It’s week 1 of Plastic Free Plan-it and we’re excited! We hope you are ready to wage war against the single-use plastics in your life!

Our six-week program is all about making plans and being prepared so that we don’t fall into the trap of having to buy things in plastic. Our focus is on plastic in the kitchen, but you could apply the challenges to any plastic that you buy.

In Week 1 of the program, before July has even started, our challenge is to get a good understanding of the single-use plastic we’ve been buying. Once we’ve found our main offenders, we can set a realistic goal to reduce our plastic consumption. This challenge will take about an hour.

Step 1: Empty your pantry of plastic

Empty your pantry of anything in plastic packaging and decant the contents into storage containers. This gives you a clean sheet to start your plastic reduction journey and will make it easy to see what creeps in over the next month. And when you see the plastic accumulated on your counter, it makes you realise the size of the problem!

Retain the plastic packaging for the bin audit in Step 2. Repeat this for the contents of your fridge and freezer if it’s feasible.

Our favourite storage containers are recycled jars to avoid using more resources. The best jars are the ones without branding on the lids! Removing the labels from recycled jars is totally optional but makes your pantry look smart.

Soak the jars in hot, soapy water and then use an old credit card or gift card to scrape away the labels and glue. Use a specialised sticky stuff remover or any oil to rub off any remain glue. Run the jars through the dishwasher to remove any oil and you are good to go.

But of course, you don’t have to use recycled jars. If you’d like your pantry to have a more put together, insta-ready feel, you can buy a matching set of jars or containers. We sell brand new one litre and 700ml capacity jars which are ideal for pantry storage. To keep costs down, check out giveaway and resale groups and op-shops; they can be a great source of storage containers and smart recycled jars.

Step 2: Audit your waste

Now it’s time to benchmark your plastic waste. At the end of July, we’ll repeat this exercise to see how far we’ve come.

Take a peek in all your bins, including your yellow bin and any soft plastics stash. Include all the plastics you removed from your pantry, fridge and freezer. Take a photo of the contents of each bin or area to record the volume.

Try to determine which are your worst plastic offenders while you are inspecting your waste. Is there anything that isn’t recyclable? In my bin, that’s pet food packaging*. Is there one type of item making up the bulk of your plastic waste? In my case, it’s plastic milk bottles. Or perhaps you can identify your top 3 products or product categories of plastic waste, like snack food packaging. Make a note of these.

*pet food packaging is not accepted at Northern Beaches Council soft plastic collection points.

Step 3: Set your plastic reduction goal

Now we know what we’re dealing with, let’s set a goal for Plastic Free July. We want to make an achievable and realistic goal so that we don’t give up half way through the month. A good place to start is to aim to remove or reduce your top 3 plastic waste types. Or you could consider which items aren’t recyclable and focus your attention on them.

For example, based on my bin audit results, my goal is to reduce the single-use plastic packaging related to snack foods, pet treats and milk bottles. 

Next week we’ll look at how we can make changes to our shopping list and habits so that we can meet our goals.

Need help?

You are not on your own as you follow this program. Join our newly established Manly Food Co-op Community group on Facebook to ask questions and share your wins each week.

If you’d like assistance in decluttering and re-organising your pantry, contact our volunteer, Jane at In return for a donation of $50 or more to the Co-op, Jane will spend up to two hours helping you sort out your kitchen. She’ll remove everything from your pantry, wipe down the shelves, decant products into jars (she’ll bring an assortment with her) and then re-pack everything in a way that suits you.