan to ban single-use plastics, stating that it is not sustainable for 23,000 tonnes of plastic to go into ACT landfill each year, Ms Gillies is encouraging others to join in their own personal war on plastic.
“Do your research and know what you can recycle and what you can’t,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what can and can’t go in the kerbside bins.
“It is all about building those habits and committing to doing the right thing.”
Click here to see how you can get involved in Plastic Free July.