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Plastic Free: The inspiring story of a global environmental movement and why it matters by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherfold Finn.

A review by Emma Streeton and Nick Streeton

When I had the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of the book Plastic Free, my husband was keen to read it. This review is written with a lot of his help and thoughts.

This makes it official: it is a family affair. The only Streeton family members who haven’t reviewed a book are the chooks and Max, their dog. I have asked Max to visit and keep my feet warm while I work. Would that count as reviewing? – Editor

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz is the founder of Plastic Free July, a grassroots movement that started in 2011 and has since become a global phenomenon. Joanna Atherfold Finn co-authored their book, Plastic Free. The book is about the movement, how it has grown, and why it is still so important.

The Plastic Age

We have entered the Plastic Age. Future generations may marvel at the sheer variation in plastic that is now ambiguous waste across the world. Only now are we beginning to realize just how much of a throwaway society we have become and the environmental cost of this. Over the past decade the plastic pollution crisis and the challenges facing our recycling industry have given many of us a wake-up call. People are gradually beginning to realise the impact of their choices. There is still such a long way to go and this book attempts to add to the momentum. Change must continue to happen.

Soul-searching journey

This book takes readers on a soul searching journey into their own consumptive habits and the impact that their behavior has. It poses the question that each of us should think about.

Do we really value a commodity like plastic that can last forever when we use it as a single use item?

But for a commodity so ingrained in society, it’s so difficult to free ourselves of the stuff. A take-home message from Prince-Ruiz and Atherfold Finn is to aim for reduction rather than recycle. Recycling is identified as a ‘band-aid’ solution that makes people feel they are promoting positive change. In reality improved outcomes are driven by social change. Pressuring suppliers to come up with smarter ways to package and sell their goods is a must for the future.

The verdict

There are valuable insights that can be gained from the book.  The authors are clearly passionate people who want to drive positive change in our communities. No doubt it is their hope that readers will take on some of this passion and continue to strive for positive environmental change.

I would recommend Plastic Free to anyone who wants to learn more about the challenges we face on this key environmental issue. It is also well suited to those interested in understanding the mechanisms of social change and how the authors brought about this groundswell movement.

The movement’s website is here.

Book details

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
ISBN10: 0231198620
ISBN13: 9780231198622
Imprint: New South Books or Columbia University Press
Format: Hardback or paperback, 272 pages
Category: nonfiction

Plastic Free: plastic in the shape of a fish "swims" over the title

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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