Tips for Plastic-Free July in Urban India

Written by Anjali Roongta

While Earth Month may have finished in April, true environmentalists know that climate change is an everyday problem. One of the problems that currently plague our planet is plastic pollution and to combat that we have Plastic-Free July.

What is Plastic-Free July?

Plastic Free July was started in 2011 in Australia by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a few people from the local Western Australian Government. It soon became a global movement. But why is necessary in a country like India?

Well, here’s why.

We only recycle around 30% of the 3.4 MT of plastic waste that we generate. This means not only is a lot of waste generated but a lot of usable resources are also left unused to rot in landfills or be burned, both of which are options that are bad for human health.

And while recycling is an option, why not reduce plastic usage where we can? After all, plastic is not infinitely recyclable, it is mostly not biodegradable or compostable, and plastic usage often releases microplastics which studies say might not be the best for human health. And while plastic objects never fully breakdown, many have said that their usability is lesser than say stainless or terracotta objects.

Why Urban India?

Now you must be wondering why this blog specifically focuses on urban India. Isn’t sustainability the need of the hour everywhere? Well, it is. But it is important to keep something in mind and that is sustainability is intertwined with the area you live in. What might be sustainable and locally sourced for someone living in the Global West, might not be the same for someone living in the Global South. Similarly, cultural factors, different climate concerns for different areas, and accessibility in different areas, alongside socio-economic challenges faced by the people living in an area might not be the same as those who live elsewhere. And so we have decided to cater to the audience, we know best- those who are living in urban India, especially cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, and Pune. At the end of the day though, no one can stop you from trying these tips. Do let us know if you do try any of them and how they worked out for you. Now onto the meat of the matter, the tips.

Let’s Reduce Our Plastic Usage- One Step at a Time


From climate activists to climate influencers, many have spoken on how to reduce plastic waste. But we wanted to do something different for this blog. How can we suggest how a common person reduce their plastic usage in Urban India, when we do not where they face the most challenges doing that? Yes, we can suggest replacing plastic bags with tote bags, but many in Kolkata and other such cities already do that. It’s aesthetic and artisty and the Indian youth loves it. So we reached out to everyday people and asked where they face the most challenge and how they reduce their plastic waste. And here’s what they had to say.

Food Packaging

Sorbani Bhowmik, a student from Kolkata, said that when she goes shopping and tries to cut out plastic, the biggest challenge she faces is in buying food. Everything from biscuits to moori comes wrapped in plastic now. Moori, she recalls, used to come in paper wrappers, which have now been replaced by plastic.

So how do we combat that?

Ways to Reduce Plastic Usage When Shopping for Food

One of the simplest ways to reduce the use of plastic when shopping for food is to carry your own bags and buy from bulk stores. Many grocery stores in India will have the option of loose produce, loose lentils, and such.

Another thing Sorbani suggests doing is recycling and reusing waste that cannot be avoided. Try to opt for packaging that is recyclable or flexi-packaging. Sorbani carries jhuris or baskets made from fibers when she goes shopping and makes sure to shop from roadside vegetable vendors that have fresh and loose produce which they will happily put in your basket or bag.

Yet, what happens when we try to store our food?  After all, we do not want the food we have bought to go stale and contribute to food waste and financial loss. Many people opt for plastic storage containers that are air-tight to combat this problem. But if you want to replace plastic entirely, what do you do?


Replacing Plastic in Food Storage

Not everyone can use glass storage containers. Those with small kids for one might find them too risky to keep at home. There is also the fact that glass comes with its environmental issues such as sand being one of the most used resources on our planet, and glass transportation having emissions higher than plastic transportation. Also, glass is easily breakable. But does that mean plastic is our only other option?


We can use baskets or jhuris when storing food outside of the refrigerator and steel containers when inside the fridge. We simply have to ensure that they are airtight. Steel containers can also be used to store spices and other such loose stuff in the kitchen, including tea. There are also many eco-friendly options made from wood that my grandparents have used for years to store spices and loose herbs. For water storage, a matka or earthenware pot triumphs over plastic jars any day, both in terms of health and sustainability.

Another thing that many people cited, including @climatewali, is that when living in urban spaces we tend to order out a lot. How to reduce plastic usage in that though- after all, as much as we want to support paper plates, they are single-use items, and reusing disposables, as many Indians tend to do, might be frowned upon by doctors.


Reducing Plastic When Eating Out or Ordering In

We could of course carry our own cutlery, especially our metal straws, when going out to eat. That’s a given. But what about ordering in?

Well, for one, we can try and find take-out options that use reusables to support. If that’s not a possibility, you know what’s good for the planet, our wallets, and our digestive systems? Eating home-cooked food. Go low on the spice though.

And one way to ensure we are not ordering in when too tired to cook is, as Megha Ahuja suggested. Keep sustainable pickles, spreads, and such at home. Do remember though, it is important to research a company to make sure it truly is sustainable, before buying, if that’s something you value.  Even if we recommend the company, research it.

Bathroom Supplies

Many people cited that the most plastic, outside of food packaging or sometimes even more, was generated in their bathrooms. From shampoo bottles to sunscreen lids and toothpaste tubes. This was without looking at plastic buckets and mugs which have replaced the steel buckets and mugs our grandparents used, for fear of rust.

But how do you reduce packaging?

Dealing with Plastic Packaging in Skin-Care and Body Care

From shampoos to lotion, today almost everything is available in a bar form. Or if you cannot use lotion bars and soap bars because they dry out your skin or you have to share with a lot of people, thus making you think it’s unhygienic, there are options available. Tin and glass packaging, take-back programs, and refill programs which take back your used bottles and either refill them or give you a new product in exchange at a lower cost are available.

For hand washes, Bare Necessities and others, have come out with powders that can be mixed with water that you can get at home. This reduces transport emissions and you are paying for a sustainable product instead of simply water.

The same principles can apply to any other form of liquid wash from detergents to utensil washes. When possible, go for a bar, if not go for a powder that you can mix with water at home or a laundry sheet, in case of clothes washing.

You know where else people cited using plastic? In their toothbrushes. Yet, unless you compost it, a bamboo toothbrush in a landfill is the same as a plastic toothbrush in a landfill. So let’s skip talking about the obvious and move on to where else Urban Indians claim to use plastic.


Pots for Plants

A surprising area where many urban Indians used plastic was gardening. When we live in cities, creating our own small green spaces, and if possible growing herbs and produce, can be an extremely sustainable thing to do.

But do you know what reduces the sustainability of that practice?

Using plastic pots, which a lot of us do.

So how do we replace them and stop microplastics from leeching into our home-grown greens?

Replacing Plastic Plant Pots

It’s simple really. We can use upcycled wine bottles, or terracotta pots. We can also use earthen pots, which have been used for generations in Indian households to hold plants. Seriously, plastic plant pots are not sustainable or aesthetic. Not in 2023.

A Parting Note

We recognize that despite all its flaws, the fact that it is not breakable and does not usually hurt if someone hits themselves on it makes plastic something that not everyone can entirely get rid of. Especially, people with children. Plastic, especially plastic bags, and straws, is also important for many people with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives. Healthy sustainability is the need of this plastic-free July. Instead of getting mad at sliced oranges kept in plastic bags, despite them helping those with motor issues, we need to do what we can to reduce plastic waste in our homes, while ensuring we do not harm our well-being. If the tips in this blog helped you achieve that, drop us a comment. And don’t forget to follow GiftGreen India for more insights.

2 thoughts on “BLOGS

  1. To all the people out there who was wondering how to reduce plastic usage, this blog is an answer. We are so much used of using plastic that we can’t even recognize our own usage. In the blog, you discussed every small aspect where plastic is used and also the alternatives to plastic that we can find and use easily. So, it is up to us now to gift something for mother nature just by making right choices.

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