One aim is to remove the disposable coffee cup. Image – Canva.
  • Western Australia takes top spot in plastic free rankings
  • NSW outlines plans for plastic reduction
  • Corporate sector pitches in with holistic campaign

Plastic Free July is an initiative created in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a small team in local government in Western Australia.

It’s in the name: the initiative sets out to reduce single-use plastic use.

While reducing plastics is an important part of the solution to abate plastics related issues in our environment, Ms Prince-Ruiz told The Property Tribune the solution isn’t restricted to replacing single-use plastics.

“Reducing our consumption, reducing production, and consuming responsibly, that’s when we can really turn the dial on this issue and make a difference.”

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Founder, Plastic Free July

It has since become a global movement, with campaigns including plastic-free schools challenge, plastic-free morning tea, and others.

States go plastic-free

Western Australia has started Plastic Free July with great fanfare. Earlier this week, the state claimed first place in the WWF-Australia plastics scorecard thanks to the fast-tracking of the Plan for Plastics.

The plan is a state government initiative that will see single-use plastics including bowls, plates, cutlery, straws and polystyrene food containers banned by December this year.

The second stage of the plan, which starts in December 2022, will see further single-use plastic products phased out, including takeaway coffee cups and lids.

New South Wales will also be making the commitment to move away from plastics, with laws set to be passed by state parliament this year.

Bans on certain types of plastics will be phased out, with the goal of a 25% reduction in plastics by 2025.

Corporate influence

Brookfield Properties recently launched its own pilot program complementing the movement. ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ is being carried out in partnership with Plastic Free Foundation, and Ms Prince-Ruiz said that this kind of corporate heft could be transformational.

“What I’ve learnt from Brookfield is the power that businesses have. They’re not working in a silo, it’s not just Brookfield and their employees, they’ve taken their employees on this journey… and they’re doing a lot within their own building, they are in a position to influence their tenants that they’re working with,” Ms Prince- Ruiz said.

Starting with the visuals

Brookfield Properties ESG and Innovation Manager, Danny De Sousa, said, “From a corporate office perspective, some of the things that were really visual to everybody were what we had in our kitchens, for example, little jam containers we would offer to staff to have breakfast.”

Other aspects are more difficult, Mr De Sousa continued: “… when you look at a commercial office building from a base-building perspective, the areas of focus are a bit different and harder to see.”

Reduce, not just recycle

Could the campaign see premiums rise for tenants? The answer was no.

“For the most part, what we’re trying to do is avoid items, so if we can stop bringing in something that is wrapped in plastic then we will,” said Mr De Sousa.

That’s the right idea, Ms Prince-Ruiz said: “Brookfield isn’t just replacing single-use plastic with single-use compostable, but they’re also looking at how can we reduce.”

“What is powerful is the action, it’s not what’s in the strategic plan or the annual report, it’s not in the values statement, yes, of course, these can be defining and important, that’s what the investors are reading, but what people are seeing on the street is what they’re doing.”

Mr De Sousa also said a Brookfield success story included removing plastics from the bathroom consumables supply chain.

“We were able to work together with the supplier and look at the way some of those items were packaged for delivery to our properties and ask them to stop wrapping them in plastic.”

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