Plastic detox

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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.

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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

 

presents and plastic

So it is the 2nd of September.  That means two things.  I need to make sure I have my mother’s birthday present (tick) and we are day two into the month of no (or at least as little as possible) plastic.

Mother’s present was quite easy.  As I don’t think she reads my blog I can tell you she should be enjoying a rather nice lunch with my stepfather in a rather nice restaurant in London.  No plastic was involved in the purchase, preparation or sending of said present and I sincerely hope that there is no plastic involved in the serving of her present either.  Though unfortunately I cannnot vouch for the kitchen in which it will be prepared.

As for the September challenge.  We have hardly done any shopping and have already failed.

Sunday newspapers – the supplements come in a pre-sealed plastic bag.  I imagine it makes the assembly easier, however I remember Sunday newspapers as a child and there was no plastic bag then.  My father gets the LA Times which is vast and there is no plastic there either.  Letter to Sunday Times on its way.

Quayside market.  Wonderful produce from local producer.  One beauty of a swede.

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Gorgeous selection of onions.

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Beautiful variety of tomatoes.

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But I had failed to bring any small cloth or paper bags for the tomatoes and they were put in plastic.  Have now added one cloth and three paper bags to the little parachute silk Onya bag that lives in my handbag.

Then absolute  massive fail whilst my back was turned.  The Boss as a bit of a sock thing.  He likes them brightly coloured and not necessarily matching.  He bought a set of three pairs of very attractive stripey socks and….. let the stallholder put them in a solitary plastic bag all of their own.  I had THREE Onya bags they could have gone in.  He has promised to be more vigilant in the future.

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Today I have purchased some wine (glass bottles that will be used for homemade wine), fruit juice (cartons that will be used as firelighters) and carrots (bought loose). All brought home in one of my plastic free hessian bags.

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On all occasions I refused a receipt.  Nobody seemed too surprised or fussed.  So I wonder, would shops which issue receipts automatically consider having a no receipt option on their till at the buyer’s risk?

Tonight I will do the menu plan for next week and write out my weekly shopping list.  I will have to plan very carefully.  I suspect what we eat will be dictated by where I can buy the necessary ingredients without incurring the input of plastic.  Fortunately the hens are still laying so we will always have the egg option.  Although as I was planning on using up the last of the asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce tonight they had better get laying!

 

first steps

I’ve had a tremendous response to my announcement about going plastic free.  Thank you very much.  However, it is rather daunting, perhaps I should have kept quiet and then my failures (I am not so naïve as to think there will be none) will not be so public.  So striking whilst the iron is hot, here is update number one.

 

  • Plastic chopping boards have been put away.  We still have two wooden ones so they were surplus to requirements anyway.
  • I cannot find any dog, cat, poultry, parrot or fish food that doesn’t come packaged in plastic.  I will have a word with our feed supplier.  We are good customers so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Toiletry containers.  I make my own toner with rosewater and witch hazel and store that in metal bottles, but the bulk rosewater and witch hazel comes in plastic …….  I’ve got quite enough moisturiser and oil for the moment and will use them up but can see this might be problematic.
  • cleaning products.  I tend to use bicarb, vinegar and essential oils for most house cleaning and have bought metal trigger spray cannisters for the bathrooms.  I am experimenting with soapnuts.  I have plenty of washing up liquid and dishwasher powder for the moment.  When it needs replacing I can get loose dishwasher powder in cardboard.  Washing up liquid  will be more of a challenge.  Back to bicarb?
  • Food.  A whole post on its own I think!
  • Cd and dvd.  I got rid of the cases years ago and store them in specialist folders to reduce space.  New music and films can be downloaded.
  • I rarely take a plastic bag as I have always had  my own and have two onya bags that live in my handbag for emergencies.  However, the rest of the family is not so observant.
  • Freezer bags and Tupperware.  I know that you can freeze in glass but it will take time to build up a suitable collection of containers.  We use our freezer a lot.  We buy whole sheep, we have a large orchard and fruit garden  I freeze tons of fruit.  I often bulk cook and place additional meals in the freezer.  I make stock with every carcass …..
  • Medicine bottles.  I noted that Bea Johnson conceded that their medicine cupboard was the one area where she had not managed to avoid all packaging so I don’t feel quite so bad.
  • Diary cartons.  The milkman won’t deliver to us as we are too far out but he will deliver to the castle and I can pick up from there.  I can easily go back to making my own yoghurt and soft cheese.  That leaves cream/crème fraiche.
  • My pencil case is leather but the girls have to have clear pencil cases for their exams.  Short of having a glass box I am not sure how to avoid plastic here.
  • Junk mail.  I admire anyone who has managed to get their junk mail reduced, I am fighting an endless battle, one step forward two steps back.
  • I have been wanting a new watering can for the garden and the house for a long time so now I can get one!  Garden hose is more of a problem and essential for our garden especially the vegetable beds.
  • Clothes pegs.  Easily replaced.
  • Washing machine balls.  Hmm, they are supposed to be ecologically sound in that they help the washing with less powder so a conundrum.  Have switched to soapnuts and think they could probably do with the help.
  • Tumble drier balls.  With a family of five living in the back of beyond with 3 dogs, 5 cats, chickens, geese and a small lake we have a lot of dirty clothes.  In the winter even with the Aga and the overhead airer I need to tumble dry to keep up.  The balls are supposed to reduce the amount of drying required.  Second conundrum
  • Kitchen sink plug – simple buy a metal washing up bowl – if I can find one….
  • Fermenting bin.  This isn’t my area of expertise, can you use metal bins?
  • packaging.  A parcel came today wrapped in bubble wrap.  Normally I would keep it to reuse, it seems pointless to throw it away and I will need to wrap parcels at Christmas?
  • Packing tape.  Apparently non plastic does exist, I just have to find it.
  • Folders.  Plastic does last longer than cardboard.  Research required.
  • Meat baster.  I did have a glass one once.
  • Shower cap?  Help here please.
  • Husband has metal razor, I see no reason why I can’t.

 

|I’m exhausted already!

 

 

plastic free

Inspired by nzecochick, who along with thousands of people in New Zealand, Australia and an increasing number of other countries, went plastic free in July.  I decided I would attempt to do the same in September.

I have given myself August to start planning and preparing.  This is an arbitrary and incomplete list of the plastic already in our house.

  1. pet food sacks
  2. toiletry containers
  3. cleaning product containers
  4. food wrapping
  5. toothbrushes
  6. hairbrushes
  7. food storage containers
  8. cd cases
  9. dvd cases
  10. bags
  11. freezer bags
  12. bin bags
  13. medicine bottles
  14. dairy cartons
  15. pencil cases
  16. junk mail/catalogue covers
  17. watering cans
  18. clothes pegs
  19. washing maching balls
  20. tumble drier balls
  21. chopping board
  22. kitchen sink plug
  23. fermenting bin
  24. parcel packaging
  25. wrapping tape
  26. folders
  27. meat baster
  28. shower cap
  29. razor
  30. clothes packaging (multibuy underwear, shirts etc)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.  Suddenly it didn’t seem so easy after all.  Also with three teenage daughters and a husband who thinks that one can go too far and I am approaching that point, I am going to be flying solo.

Fortunately the plastic free movement is live and kicking.  There is a vast array of blogs and information sites on the internet:

Yesterday I walked around the house and looked at what I could change immediately.

  • stainless steel water bottles
  • enamel picnic ware
  • stainless steel straws
  • replace travel mugs (ours are falling apart)
  • bamboo  picnic cutlery
  • stainless steel lunchboxes
  • wooden chopping boards
  • clothes pegs
  • make own yoghurt
  • make own toiletries and cleaning products
  • use stainless steel containers for toiletries and cleaning products
  • download music
  • use DVD library and Netflix
  • cut up a loofah for a pan scrubber

Also I have discovered that there is a Food Weigh House in Gateshead and in Newcastle so I may just be able to buy bulk without packaging after all.  My wonderful butcher thinks I am bonkers but is happy to let me use my own containers and now I just have to have the same conversation with my very friendly fishmonger.  Fortunately the greengrocers are already quite happy for me to tip everything willy nilly into my bags.

Plastic free kitchen storage is going to be a problem.  I need big storage containers for flours, nuts, rice, etc.  I have found some good deals for 2 and 3 litre kilner jars but they are just too (1cm to be precise) tall for my pantry shelves.  I may be able to move some stuff around but this is going to be a more complex issue than just buying new jars.  If anyone knows of any wide & flatter glass storage containers, at least 2l in size please let me know.

So that’s the tip of the iceberg sorted.  Now for the rest.  What plastic can you exclude in September?

chilled

usually clean the fridge once a week, but with anything up to five teenagers plus extras I have been filling it as fast as I can just trying to keep up. However, we are about to go on holiday so it needs to be eaten down and furthermore, in the interests of genuine decluttering I think it is time to get rid of some of the things that have been there far too long. Yes Mr Candied Chestnuts of Cyprus.  You are on the way out.

Apologies for rubbish photos, camera battery on charge and phone clearly not up to the job today.

These, I am horrified to say, are the before photos.  It is way worse that usual because the teenagers keep filling it with stuff and haven’t been putting things in the right places.  Dairy always goes under the cheese, surely everyone knows that? 🙂

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This is the after photo.  I would like to say in my defence that we never usually have any pop in the house as none of us like it.  But the Dancer has just completed her expedition for her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.  20km a day for 4 days in average heat of 27 degrees.  She has also fed the entire local mosquito and midge population.  I picked her and two friends up from Cow Green Reservoir last night.  “Bring Pop” was her plaintive cry.  I wasn’t sure if they were going to drink it or wear it.

 

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I beg the plastic trays from friends who use the supermarket as I find the perfect for separating out the smaller veg and fruit. It’s a really good way of storing tomatoes as it protects them from being squashed.  I’ve had these (and some spares) for over a year.  Fruit juice is an issue.  We get through loads, and whilst I do squeeze quite a lot myself and we get gallons from our own apples I can’t find any other way of buying juice except cartons.  We use them as firelighter in the winter and they make great trays for seeds but that still leaves quite a few left over.  Milk is another issue.  The milkman doesn’t deliver to us as we are too far out.  Although he has offered to deliver our milk to the castle in the village and we could pick up from there. I think he has juice in glass bottles too.  Also NZ Eco Chick  suggests powdered milk.  Anyone else tried that?

The chickens and geese will be happy!

 

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