Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Founder and Executive Director of the Plastic Free Foundation, a nonprofit organization that organizes the annual Plastic Free July challenge, has more than twenty-five years’ experience in the world of environmental and waste management, community engagement, and sustainability behaviour change. In 2011, Prince-Ruiz started the Plastic Free July Challenge, where, what started as a grassroots campaign with a handful of participants in Western Australia has now grown to millions of people across 170 countries taking up the challenge to refuse single-use plastic every year.
What motivated you to start the Plastic Free July challenge?
It really started with the challenge but I’ve always been mindful of how the changes on land have an impact on our waterways. I lived on a farm when I was younger, where we had to lose the farm when I was eight. This small farm was in Southwestern Australia, where we cleared natural brush. As the clearing happened, salt rose to the surface and there had to be clearing bans. I was so devastated, because we loved our farm and didn’t want to move.
Seeing the amount of plastic that exists really spurred me to start the challenge. When I visited a recycling facility and saw the volume of waste we produce, and understood the complex process of what happens to our waste once we throw it away, it made me realize that I wasn’t doing the planet a favor by filling up the recycling bin.