Kirsten Fathers has a small container which holds all the plastic she's used during the month of July.

There's some plastic brought in by friends, a packet from cheese, an LED light bulb, wrapping from an AA magazine, a broken peg, two tea packets, a nougat wrapper and the plastic front from envelopes.

At the end of the month she plans on writing to each company the plastic has come from to encourage them to look at alternative packaging.

The Hikurangi woman lives a fairly waste-free life anyway - she only has to put her recycling and rubbish out about every six months - but she uses Plastic Free July as a chance to take stock of her waste and make permanent changes.

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Last year she focused on eliminating milk bottles. This year she has focused on finding toilet paper without the plastic.

"I started last year and I was too afraid to do it before then. It just felt like it would be too easy to fail," she said.

"I was in the Zero Waste Facebook page and people were talking about Plastic Free July and I thought 'I think I'm ready to give up milk bottles'."

Fathers said her first step towards reducing her use of plastic was with plastic bags.

About two or three years ago she and other Whangārei locals stood outside the Whangārei Growers Market every Saturday to talk to people and hand out reusable bags for a koha.

From there they spent about six months doing the same thing outside Countdown Regent.

"I used to line my rubbish bin with shopping bags, I used to be that person," she said.

"I was a late Facebooker and it was all the stuff on there about the affect on marine life, and whales being washed up with plastic in their stomach. And no matter where you went - and I've lived all over New Zealand - there was bloody plastic bags," she said.

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From there she started making more changes.

When buying meat she would bring containers into Omak Butcher, last year when she first did Plastic Free July she stopped buying milk bottles and now gets milk powder from Bin Inn, she's recently ordered toilet paper without the plastic wrapping, and now she's bought a noodle maker so she can make her own.

"It's looking at your rubbish and going 'the next biggest thing in volume is what?' and then going 'how can I change it?'" she said.

Fathers has a few ways of cutting down on plastic and waste. She eats out of her garden first and has chickens at home.

When shopping she goes to WholeyHealth in Hikurangi and Binn Inn in Kamo.

From the supermarket she buys tea and cat food - and cheese and bacon if it's not July.

She also makes her own bread and cleaning products.

Fathers encouraged people to give Plastic Free July a go.

"People think you need to get rid of everything but that's not true. You can just pick one thing and do that."

Meanwhile, Anne Fraser - who joined Kirsten in standing outside the growers market and Countdown with reusable bags a few years ago - said she is also relatively plastic-free anyway, but uses Plastic Free July to make more changes.

"Usually I make my own bread, like Vogel bread, but I've been trying to replace sandwich bread so I've bought a bread maker and that's cut down a little bit more. Now that I can get milk in glass bottles I've tried to make my own yoghurt," she said.

Fraser, who started Boomerang Bags in Whangārei - handmade bags to help reduce the use of plastic ones, said people wanting to start reducing plastic should begin with eliminating the main thing - plastic bags.

"Just look at what you use the most of that is easy to replace," she said.

TIPS FOR BEING PLASTIC FREE

- Bring a reusable coffee cup or dine-in at your local café.
- Find plastic-free alternatives when buying fruit and veggies.
- Bring your own reusable shopping bags and help reduce plastic waste.
- Refuse plastic straws when buying a drink and bring your own reusable alternative.
- Bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones.
- Choose to refuse pre-packed bread, rolls and baked goods - bake your own bread or find baked goods that are yet to be packed.
- Avoid the plastic trays used for meat, fish and deli items - find a butcher that will accept plastic containers.
- Visit the Zero Waste New Zealand and Zero Waste Northland Facebook groups/pages.