When discussing this topic, I often detect a sense of guilt and panic in people. And, yes, I had it too. And still do from time to time. Appliances come wrapped in plastic, sporting clean-lined easy wipe casings. Food, all the food. And yes, plastic does help keep food fresher, and reduce food waste. However it comes with major environmental consequences.
Plastic in those oh so convenient microfibre cloths, towels and micro fleece. Bright blouses, dresses and so on all made from plastics, cups, plates, straws, bottles, tetra pak, bloody tea bags. It is everywhere. House fittings, insulation, flooring, rugs, sofas cable covers, sockets, laptops, tvs, home cinema, plastic, plastic, plastic. It is laminated of leaflets, magazines, business cards, and cardboard food containers. Everywhere.
Plastic is baaaaaad. The media bleat on but we are just told to stop plastic and there seems little help for the average consumer. We tell ourselves, “well at least I try to recycle”. But in reality, comfortably less than 50% of it ever gets recycled. And that figure has gone down since China put a stop to global plastic being dumped in their country. They asked it be cleaned as sorted before being heaved off the ships and dumped port-side. How utterly selfish!
It’s inescapable, this plastic, it’s found in every spot in the world now. Choking up nature, quite literally, and screwing with hormones, causing infertility. Microplastics are commonly found in salt, mineral water, and many foods. It’s in our tyres, shoe soles, exercise clothing and equipment. We cannot outrun it.
Slowly, governments are starting to create legislation to stop the flow of plastic, there are now more solutions for washing machine microplastics filters.
But there is still much we can do. It is presently complex, because there are still so many products that come in plastic or are made of plastic. I thought silicone was relatively ok, but the manufacture of silicone involves petrochemical processing. And let’s face it, modern life is so damn complex and exhausting, all these well meaning blogs and articles can often seem like berating and brow beating. It’s a big subject and yes, legislators very much need to deal with control of plastic production. The absolute sting in the tail is it is still cheaper to buy newly created plastic than it is to buy recycled high grade plastic.
In the meantime, as consumers we can use our power to choose items with less plastic. I have been reducing plastic for some time, however there are budget issues for me. And storage issues too. I can’t afford to buy meats direct from farmers and smallholders. Even the markets are a bit pricey. There is no fresh meat service counter in my local supermarkets and butchers are few and far between. So we will have to buy a freezer and buy half an animal at slaughter times to reduce our plastic meat tray problem.
I should back up here and just explain, we went through our plastic recycling to identify our worst offenders. Crisps, meat packages and tetra packs, along with Amazon packaging. So we are slowly working on those.
- Replaced milk tetras with glass bottles and now collect from the local dairy farm. A benefit of living a bit out in the sticks.
- Started getting washing powder in card boxes, not liquids in bottles, pods, or tablets.
- Switched from the limescale tabs wrapped in plastic to the powder, same with dishwasher tabs.
- Started buying soap bars and shampoo bars. I have found tooth cleaning powder too.
- Baking my own bread.
- Curing my own ham.
- Making quark, cream cheese and kefir at home.
- Home brewing ginger beer helps us not buy bottles of fizz.
- Buying fruit and veg loose, taking cotton net bags to hold things.
- Buying larger packs of things so there is less plastic per unit of product.
- I make my own body moisturiser.
- We use ear spoons instead of cotton buds. I use rags for face wipes.
- Changed to metal safety razors, use shaving brush with shaving soap
- Using rock salt deodorant (wow, this was a surprisingly good switch!)
- We store and freeze leftovers in jars.
- We make packed lunches and store in tubs.
- We have swapped to glass containers for condiments and sauces.
- Specifically ask for plastic free gifts and try to avoid it for the kids toys.
- Try to reuse plastic, or take items to the charity shop.
- Using cotton dishwashing cloths that we can boil wash, natural bristle brushes.
- Make coffee from scratch, avoiding pods and instant packets
- Reusable shopping bags.
- Taking reusable water bottles and coffee cups out with us.
- Initially converted to buying crates of mineral water in glass bottles, then gave up and just drank tap water.
- Growing fruit and veg at home.
Bloody hell, I am really surprised at what we have achieved! However we also have a long way to go.
However we have been chipping awy at it over about the last year, gradually adopting a new practice or alternative once we have nailed the last one and we have become habituated.
Really we need to purchase a washing machine filter and ensure we don’t buy plastic fiber clothes too. I think that is very important.
The point is, you can make changes. Most of the time I am a hot mess (ADHD!). I am disorganized and confused. And with 2 little kids, I get tired. I am very lucky that I don’t formally work, however now my work is making our income stretch as far as if we had 2 incomes, which is time consuming. And giving up plastic is really in conflict with cutting costs!
You can make changes. I would say the big one is to get a filter for the washing machine or buy guppy bags.
Have a look at where you create the most plastic waste and start with that one. Once you feel comfortable with it, then take on the next thing.
Also, always remember to return your reusable shopping and veg bags to the car boot after shopping, to avoid forgetting them!