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Happy Plastic Free July! Summer is here, and so is disposable plastic season. Plastic bottles piled on the sideline of a weekend soccer tournament. Plastic cups and forks at a backyard barbeque. Discarded plastic soda bottles washing up on the beach.

What happens to all of this plastic waste? Most of it will head to the landfill. Some of the bottles will be placed into a recycling bin, but due to cross contamination within single-stream recycling, most won’t be recycled into new bottles. And many of the plastic forks, cups, bottles, straws, and plates will end up as litter - not always intentionally - that will slowly break apart into microplastics polluting the Narragansett Bay forever.

So what can we do? First, we can make personal choices to reduce, or eliminate, our consumption of disposable plastic. Start carrying a reusable water bottle instead of single-use plastic bottles. Use reusable forks, spoons, knives, cups, and plates at your barbeque. But individual actions, while positive, are not enough to stem the plastic tide. That’s why Clean Water Action is tackling plastic on a larger scale.

Last spring, we fought for the passage of a Rhode Island bottle bill. The bottle bill places the responsibility for empty beverage bottles where it belongs: with the beverage companies and distributors of these millions of bottles. Under a bottle bill, food grade beverage containers are collected separately from other recycling which means your plastic bottle is much more likely to be recycled into another plastic bottle rather than tossed in the landfill or downcycled into a lesser product. Plus, the recycling refund program created by a bottle bill can easily become a return and reuse program, so we can move away from single-use plastic bottles in the future.

Thanks to the efforts of our grassroots members and the support of our legislative allies, the RI General Assembly convened a study commission to work out the details of a bottle bill for Rhode Island during the legislative offseason. You can help! Send a message to your state legislators letting them know that fighting plastic pollution with a bottle bill is still a high priority.

We are also launching Clean Water Fund ’s award-winning ReThink Disposable program in Rhode Island this summer! ReThink Disposable works with local restaurants and institutions who want to make the switch away from single-use disposable foodware. This prevents marine pollution, reduces plastic consumption, and even saves restaurants money. Please share our ReThink Disposable program with your favorite local eatery and join our webinar on July 20th to learn more!

The petrochemical lobby is desperate to keep us all hooked on plastic because plastic is made from fossil fuels. They are going to push for false solutions like “chemical recycling” to try and convince you that we can keep using and disposing of plastic bottles forever. But we know the real solutions: reduce our consumption of plastic, design items for reuse, and build real recycling systems. Together, let’s make #PlasticFreeJuly more than just a summer trend.