It’s Plastic Free July but you probably knew that already. Somehow July has crept up on me super quickly. Probably because it still feels like February here in London….
Whilst I’m not totally AGAINST plastic, I do think it’s not managed very well in general. It bugs me that it’s so cheap and seen as “throwaway” despite being designed to last many hundreds of years and it can leach into our food system and bodies causing issues with hormones and all sorts of dodgy shizzle. It does however improve some people’s lives enormously in various ways so for me Plastic Free July is about finding realistic alternatives to anything that usually ends up in the waste stream heading for the big wide blue and reducing my use of it as much as possible. I know I can’t completely eliminate it but I can try to choose carefully and avoid where possible. I do this most of the time, not just in July, but I’m taking this opportunity to really look at which plastics we still rely on and see if there’s a better way.
You can read about Plastic Free July here and pledge to join in by replacing, refusing or reducing plastic (especially single use, disposable plastic) for a day, a week or a month. The choice is yours! You can read about how I got on during Plastic Free July last year here.
As most of you know already, I live a zero waste lifestyle as best I can in London. Most of our groceries arrive home either without packaging or in glass jars with metal lids or in paper packaging. But there is still room for improvement in other areas.
So this year I’ve decided to try and find alternatives to some of the things that still bring plastic into the house and see how well I do for the whole month! Here are the main offenders:
– Microfibre cloths – often hailed as a really eco friendly alternative for cleaning (even in Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home Book) and whilst durable and super useful, they’re mostly made of polyester and recent research has shown just how harmful tiny pieces of plastic fibre can be to sea life and our eco system. They basically shed tiny fibres in our washing machines which slip through any filters and end up in the sea where they absorb more toxins, are eaten by fish and thus enter our food system…. eventually we end up eating plastic poisoned poisson. Mmmmmmm….. plastic-y…….. So I’m going to see if I can replace synthetic microfibre cloths with more eco friendly alternatives. I’ve ordered some made of wood pulp (who knew?!) and bought these by The Organic Company too (which were conveniently stocked in The Good Place, a local shop to me). I’ve also considered knitting some but I’ve only ever knitted a very wonky scarf in my time. Etsy might hold the answers! I could also try cutting up an old towel which is probably more realistic than knitting…. Read more about plastic microfibres here.
– Shampoo – As I mentioned in my recent Non-Toxic and Zero Waste Personal Care Favourites video on YouTube, I currently use an organic and natural shampoo by Rahua which is super nourishing for colour treated hair like mine but sadly comes in a plastic bottle. I usually recycle these but we all know by now that recycling plastic is more like “down-cycling” and delaying it from eventually ending up as trash. I’m going to try a non-toxic, natural shampoo bar although I’m haunted by the memory of using one from Lush when I was about 16 and it making my hair feel like straw. I’m hoping things have changed in the shampoo bar world in the last 16 years. So I’ve ordered a batch of package-free bulk shampoo bars from Soapnuts (I’ve heard Meow Meow Tweet is a good brand if you’re based in the U.S) and their ingredients look really good, unlike the Lush bars which may contain synthetic fragrance…. something I’ve become a bit sensitive too since ditching toxic cleaning products.
A comment on my YouTube channel suggested Oway as an alternative as they come in glass bottles (but still with a plastic pump lid) and after reading about the brand they have a lovely ethos. I also can’t help but sing the Enya lyrics “sail away” but replacing “away” with “Oway” everytime I say the brand name. They are also conveniently stocked in a hair salon in Wimbledon Village which is easy for me to get to. So I bought a bottle to try and after one use I can so far report that it has made my hair feel incredible. Honestly, I though nothing would beat Rahua…. but the Oway shampoo has! I’ll let you know how to soap bars go when I next wash my hair.
– Washing Up Liquid – I buy one in a plastic bottle by Daylesford. I tried the Ecover refills for a while but then my local Whole Foods where I would refill them, stopped offering the refill service. The staff reported that it wasn’t profitable when I asked about it….. I’ve since noticed though that they have introduced it in their Fulham branch. My issue with Ecover is that it says on the bottles that the product can irritate skin. I like to use it to wash my hands when in the kitchen instead of using a separate hand soap which is why I like that the Daylesford one – it’s gentle on skin and the environment…. but comes in a plastic bottle! WHHHHHYYYY?! It also smells a lot nicer than any of the Ecover ones I’ve tried. So, I’m gonna see if I can make my own. I have tried using just liquid castile soap in the past but it built up a residue everywhere and wasn’t hugely effective. Apparently castile soap can do this in hard water areas. Hoping to find a homemade + plastic free alternative this month and I have ordered some package-free, organic soap nuts to see if I can use these in some kind of recipe.
– Dishwasher Tablets – so it turns out using the dishwasher uses less water and is generally more efficient than washing things by hand. No bad thing! Also I’m a bit crap at cleaning by hand although I do try from time to time. My husband is amazing at hand washing but I seem to be lacking this skill. Sadly the dishwasher tablets I use come in a plastic pouch. They used to package them in a cardboard box but for some reason (probably to lighten the load), they switched. Also each tablet was packaged in a water soluble plastic but I now fear this is possibly made from genetically modified materials and not great for the environment if it’s simply breaking down into tiny pieces of plastic. I tried making my own tablets but they weren’t very successful so I may try out another recipe. I would rather use an eco brand over one filled with toxic crap but would much prefer to find a good recipe. If you know of any, holler at me! In the meantime I’m buying Ecover ones wrapped in recyclable plastic.
– Bin Liners – Most of our trash is organic and biodegradable but there is from time to time a small piece of packaging or something else non-recyclable or biodegradable too. I have tried re-using brown paper bags that I bring home from Wholefoods or my local organic store sometimes but they’re simply not strong enough so I recently and reluctantly tried the degradable plastic bags which I’m not really cool with. My worm bin has certainly reduced the amount we throw out but we can’t add meat, dairy or citrus to the worm bin and I don’t want to over feed them on veggies either. So, I’ve just ordered some brown paper caddy liners (our bin is about the size of a caddy – 20 litres) and instead of being made from recycled paper (which is weaker in strength), they’re instead made from fsc certified, sustainably sourced wood (only soft wood from the Scandinavian forests!) using tree flakes which are normally a waste product from the timber industry. Because of this, the fibres are longer and more resistant to moisture than recycled brown paper bags. I have high hopes for this as an alternative! Please work! Sadly they arrived wrapped in a plastic bag and plastic braces which over all is a lot less plastic than using plastic bin liners every week but still a tad irksome and a definite #plasticfreejulyfail on Day 4. So, I emailed the company asking if they would try using something else. Awaiting a response…..
– Recycling Bags – For some unknown reason, our council provides large plastic bags for each household to use as a mixed recycling bag which the council collects twice a week! Twice! I find it so strange they collect this often and don’t think of supplying a food waste collection service. Anyhoo, two streets away from me is a small recycling depot so I’ve decided to avoid using those large plastic bags and separate out our recycling and walk it over to the designated bins from time to time. It’s conveniently next door to my local coffee shop where I often grab an organic coffee in the mornings so no biggy.
And I think those are the major plastic-players in our house. I’ll probably think of a few more throughout the month but will keep you posted with how it all goes throughout July. Going to film some of it too for your viewing pleasure, you lucky so and sos!
I kicked off Day 1 of Plastic Free July by watching Trashed – the documentary by Jeremy Irons which was definitely informative. Sometimes watching these things can make the whole problem feel a little overwhelming but I’m a firm believer in simply focussing on my own life and way of living. If others feel inspired along the way, they hooray!
I’ll try and put a list of books and documentaries I’ve felt inspired by in a post soon. Good luck to you too if you’re getting involved with Plastic Free July too!
Article on the problem with biodegradable plastics: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/23/biodegradable-plastic-false-solution-for-ocean-waste-problem