Rebecca Prince-Ruiz

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz of Plastic Free July:

Becoming (single-use) plastic free one person at a time

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz of Plastic Free July

Rebecca didn’t mean to start a global movement.  She just set a family challenge to reduce the amount of plastic that they were using in the month of July. Now with an estimated 250 million people involved in 177 countries, we talk about future as the organisation is about to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Rebecca Prince-Ruiz.


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2020

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 2.23 | Why July?
  • 2.52 | How did Plastic Free July begin?
  • 7.31 | Plastic or single-use plastic?
  • 8.51 | Creating behavioural change
  • 12.53 | Why start with single-use plastic bags?
  • 14.48 | It’s about choices
  • 17.02 | How do we not go backwards post-Covid-19?
  • 26.20 | What would she change going forward?
  • 32.07 | How to be locally focussed with a global movement?
  • 35.59 | Focus for Plastic Free July 2020.
  • 37.23 | More about Rebecca
  • 42.15 | Rebecca’s new book – Plastic Free
  • 47.30 | How to get involved in Plastic Free July

Quotes from Rebecca Prince-Ruiz in this episode:

‘I would never choose July if I did it again. It just happened to be the next month after I had my aha moment and said, “I’m going to try going single use plastic free.”’

“I didn’t set out to start a campaign or a movement. I just set out to change myself.”

“I suddenly realised that the most important thing I could do each week was not to fill my recycling bins, but to put less in it. And so, I decided to do it for myself and for my family.”

“Each year we slowly kind of built it more in terms of our actual campaign and more resources. And it really spread by word of mouth.”

‘I remember the first interview that I ever did. And at that point 10 years ago, just trying to get across the concept of single use plastic and the problems of that, using this material that’s designed to be on products that we just use for a few minutes. I couldn’t get that across in an interview on the radio. The journalists kept saying, ”but your phone’s plastic, and your car’s plastic and your computer is plastic.” And it’s like, “Yeah, and it’s a great material and we should value it and we should use it and we should reuse it.” And that was just a concept that was really, really difficult to get across. But, you know, fast forward the clock to 2018. And according to Collins Dictionary, it’s the word of a year. So there has been a really big change over the last 10 years.’

What we’re really about here at Plastic Free July is closing that gap and the disconnect between people’s values and concerns and attitudes and their consumer choices and behaviours.”

“You first have to get these people making changes in their own lives and then in their communities and then in some of the smaller retailers. And then there’s this flow on effects to bigger businesses and then governments taking it on board.”

“We like to offer people choice because the single use plastic, that might be the low hanging fruit for you where you live might be different from the one for me where I live. So, the common kind of easier swaps that we tend to encourage our participants to take as they’re going on this journey would be things like choosing unpackaged fruit and vegetables. Buying it loose, taking your own reusable produce bags. Choosing basically foodstuffs that are less packaged.”

“I think one thing that this virus has showed is that people can adapt very quickly and make changes for the right reason. We know that this plastics issue is of concern to people. So that does give me hope, firstly, that we can make changes back in the right direction.”

“There’s a need for some common sense to come in here. If we can’t do everything, if your cafe is not accepting reusable cups and you decide not to make it at home, just ask for no lid. It’s not about doing everything. It’s just about doing something.”

“At the end of the day, the least we can do is start to look at our food waste, to start be more resourceful, be less wasteful, use what we’ve got in our fridges and our pantries and our homes and throw less out. That’s less packaging. That’s saving money. It’s saving our time, and it’s saving trips to the supermarket at a time when, you know, many of us are really wanting to minimise how often where we’re going.

“This is no longer okay to be creating this much waste and the public wants to do it better and business does as well. And I think it makes good sense for businesses to make these kinds of changes.”

“My hope is that we start to really support our local businesses, our local growers, our local farmers, and develop kind of much more resilience and kind of provenance around our food and our communities and our holidays.”

“I think what difference can one person make? And I think the results of Plastic Free July speak to the power of that. What happens when people make that shift from changes in their own lives to taking them into their communities and kids’ schools and their workplaces or their different organisations and networks, and having those conversations and councils running events and people starting to take the challenge for a year and blogging about it and writing about it. There’s so many people who are part of this beautiful success story.”

“Single-Use plastics, no matter who you are, where you live on this planet or what your circumstances are, we pretty much all encounter single use plastics on a daily basis. And that’s why I think it has had such appeal, because no one’s okay with seeing those images of the plastic pollution on beaches or the turtle wrapped up in the plastic bag or the whale being full of it. It doesn’t sit well with anyone. There’s no denying the source of it. We see it in our daily lives. And that’s a point where we can be part of the solution and take action.”

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution interviews mentioned in this show:

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Tammy Ven Dange

IT Consultant for the Not for Profit Sector | Host of "Executive with a Cause" Podcast

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