Viewpoint: Kathy Manfre – Go plastic-free this July

Kathy Manfre



For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 07-01-2024 11:01 AM

Only 5% to 6% of plastic produced in the United States gets recycled, and approximately 50% is used just once and thrown away.

Communities around the globe are concerned about plastic in our waste stream, particularly single-use plastics that are ending up in our landfills, waterways, air, food, drinking water and soil. That is why hundreds of millions of people worldwide are taking the challenge and participating in “Plastics Free July 2024.”

According to Beyond Plastics, “Over 98% of plastics are made from fossil carbon such as oil and gas. Over 13,000 chemicals are known to be involved in the production of plastic. More than 2,300 of these are deemed ‘chemicals of concern.’ Some are highly toxic and include carcinogens, neurotoxicants and endocrine disruptors. These chemicals pose serious risks to human health because they can leach or migrate at every stage of the plastics’ life cycle.”


No longer is plastic production “just” an environmental or climate issue; it is a health care issue. It is the hope that “Plastics Free July” will raise awareness around the world and strongly encourage individual citizens to take the challenge of reducing single-use plastic in their daily lives.

“Choose To Refuse” is the objective of the event and here are some ways in which people can take part:

-- No more plastic water bottles: Purchase a stainless steel reusable water bottle and fill it up at the tap or filtered water source.

-- Refuse plastic shopping bags: Use canvas, cloth or fabric totes, backpacks or messenger bags. Keep these bags in your car so you don’t forget them.

-- Buy from bulk bins, and use your own containers: Local markets, co-ops and refillery shops are popping up all over and providing an opportunity to buy in bulk and reduce plastic packaging.

-- Shop your local farmers markets: These markets are a great way to shop for fresh local produce and baked goods without plastic packaging.

-- Easy changes in the bathroom: Use shampoo and conditioner bars, bar soap instead of liquid, deodorant in cardboard, silk floss in glass containers with refills, bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo replacement heads for electric brushes, green toilet tissue, toothpaste tablets, toilet bowl cleaners in tablet form and in sustainable tins and sustainable razors instead of disposable.

-- In the kitchen, compost your food scraps, and use reusable wrap and glass or metal containers for food storage, cloth napkins, dish towels or reusable cotton cloths instead of paper towels, natural scrub brushes or Swedish dish cloths. Try Blueland dishwasher tablets and Grove dishwashing liquid in refillable aluminum cans,

-- At the grocers- buy foods packaged in metal, glass, wood, ceramic or cardboard. Choose to buy fish, meat and cheese at the butcher or deli counter wrapped in paper. Encourage shop owners to rethink their single-use plastic packaging and choose alternatives.

-- When you visit a restaurant, use your own containers for leftovers. When doing takeout, bring your own containers. If the shop owners refuse because of sanitary issues, ask them to choose more-sustainable containers. Skip the plastic utensils and straws or bring your own. There are small kits you can buy for you and your children that have reusable utensils and straws. The turtles will thank you!

-- The laundry room: There is a plethora of alternatives out there for laundry sheets, laundry tablets, dryer balls, etc. Do your research because some contain unfriendly chemicals. I prefer laundry tablets from Blueland, but this is a personal choice.

-- Easy changes for children: cloth diapers, wood toys, natural rubber pacifiers, real dishes, crayons over markers, reusable wipes and zero-waste lunch boxes.

-- Beware of “green washing.” Do your research because many companies will sell you a bill of goods.

It may seem overwhelming at first, because plastic is prolific and difficult to avoid. If each member of our community made the effort to try some of these various solutions, it would make a huge difference for the planet, our wildlife and your health. Although it passed in Maine, the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, which holds the producers of all this plastic accountable, was voted down in New Hampshire. The hope is that an ad hoc committee will keep it alive and possibly get it passed in the near future.


For now it is up to the consumer to make change happen: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.

Local resources

Live Free Refillery – 460 State Route 101, Bedford, 603-488-2231.

Monadnock Green Shop – 4 Henniker St.. Hillsborough, 508-241-4991.

Monadnock Food Co-Op – 34 Cypress St., Keene, 603-355-8008.

Nature’s Green Grocer – 374 Union St., Peterborough, 603- 924-2233.

Kathy Manfre is chair of the Peterborough Recycling Center Advisory Committee, the role of which is to support and promote the recycling center's mission to protect human health, to protect the environment and to conserve resources through the proper and integrated management of solid waste. The committee meets monthly and is looking for members. For information, send email to