Day 22: Plastic Free July 2014

I’ve ditched the toothy tabs and the bamboo toothbrush.  The toothy tabs went first – no amount of trying to persuade myself that they weren’t too bad or that I’d acquire a taste for them worked. The bottom line is that, for me, they were so disgusting they actually made me feel like I was going to throw up.  Literally. Plastic Free July or not, I’m not that committed!

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The toothbrush lasted longer.  I’ve had a bad experience with bamboo toothbrushes before – see this post – but I thought I’d found a better brand this time. Indeed, I was quite happy with it until Day 10 when the first clump of bristles came away while I was brushing. Not pleasant, but I hung on to it until the second clump came away one morning when I was brushing my teeth alongside my children. One bristle got caught at the back of my throat and – you guessed it – I thought I was going to throw up. I was trying to supress my reaction from the kids, which made the situation all the worse…  I’ve therefore gone back to using my brush with the disposable heads which I really like. I got mine here.  There’s obviously plastic involved, but less of it.  It’s worth it for a trauma-free experience!

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The next thing I could try if I find myself with a spare moment would be a recipe for homemade toothpaste. If you want to try some out then @polytheenpam uses this one and Lindsay at @treadmyowpath uses this one. I also picked up a handy tip from Lindsay’s blog.  She managed to separate the bristles from her bamboo toothbrush by soaking it in water, so that she could then compost the bamboo.  As I write, mine is sitting in a mug of water (having already been used for scrubbing the bathroom clean earlier!)

In other news – look what I saw in Tesco yesterday.

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Your eyes do not deceive you – these balls are actually each wrapped in plastic film. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this…!

Finally, thanks to those of you who’ve got in touch to let me know about the companies you’ve contacted about the potential plastic in their products. I was especially touched by this comment left on the blog yesterday, by twothirdswild:

I know you are in the UK, and I am in Australia, but I have been following your Plastic Free July journey via your blog. I am also participating in Plastic Free July here, and am learning so much along the way. I read with interest your blog about plastic in tea bags, and thought “there’s no way there is plastic in my tea-bags over here”. BUT, I thought I should follow it up, just for my peace of mind. I buy an Australian grown and owned brand of tea called Nerada which is packaged in a 95% recycled cardboard box, with no inner or outer plastic film unlike so many other brands on the supermarket shelves! Anyway, I decided to email the company and ask them, as there was nothing on their website that mentioned plastic in the bags. To my amazement, and to their credit, I received a response within half an hour. The low-down……. Yes, there are cellulose and thermo-plastic fibres in the bags which are necessary to seal the product! Gobsmacked, I was. Their bags are however, made from manila hemp, which has been oxygen whitened, not treated with chlorine or chlorine based compounds, so that is a big bonus. Anyway, we live and learn, and do our best to individually and collectively raise our awareness of these sorts of hidden issues. Keep up the good work!

I can relate to the disappointment! As I’ve said in a past post, I felt a little as if my heart had been broken by the trusty tea bag… It’s comforting though to know that, as consumers, we have the power to ask questions and vote with our feet.  Thanks once again to @polytheenpam to her post on Plastic Is Rubbish for raising the issue of the plastic tea bag.

Plastic-free Me: Psyching up for Plastic Free July

Finally I’m getting my arse in gear for Plastic Free July! Time is running out so if I don’t get organised now then I won’t do as well as I’d like.

Yesterday I took a trip to the New Leaf Co-op to do another reccy so that I know what I can purchase from there next month (read my post on this amazing shop here).

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I noted that they do Ecover refills for my non-bio laundry liquid (I’ve got as far as buying a few bottles of this stuff, but have not yet done the crucial refilling!)

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I picked up some bar soap and a new bamboo toothbrush – a different brand this time (read this post on my past experience). It cost me £2.85 and the bamboo is biodegradable.

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Back at home I got onto the internet and ordered some more Onyabags like this one (which unfolded is almost the size of a supermarket shopping bag).

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Recently I’ve found myself in shops without a bag (bad planning!) and have had to either accept a plastic bag or carry items precariously in my arms – not easy when you have small children who need close supervision! I love Onya bags as they fold up small enough to tuck inside a pocket or attach to a keyring so with my new extras, I can now make sure I have one on me at any time.

I also bought myself a water bottle so that I have a drink handy when we’re out and about, in case plastic bottles or cartons that come with straws are my only option.

I then hopped over to Lush and bought the solid shampoo and conditioner bars I’ve written about so often, yet never tried. Plus I picked up some toothytabs – I went for a different flavour this time (I hated the last ones I bought!) – maybe I’ll get used to them after a month…

Last week I finally found the solution to plastic-free toilet paper thanks to @polytheenpam in the form of these tissues.

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There is no plastic at all in the box so I will be popping them on top of the toilet for July. I so wish they weren’t bought at Tesco (even though they cost a mere 65p) as I’m trying to reduce my supermarket use. As I’m discovering all the time though, there are so many conflicts of interest with my environmental goals, so for July, I will prioritise being plastic-free but keep searching for the perfect plastic-free loo roll!

Finally, this morning on Twitter while browsing through the #PlasticFreeJuly hash tag, I was delighted to discover that Kake who tweets as @croydn has also committed to go as plastic free as possible in July – check out her blog post here. This was exciting as there are only three of us that I know in the UK taking part in the challenge (@ecothrifty & @polytheenpam) so welcome on board! Kake, and for anyone who wants to join in, cut down on your plastic use, or simply follow our progress, look out for the #pfjuk hash tag on Twitter.

Plastic-free Me: November diary day

It has occurred to me that an effective way to track my plastic-free progress and uncover unsavoury plasticky practices might be to document a day each month, diary-style, to assess where the dreaded single use plastics are creeping in.

Saturday seemed a good day to start so I grabbed my pen (immediate fail!) and a spiral bound notebook (fail!) and noted down my ‘problem areas’.

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It has to be said that there was a bit more to my day than simply using lots of plastic but I’ll spare you those details!

The first task of the day involves a disposable nappy (not my own) and a packet of wipes. Both come in plastic packaging. Although I am yet to decide if and how I’ll include the children in Plastic Free July, I will of course be looking at the plastic I consume on their behalf and trying to minimise it, at the very least.

Next, I take my daily medication – a pill that comes in a bubble packet. Although it is for a minor ailment I do feel the effects if I miss a day or two so skipping it in July is not a sensible option. A letter to the drug company to explore whether alternative packaging exists is in the pipeline (does anyone feel hopeful of a positive response? I don’t!)

Breakfast ‘chez moi’ is milky porridge all round, and everyone has their own preference for fruit. My favourite fails the plastic test – raisins that come in a plastic bag – but the others gravitate towards bananas or pureed tinned fruit which makes the plastic free breakfast achievable if we can source milk in a glass bottle…

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…except for our fruit juice which comes in a cardboard carton with a plastic pourer.

After breakfast I run the dishwasher – my Ecover dishwasher tablets each come in a little plastic packet – and I put a load into the washing machine. Again I’m using Ecover, this time in a plastic bottle. I have a feeling a shop nearby will give me refills in my own bottle so I must investigate that.

In the bathroom I use toothpaste in a plastic tube (with a bamboo toothbrush – blog post to follow), take a shower with a bar of soap but use a plastic disposable razor on my legs and shampoo and conditioner that come in plastic bottles. Once I’ve ‘styled’ my hair (I use the term loosely!) I rub a little wax through it to keep it in place. Despite the fact that I’ve had this tub of wax for so long that I don’t remember buying it, I do have to declare that it is a single-use plastic.

Bloody hell, this is depressing – shall I continue?

Back into the kitchen and I put the ingredients for a loaf of bread into the breadmaker and, you guessed it! Of course! Some of ingredients that make my healthy-option, partially organic loaf include plastic packaging. Grrrr…..

I snack on oatcakes. These appear from the outside to be packaged in a cardboard box but contain four little plastic packets inside – this is a problem with many food items.

I eat the oatcakes with jam from a glass jar but with a lid of an unquantifiable material. It presents as metal but only half-heartedly attracts a magnet. I suspect it may not make it through customs to my kitchen in July. In the afternoon I have my oatcakes with hummus which is brazenly packaged in a plastic tub.

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Time to look out some recipes I think…

Next up in My Day of Destroying the Environment is lunch. I accompany bread with homemade soup (the bayleaves used for flavour came in a plastic packet), boiled eggs, babybels (covered in plastic and bagged in plastic for good measure)…

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… falafels (plastic tub), apples, organic carrots (plastic bag), organic pepper (plastic bag), ham (plastic packet) and apple juice (plastic pourer).

Are you noticing, as I most certainly am, that despite feeding my family mainly on good healthy raw or homemade food (which doesn’t happen every day!), I am badly failing the plastic test? Forgive me if I am feeling hard done by…

I apply some make-up (every single item is swathed in plastic) and, with some relief, leave the house and head out to a children’s show at a local venue – surely this must be a plastic free afternoon?

Sadly not. There is ice cream at the interval which Daddy has agreed to by the time I am approached for the rubber stamp. Plastic tubs with plastic spoons. Sigh.

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Home for dinner and because we’ve been out it’s quick and easy pasta (from a plastic bag) and pesto from a glass jar – again, with a questionable lid. The broccoli and cabbage we have as a side dish is from the veg box and pudding is homemade apple crumble made by a relative – packaged for us in a foil container – hooray!

Off to bed for the children and there’s more milk from the plastic container and more toothpaste from the plastic tube on our bamboo toothbrushes.

I have my third cup of tea in the evening. I use Tetley. The packaging the tea bags come in is paper, I think, but there is a strip of sellotape-type stuff that is there to allow it to be resealed for freshness. Fail, fail, fail.

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I use a plastic bottle of washing up liquid on the dishes, remove my make up with wipes from a plastic packet, use cream on my hands from a plastic pump dispenser and slink of to bed thanking my lucky stars that there’s almost a full eight months until Plastic Free July arrives!