Dump the plastic this July and do your bit for the planet

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July.

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July. - Credit: Gabe McCabe

St Albans is already topping the chart of local authorities with the highest recycling rate of household waste, but with this month officially Plastic Free July, what more can be done to push this 64 per cent figure even higher?

One savvy citizen is saving the world a plastic container at a time. Celina Mendoza set up The Refill Pantry in 2018, a zero waste shop which cuts out plastic by encouraging customers to bring containers and refill them at the shop. It was originally based in London Road, but has now moved to Carpenters Nursery near Sandridge.

Customers are able to fill their containers from a wide range of whole foods - from staples such as pasta, rice and nuts, to treats like vegan sweets and delicious chocolates.

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July.

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July. - Credit: Gabe McCabe

Celina began the Refill Pantry after seeing an ad about a similar establishment set up in Devon and became aware of a gap in the market in St Albans.

"My aim is get more and more people to shop this way and see the benefits, and with Plastic Free July there is no better time to try and reduce waste using the Pantry."

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July.

The Refill Pantry is supporting Plastic Free July. - Credit: Gabe McCabe

Plastic is a significant issue in today's world with the UK contributing two million tonnes of plastic packaging waste to landfill per year according to the British Plastic Federation.

Celina added: "While it's not easy for some people to remember to recycle, The Refill Pantry is something that anyone could combine with their weekly foodshop even if the change is small like refilling your washing-up liquid or buying a bar of soap rather than a bottle."

The UK contributes two million tonnes of plastic packaging waste to landfill per year.

The UK contributes two million tonnes of plastic packaging waste to landfill per year. - Credit: Archant

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Green Party councillor Simon Grover says he thinks Plastic Free July is incredibly important as our country is in an environmental crisis.

"There needs to be a mindset change throughout the world with larger companies taking responsibility by using the right materials and operating in ethical ways to fully transition to an environmentally friendly country. However, as individuals there needs to also be an element of responsibility by taking account for our own waste or writing to shops to suggest more ethical and plastic free alternatives."

His comments were supported by SADC leader Cllr Chris White: “We are supporting the global Plastic Free July campaign having recently published our own Plastic Free Action Plan.

"This plan details our efforts to eliminate single-use plastics from our offices, facilities and services, taking a phased approach to allow organisations time to adjust.

“Our past actions include removing single-use plastic cups from our offices and banning Styrofoam from the Charter Market.

“During July itself, we have provided another water fountain to encourage use of refill bottles rather than disposable plastic ones. This fountain has been installed in Verulamium Park, near the athletics track, and follows the placement of a similar fountain in Clarence Park.

“We have also been promoting Plastic Free July on our social media pages, urging our residents to take up the campaign’s challenge of going without single-use plastics for the month."

The Plastic Free Action Plan also includes long-term changes to many elements of St Albans society including prohibiting the use of single use plastic cutlery from food stalls at the Charter Market in 2022; to eventually making single-use plastic and plastic-lined card drink cups no longer available to the public at any council-managed events by 2024.

Cllr White added: "This is an important issue for us as a council as our main priority is tackling the climate emergency and improving our local environment. Eliminating single-use plastics is very much part of that commitment.”

What can you do to help?

  1. Why not consider getting a milkman? Dairies reuse the glass bottles by cleaning, sterilising and refilling them. This reduces the need for single-use milk containers and it removes those late night trips to the supermarket for milk.
  2. Thrifting is back! St Albans boasts an abundance of charity shops full of hidden gems with some people claiming to have found Ralph Lauren and Burberry for only £15. Before hopping on the internet to buy your summer outfits, maybe have a mooch around the local charity shops to help the environment and a good cause!
  3. Finally, the classic, try not to use the supermarket plastic bags. Try to remember bags for life or cloth bags to carry your shopping. Thin plastic bags lead to the death of 100,000 marine animals a year and while a small and insignificant action for us, the impact is catastrophic.