Plastic-free Me: The cost of a sneeze

One thing that really annoys me is products that come packaged in plastic when there is just no need!

One such item is the humble paper handkerchief. This is a brand I sometimes buy.

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I’ve no idea why plastic section in the middle exists when surely the cardboard box is doing its job perfectly well…

And here it is in yet more unnecessary packaging double-wrapped as a twin pack.

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My frustration with the plastic prompted me to think about the waste caused by paper hankies. Think about it…

Energy and resources are spent producing the hankies…they are then transported to the shops…I (often by car) go to the shops to buy them….and then journey home with them.

At home I use them once.

…then I put them in my bin where they are collected by a lorry….which ferries them to landfill.

That’s a lot of waste! Plus I pay anything between £1 and £2 per box, depending on supermarket deals at the time. As we, a house full of allergy sufferers, get through maybe a box per week, we are looking at a cost of at least £52 a year.

This weekend I decided to make my own handkerchiefs.

I went to a bag that I keep damaged clothes in – things that we have worn out or that have been moth eaten. I usually take the contents to the Rag Bag bin for recycling. I picked out an old patterned top and cut out a square. I then hemmed round the side and…Ta-Da! My very own home-made hankie!

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Except if you look closely – actually you don’t need to look too closely – it turns out the sewing lessons I had in primary school didn’t pay off so I’m rubbish at sewing and the hankie is very amateurish.

No matter, I attempted again, hemmed a second piece of material slightly differently and hankie number 2 was made. The sewing was just as terrible so I decided simply to cut out squares and stop sewing. I know that hemming will increase the life of the hankies but I figured that I had lots of scrap material and I can maybe attempt the sewing again when I have more time and have found some pins and a measuring tape.

I am keeping my new hankies in an old margarine tub (which the children will hopefully decorate) in our sitting room. My kids love using them – blowing your nose on mummy’s old top is really fun! – and when we are finished we just throw them in the washing machine instead of the bin.

I will keep a box of paper hankies out for guests so I’m on the lookout for some that come without any plastic in the packaging – please let me know if you have any suggestions.


11 thoughts on “Plastic-free Me: The cost of a sneeze

  1. My soon-to-be-2year old has developed a habit of trying to wipe his nose/mouth/hands on my trousers so your “blowing your nose on mummy’s old top” comment really struck a chord with me. I was just about to tell you about the tissues we buy which cost 39p in a bargain shop. It’s a cardboard cube. But on second look it too has plastic in the hole bit at the top! Gah!

  2. Haha, that sounds like me when I went through that dilemma! I am even less sewing-skilled than you, I just use an old cloth bag that ripped as a hanky – didn’t even attempt to sew it up! I am yet to find any plastic free tissues. If someone comes to my house and needs a tissue, I have toilet roll to offer them. If they are staying, they can buy their own tissues. I really should get some hankies, but haven’t got round to it yet. Fortunately our flat is so small we don’t get guests very often! Or maybe it’s because we don’t have creature comforts like tissues…

    • I recently hosted a guest who sneered at me when I offered her a loo roll when she asked for tissues. How bloody rude was that?! She’s lucky I didn’t offer her my sleeve 😉

      • That is super rude! Ultimately, what’s the difference except one comes on a cardboard tube and one comes in a cardboard box (with plastic)? It’s all a big marketing ploy to make us buy two products when we can get by with one! You should have offered your sleeve, or better still, suggested she use her own : )

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