Public concern for plastic pollution is high but people often question what difference they can make. Plastic Free July is a global social movement turning the tide on plastic waste, one choice at a time. This movement is flipping the script by focusing on solutions and demonstrating the difference collective action can make.
Working with a behavioral scientist, Plastic Free July introduced the concept that people can ‘choose to refuse’ single-use plastics in their daily lives and changed the dialogue on personal plastic consumption and empowering communities – rather than focus on clean-ups and recycling. The movement is an entry point to increase public literacy and support behavior change to finally ‘turn off the tap’ of plastic waste.
Since 2011, people have taken the challenge to go plastic free in July by choosing to refuse the single-use plastics we use daily. The unique month-long challenge empowers people to act and share positive stories about solutions. By focusing on reduction and avoidance, it has been proven to create long term behavior change with 87% of participants making at least one long lasting change.
Globally, in 2021, participants reduced non-recoverable (landfill) waste by 1.2 billion and recyclable waste by 900 million kg, including plastic consumption by 0.3 million tons. It is astonishing to note that this movement –mobilizing millions of people- started with only 40 individuals.
A staggering 26% of consumers (at least 313 million people) surveyed by Ipsos were aware of Plastic Free July and 140 million had participated with sign-ups from 190 countries and replicated by schools, councils and companies. Today, this global social movement inspires people to be part of the solution in their own lives, connects community for action and calls on business and governments to end plastic pollution. The global plastic treaty agreed upon at the United Nations Environment Assembly shows that leaders are listening.
Follow Plastic Free July on social media: @PlasticFreeJuly on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, @plastic-free-july on LinkedIn.
Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.
Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment.
Ms. Mohammed first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to four successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development.
Ms. Mohammed has been conferred several honorary doctorates and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development. The recipient of various global awards, Ms. Mohammed has served on numerous international advisory boards and panels. She is the mother of six children and has two grandchildren.
Mame Balla is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, and music producer based in Europe who sings about peace, environmental issues, the experiences of growing up in West Africa and more.
Mame Balla has worked with Bouba Ndour, producer and brother of the famous singer Youssou Ndour, with whom he released two internationally successful albums. Between his solo career and the former music groups Dancehall Masters and Darou Salam, Mame Balla has partnered with international artists of different music genres such as Senegalese pop singer Viviane, dancer Ndeye Geye, hip hop group Gokh-Bi System, and Dutch-Albanese rapper Jon Tarifa. He has also partnered with Polish and German artists for a jazz project, and performed with Congolese afrobeat singers in the Netherlands. Between 1999 and 2004, Mame Balla and his former group Dancehall Masters received awards as Best New Group and Best Group in The Gambia; and also received the prize Prix de l’intégration at a Senegalese hip-hop awards. Mame Balla took a course in music production at the State of Mic Studio in The Gambia. Performing with Pape Samory and Issa Ndiaye.
Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile is an international award-winning cultural architect, communications specialist, performance artist, development practitioner and human rights advocate. OkayAfrica named her one of the 100 Most Influential Women of African Descent in 2018. Her accolades include being nominated for the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, a TED Fellow, Queen’s Young Leader, Chevening Scholar, Mandela Washington Fellow, and OutRight’s UN Religion Fellow. She holds a Sociology Masters in Human Rights, Culture, and Social Justice, with a focus on Disability Rights and Public Space Design, from Goldsmiths University of London, UK. Her published writing spans theatre, academic texts and policy analyses.
Ms. Ulrika Modéer officially began her role on 20 August 2018 as UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy. In this role she leads the organization in nurturing and growing key relationships with Member States, and new and emerging partners, as well as lead UNDP’s communications and advocacy, as it works to realize the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Modéer previously served as Sweden’s State Secretary for International Development Cooperation and Climate and has been instrumental in reshaping the country’s international development cooperation to support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. She combines a strong policy background with parliamentary and civil society experience and has had several assignments in Latin America (Bolivia, Guatemala) and Africa (Mozambique/South Africa). Ms. Modéer holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Tolu Olubunmi is a Nigerian-born, American-raised chemical engineer turned political strategist, social entrepreneur and public speaker. She is the founder and CEO of the social impact venture, Lions Write. In 2018, Tolu was tapped by the Director-General of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) for a special appointment as Advisor to the UN Department of Global Communications and Manager of the Climate Action Campaign ActNow. Tolu has established and led numerous NGOs and campaigns focused on education, migration, economic inclusion, sustainability, and climate change. She has worked closely with leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society to shift culture, influence public policy and build strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships – she served on the World Economic Forum’s Migration Council, co-founded Immigrant Heritage Month, and has helped draft and implement U.S. immigration policies.
Tolu sits on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League, Board of Directors of USA for IOM. In 2015, the World Economic Forum named her one of 15 Women Changing the World and an Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur. Her inspiring personal story and work have been profiled by several media outlets, including BBC, MSNBC, TIME, CBS, US News and World Report. Tolu is an inaugural Leadership Institute Fellow at the Center for American Progress and holds a chemistry-engineering degree from Washington and Lee University.
Since 2014, Khalifa Jassim Al-Kuwari has led the establishment, strategy-setting, partnerships, and funding programs of the Qatar Fund for Development in developing countries. Previously, Mr. Al-Kuwari was the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director – Joint Venture and International Business of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). He has been appointed to the boards of leading organisations, including: Harrods, Volkswagen Group, Fairmont Raffles Group, Songbird Real Estate, Qatar Exchange, Katara Hospitality, and Mowasalat. He holds an Executive MBA in Business Administration from the London Business School, an MBA in Accounting from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Qatar University. He graduated from the Leadership Development Program at Harvard Business School and Qatar Leadership Center.