Texas Tech University

University Community Joins Plastic Free July Challenge

Lucy Greenberg

July 1, 2021

Faculty, staff and students have the opportunity to see if they can make it through a month without using single-use plastics.

This month is Plastic Free July.

Every year, the Plastic Free Foundation hosts a monthlong challenge in July with the goal of reducing the use of single-use plastic. Many people complete the challenge every year. This year, Texas Tech University is joining in.  

Texas Tech spearheads research initiatives year-round when it comes to consuming less plastic and identifying alternative materials. One example is the research being conducted by the Department of Environmental Toxicology in using cotton to absorb toxic oil as well as alternative material to plastic such as cotton nonwoven wipes. 

“Plastics are petroleum based and they do not degrade, unlike natural materials like cotton,” said Seshadri Ramkumar, a professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology in Texas Tech's College of Arts & Sciences. “Plastics add to the environmental burden. Issues like global warming and landfills arise due to non-biodegradable materials. Reduce, reuse and recycle should be the goal.”  

It can certainly be daunting to go from using plastic every day to suddenly using none. Plastic is in almost everything we use. However, there is a difference between single-use plastics and reusable plastics.  

Examples of single-use plastics:  

  • Plastic bags
  • Straws
  • Coffee stirrers
  • Soda and water bottles
  • Plastic utensils
  • Most food packaging

While it is unrealistic to cut plastic out of everyday life overnight, there are a few steps that can be taken to move in the right direction during this challenge. 

Here are five ways to cut down on single-use plastics:  

  • Use a reusable bottle instead of plastic water bottles.
  • Buy paper or cardboard packaging instead of plastic packaging.
  • Bring reusable bags to the grocery store or skip the bags all-together if your items are small enough to carry.
  • Consider buying fewer material things and instead, spend money on experiences.  
  • Skip the straw and plastic plasticware. Just drink out of the cup and wait to use silverware at home.   

The Plastic Free Foundation invites first-time participants to consider focusing on being plastic-free at work, home or while shopping. By pledging to focus on one area, first-time participants are more likely to sustain the habit for the entire month.  

“Plastic Free July is important because it gets everyone thinking about how much plastic they use on a daily basis,” said Nick Nowicki, owner of Good Earth Recycling, a local recycling pick-up service in Lubbock that has previously partnered with Texas Tech.  

“Plastic is an important part of the lifestyle we enjoy but it's a double-edged sword because of the negative environmental impact it creates. It's important to transition to alternatives while, at the same time, properly managing the plastic waste we currently have,” Nowicki said.