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Friday 15 March 2019

What I'm doing to stop using plastic

A large strip of beeswax wrap, a natural alternative to using clingfilm to keep food fresh. One of the ways of reducing plastic consumption in the home in a blog post by Is This Mutton dot com
Who could fail to be horrified and dismayed by the deluge of pictures showing birds and sea life being tortured to death by carelessly discarded plastic? What initially presented itself as a miracle in transforming our lives is now the planet's biggest nightmare. But we can all take steps to try to reduce our use of single-use plastic, and to apply pressure for more non-plastic packaging. Here's what I've started doing:  small steps, but we have to start somewhere.
I've started reducing the amount of plastic we use at home. This is hard to do because currently there are very few alternatives.
If you look at websites like Ethical Superstore, they're very proud of their ranges of parabens and sulphates-free beauty products, but they're still sold in plastic bottles. We need to find ways to bring back glass and other more recyclable materials.

But we always recycle our plastic, you cry

Putting your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't get you off the hook. Only 40% of plastic bottles are currently recycled in the UK. Some councils in the UK have a woeful record with recycling, even though they supply the right bins.Hardly any of them can deal with the black plastic trays that typically come with meat/ready meals and biscuit wrapping. The UK goal is currently that: "50% of waste will be recycled by 2020 and  three quarters of plastic packaging will be recycled by 2035"  (source: WRAP).

How we can help

The mountain of plastic that comes into our homes every day is daunting. I've started to make some improvements.  First, my husband's Lucozade Sport bottles.  These are not recyclable because of the plastic wrapping around the bottle.  But this is easily removed with scissors.  A simple solution.

I always wash jars very thoroughly before putting them in the recycling because one contaminated item can ruin the rest.

We have re-usable coffee mugs, and in the office I always ask the coffee shop for a mug rather than a disposable cup.

At the supermarket, plastic is everywhere, from being wrapped around cucumbers to protecting avocados and berries and the rolls of plastic bags provided to put fruit and veg in.
A selection of natural mesh bags which blogger Is This Mutton? will use instead of plastic bags in supermarkets for fruit and vegetables
I now have some natural mesh bags, plastic free and biodegradable, in different sizes, to replace the plastic bags at the supermarket (above).  I'd love to see more supermarkets offering big paper bags as they do in the US, or even cardboard boxes as they used to provide (probably a health and safety issue).

I try to buy as much fruit and veg loose as possible, without being wrapped in plastic. We love berries and it's impossible to buy them "loose" except at fruit picking farms because they obviously get damaged very easily.  Hopefully I will have an allotment when I retire, and then I will grow my own soft fruit.

Cling film is a difficult one to phase out but I am going to try natural beeswax wraps. They form a protective, breathable, antimicrobial seal that lets food breathe so it can stay fresher, longer. See picture at the top - this is a large sheet of beeswax opened out. You warm it with your hands and shape it around bowls or basins as a covering replacement for clingfilm  (not recommended for meat).


This is a harder nut to crack. Hardly any beauty products are sold in glass or aluminium containers. Some brands, like L'Occitane, offer the ability to get refills for pouches.  Others invite you to send back your empties, although I can't see this taking off unless it becomes easier without postage being involved.

I look in dismay at all my shampoo and conditioner bottles. I believe that bars of soap will soon become a lot more prevalent, replacing bottles, for both shampoo/conditioner and hand dispensers.  The research shows that a bar of soap is more hygienic than a plastic soap dispenser.  That nozzle is repeatedly pressed by dirty fingers. The soap is "washed" as you use it.

I don't think I'll be trying shampoo bars until some of my favourite brands start producing them, because I'm very fussy about what I use on my hair.

Shun the Wet Wipe

One thing I would never use in a million years is a wet wipe.  These abominations, composed mostly of polyester, clog up the sewers when thrown down the loo. Combined with fat, which some people carelessly pour down the sink, it creates the revolting giant "fatbergs" seen in London and Sidmouth.  I buy the cardboard fat "trappers" from Lakeland.

Wet wipes are ruining our rivers.  An environmental agency that cleans up rivers and canals retrieved 5,453 wet wipes during an operation in 116 sq m of the Thames embankment near Hammersmith. The haul was an increase of nearly a thousand over last year’s total.

Hardly any wet wipes are biodegradable, despite what they claim. Wipes to remove make-up and nail polish are the same. If you use a cleansing balm or wash  (like Liz Earle or Emma Hardie) these come with washable cloths.

I've started small but hope to add more measures to our everyday lives, to try to reduce our use of plastic.  What steps are you taking? Do share in the comments below.

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