I have been following Plastic Free July for several years now and have learned a lot and managed to cut our use of plastic considerably. However, it’s not just about refusing plastic bags and using glass or stainless steel for food storage. The real problem is the hidden plastic. The plastic you can’t see and don’t expect.
When you buy food at the deli counter in the supermarket you may have noticed that some shops (eg. Sainsburys) no longer wrap your ham in a plastic bag but a paper one. You duly put said bag in the recycling bin. But is it paper? No it’s not, it is “mixed materials not currently recyclable” The inside will be single use (i.e. non-recyclable plastic).
What about those teabags that you confidently put in the compost? If you buy organic teabags the chances are that they are 100% paper and are safe to put in your compost. However most teabags contain polypropylene which is not biodegradable. Which Magazine contacted major teabag producers to ask the polypropylene content of their bags. These are some of the results:
Twinings: 0% polypropylene YIPPEE
Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast tea (Fairtrade): 1% Not bad
Morrisons: English Breakfast tea has 10% Could do better
PG Tips tea bags have 20%: YUK!
Yorkshire tea bags have 25%: YIKES!
If you are stuck on bags rather than loose tea then try to use those with the lowest polyproylene content and tear them before adding to the compost.
Most of us know that microbeads are not good. They are clogging up the oceans and killing wildlife. There are plenty of alternatives for scrubs. Homemade using salt/sugar and oil, or scrubs from reputable organic companies such as Dr Organic from Holland and Barratt. But what about the hidden plastics in cosemetics you didn’t know about?
A research paper published by the UN last year found a worrying level of hidden plastic in a huge range of cosmetic products (UNEP report ‘Plastic in Cosmetics’, 2015)
“Microbeads and other plastic ingredients are present in products ranging from toothpaste and shower gel to eye shadows and nail polish. Their proportions vary in different products, from less than 1 per cent to more than 90 per cent of the content. In a typical shower gel analyzed in laboratory, there was roughly as much plastic material in the gel itself as in its packaging.”
You can download an app created by Beat the Microbead to check the microplastic content of a product before you purchase and look for the Look for Zero logo below to show that the product is 100% plastic free.
I mentioned the cardboard take away coffee cups yesterday. Have you ever tried to pour hot water into a cardboard box! There has to be something on the inside of the those cups to ensure that you don’t end up with a hot soggy pile of cardboard in your hands as you walk through the park. Most of the time it’s polyethylene and renders the cups unrecyclable.
Likewise those cardboard juice containers, many tinned foods, some cigarette filters, till receipts, labels on everything from groceries to clothes. All contain plastic.
When I first started using my own shopping bags and refusing to put loose fruit and veg in a plastic bag but brought my own reused paper bags I got a lot of very funny looks. Now refusing a plastic bag is second nature. The way we win the war against plastic is to refuse it. Not just the plastic you can see, but educate yourself about that which you can’t.
Love Gillie x