Local students with their teachers, school staff and parents, regulators and representatives from organisations met at Government House for the launch of the new Plastic Free Morning Tea initiative and to share their vision for a plastic free future. Photos supplied.

Aiming for cleaner streets, oceans and communities, the Plastic Free Foundation officially launched a new plastic waste initiative at Government House in Canberra on World Ocean Day, Tuesday 8 June.

Known for the global movement ‘Plastic Free July’, the Plastic Free Foundation is encouraging people across Australia to gather their friends, family or colleagues to join them for a ‘Plastic Free Morning Tea’ on Thursday 1 July. 

The new initiative urges Australians to take action against the plastic waste that pollutes the environment and oceans, in the company of colleagues, friends and family in a fun and simple way.

Founded in Western Australia by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Plastic Free July encourages participants worldwide to stop using single use-plastic products, such as food packaging, bags, water bottles, balloons, and cups for the month of July.

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz founded Plastic Free July in 2011 after deciding to ditch single-use plastic for a month.

With their own strong passion for sustainability, Governor-General David Hurley and Mrs Linda Hurley met with Ms Prince-Ruiz for the launch, hosting Canberra locals who want to make a difference.  

Ms Prince-Ruiz said she wanted the ‘Plastic Free Morning Tea’ to launch in Canberra, several hundred kilometres away from the ocean, because of the community connection to the challenge.

“When I came to Canberra in January for the Australian of the Year Awards, I met Mrs Hurley and she’s such a champion,” she said.

“She’s an ordinary Australian in that she’s an ordinary Plastic Free July participant; she’s someone who’s making changes in her own life and where she lives, in this case Government House.”

While the official plastic free challenge is only in July, there is also a positive long-term effect for challenge takers.

The Plastic Free Foundation has found participants reduce their household waste and recycling by 21 kilograms per person per year, contributing to a total saving of almost 940 million kilograms of plastic waste each year.

For Dickson College student Alex Papadimitriou, the challenge is one small thing she can do to help the environment.  

“I just think plastic is well known but it’s still underestimated when it comes to its impact on the environment, there’s so much of it in everyday life,” Ms Papadimitriou said.

Student Alex Papadimitriou is passionate about protecting the ocean, studying oceanography at Dickson College.

“It’s in our bodies, it’s in the food chain, it’s in the ecosystems.”

She said that as a young person, she feels ‘overwhelmed’ by all the changes that need to be made to reduce single-use plastic waste.

“We did marine pollution as our last assignment and there where so many different topics and some of the topics that we were informed about have effects that can’t be reversed. It’s damaging to hear that,” she said.

“There’s both things that are continuously being done that harm the environment and no matter what we do, there will still be some things that can’t be changed, at least for a long time.”

Lucy Morris, a Year 6 student at Holy Trinity Primary School, is also passionate about reducing single-use plastic waste.

She said that for Plastic Free July, the school’s sustainability team is challenging their teachers to ditch takeaway coffee cups.

“I believe that just because plastic may be easier, it’s ending animals’ lives and it can be ending some human lives as well. I have a big passion that we need to shift so that our environment can stay healthy,” she said.

Lucy Morris, a Year 6 student at Holy Trinity Primary School, is challenging teachers to ditch takeaway coffee cups.

Ms Prince-Ruiz said she feels for the young people who are facing the environmental issues of today.  

Her advice for anyone looking to make change to protect the future is to “keep it simple”.

“Taking part in Plastic Free July, making a difference, it’s not just for greenies or environmentalists,” she said. “Look at the plastics in your life, look in the bin, look at the litter that’s on the street around you. Look at the plastic in your fridge or your pantry and just take something off, find an alternative, make a new habit.

“I think if you try to do everything at once it’s easy to feel overwhelmed … Change, it’s a journey and we’re all in different places on that journey.”

For more information and to host your own Plastic Free Morning Tea, visit www.plasticfreejuly.org

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