Plastic Free July Tips for Businesses

Participating in Plastic Free July is a great way to create a green and more sustainable business. The initiative encourages individuals and businesses to take small steps to reduce single-use plastic, as a part of a larger green movement to change our relationship with single-use products. In this piece, we unpack useful Plastic Free July tips for businesses, which can be adopted throughout the month and beyond.

The Cost of Convenience

Before we get into the Plastic Free July tips for businesses, it is worthwhile to understand the need for the campaign in the first place. The statistics around plastic usage and pollution can be alarming. Plastic has become a ubiquitous material used globally as an integral part of our everyday lives. Plastic has a number of valuable uses due to its lightweight, versatile and durable nature. It is unfortunate that the same properties that make plastic so useful can also cause negative impacts as the material can persist in the environment for many years.

Globally, it is estimated that less than 10% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. If it is not recycled or treated, this means the remaining plastic waste ends up in landfill or leaks into the environment. The Plastic Oceans Foundation reports that an estimated 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans annually, the equivalent of more than a garbage load every minute. This has devastating effects on ecosystems, marine life and the health of our ocean.

Plastic pollution facts


In total, nearly half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes after which it is discarded. Plastic Free July started in response to the plastic waste challenge as a way to take action on single-use plastic and create a wave of change across the globe.


Plastic Free July is a global movement encouraging individuals and businesses to make small changes to refuse and reduce the use of single-use plastic. It is a personal challenge with the broader objective of transforming our relationship with single-use items and advocating for cleaner oceans, streets and communities.

The first Plastic Free July took place in Australia in 2011 with just over 40 people participants. The movement has since grown significantly in its scope and impact with over 140 million people taking part in the challenge across 190 countries in 2021. The campaign focuses on behavioural change as a catalyst to reduce our dependence on single-use plastic.

Through the Plastic Free July website, individuals and businesses can pledge to avoid different kinds of single-use packaging, avoid the ‘big four’ single-use plastics, or go entirely plastic-free.

Plastic Free July 2023

5 Plastic Free July tips for businesses

1. Tackle the ‘Big Four’

The Plastic Free July campaign identifies the ‘Big Four’ as takeaway plastic items (plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws and plastic cups) which are a great starting point for the challenge. These are the low-hanging fruit that can be avoided by individuals and organisations to make a huge difference in single-use plastic consumption.

You may ask why it is necessary to avoid these items in particular? These single-use plastics have been identified as significant polluters due to their prevalence in the natural environment after use.

Plastic free July big 4

Single-use items linger in our environment indefinitely and can take hundreds of years to break down. When plastics degrade they form microplastics which pollute the natural environment and have made their way into the seas, our soils the area and even the food and water we consume. Targeting the Top 4 is an important first step to reducing the use of unnecessary plastic. We’ll now take a closer look at some of the alternatives that can be used to replace single-use items.

2. Swap out Single-Use for Reuse

Offering and encouraging reusable options in an organization is a great way to replace disposables. Most disposable items like plastic bottles, cups, plastic cutlery, and other utensils and packaging are only used for a few minutes and then thrown away. And by now, it is worth recognising that there is no such thing as ‘away’.

  • Start a ‘Refill’ution in your workplace or office 

Encouraging people to use reusable bottles or glasses is an easy Plastic Free July tip to reduce the use of unnecessary plastic. Globally, more than one million plastic bottles are bought every single minute. The surge in plastic bottle use is alarming considering the number of countries where people have access to clean, safe and free drinking water. There is also more water in your plastic water bottle than can be seen. It takes more than three times as much water to produce a plastic water bottle than the water bottle actually contains.

Installing water refill stations and offering easy access to free, filtered water is an easy way to reduce the unnecessary use of disposable water bottles.

Refill water bottles

  • Reusable coffee cups

For example, the world loves coffee so much that more than 50 billion coffee cups are disposed of in America alone every single year. Disposable coffee cups might be convenient, but there is an environmental impact that needs to be considered. Single-use coffee cups are challenging to recycle because they are made with paper lined with an inner layer of plastic. Majority of single-use coffee cups and their lids end up in landfills or as plastic pollution in the environment or the ocean. Bringing a reusable coffee cup is a simple way to ensure you’re not contributing to this growing problem. You may even save money as many coffee shops now offer discounts for bringing reusables as a way to incentivise individuals to break the single-use habit.

Single use coffee cups

  • Offer reusables in kitchens & canteens

There are several different ways to reduce plastic in your organisation. Businesses can ensure reusable options are available in the form of plates, cups and cutlery to reduce the use of disposables. Businesses can also encourage colleagues to bring reusable cups and containers to the workplace.

Other switches you can make might include:

  • Dine in, rather than getting takeaways
  • Swap store-bought bottled drinks for a reusable water bottle
  • Bring your own reusable mug
  • Go without a plastic straw
  • Refuse single-use plastic cutlery and opt for reusables instead
  • Refuse single-use plastic produce bags
  • Swap disposable takeaway containers for reusable containers

The Less Plastic Organisation in the United Kingdom identifies 9 top tips for reducing plastic in the workplace. Actions highlighted by the organisation include, amongst others, organising a clean-up with your team, requesting that suppliers use less plastic packaging, and sharing your successes so that other individuals and organisations may be inspired to also take action. What is key here is partnership and collaboration to multiply the impact. Our Zero Waste Foundation is committed to conducting clean ups with clients, non-profits and NGOs to reduce the prevalence of plastic pollution in our environment. We are always open to partnership opportunities to help organisations make a difference and grow our impact.

Plastic free workplace tips

3. Conduct a Waste Audit

Understanding your waste and what your business is throwing away is a crucial starting point to decreasing your organisation’s dependence on single-use plastic. A waste audit provides the opportunity to improve your recycling rate and cut operational costs. Only once you understand what types of waste you are producing can you implement measures to avoid and reduce the waste in the first place.

For example, an audit of your waste might reveal that your organisation is throwing away single-use food utensils and coffee cups. Making a quick switch and offering reusables would be a strategy to reduce the dependence on single-use items that often end up in landfills.

The takeaways here are that an audit is a crucial starting point to target the “low hanging fruit” and make a small change that can ultimately add to make a significant impact to reduce your organisation’s plastic usage. Don’t Waste has a step-by-step guide to walk clients through their zero waste to landfill journey.

4. Raise Awareness and Spread the Word

Businesses can make small changes that add up and produce significant results to reduce plastic waste. An effective way to multiply your impact is to spread the word and get your colleagues, clients and networks on board to take collective action for Plastic Free July. Engaging and educating staff is crucial so they can understand the importance of reducing plastic waste and protecting the environment. Educating individuals creates a catalyst to rethink their relationship with single-use plastic. Forming new habits in the workplace and reaching targets to reduce waste is only possible if people understand the motivation behind it.

How to engage staff to join in?

  • Host an event with a guest speaker to inspire behaviour change and create awareness
  • Create goals or a challenge for employees for the month
  • Communicate your company’s vision through emails and social media posts
  • Champion the cause by hosting workshops or a competition
  • Promote Plastic Free July by placing ‘plastic-free’ signage at the entrances of your organisation or areas where plastic is commonly used like the canteens or lunch areas.

The Plastic Free July website has a number of assets to choose from including posters and media that can be freely used to support the campaign. Don’t Waste also offers tenant management solutions to provide ways to incentivise different departments, tenants or buildings to reduce waste and reward them for their efforts. This method has proven effective by recording, monitoring and engaging tenants to encourage more sustainable behaviour.

5. Go Beyond Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July should be a starting point creating a catalyst for change beyond the month of July. We recognise that eliminating problematic waste streams at the source will always have the best environmental savings. Efforts to avoid, reduce and reuse plastic are, however, challenging and there are cases where plastic will need to be recycled through transparent and responsible end-of-life management. At Don’t Waste, we partner with businesses across the world to ensure that they know where their waste actually ends up. The Don’t Waste System offers a data-driven waste management solution to transparently track all your waste and recyclables anywhere and anytime.

This is a commitment we stand for, not just for Plastic Free July, but every day of the year.


Don’t Waste provides industry leading business intelligence, site management, and waste management services to Property, Retail, Commercial, Industrial and Hospitality industries. Our customers include the world’s leading property management groups. To find out more about our innovative value-added systems and services in onsite waste operations, contact:

Linus Naik- Group General Manager: Sustainability & Business Development (Email: I Mobile: +27 82 552 0675).

Michael Foreman- UK Managing Director and International Business Development (Email: I Mobile: +44 7939 027193).

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