For years we’ve been told to eschew baths, and take showers instead. But did you know that taking a bath doesn’t always use more water than a shower? I’ll admit, I do love taking a bath. However, making it plastic-free can be tricky, especially if you want to make it plastic-free on a budget.
If you have little kids that dislike the shower but love the bath, or perhaps you like to unwind after a long day in a hot bubbly bath, then you might have wondered where to buy plastic-free bubble bath. Well, wonder no more! I’ve got a whole host of ideas for you, that can hopefully work for a variety of budgets.
Plastic-Free Bubble Bath Ideas
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Bath bombs are, I think the default plastic-free bubble bath option. My kids love choosing and using bath bombs from local shops, and bath bombs certainly make it easier to coax them into the bath. However, bath bombs don’t come cheap, and finding the balance between getting my kids to enjoy bathtime, and between a low cost per bath was a tricky one to find.
The best balance I have found for my kids is to use mini bath bombs, such as these ones from Etsy* that come in a cardboard box. At £4.99 for a box of 21, this works out at just under 24p per bath bomb. With all the fun of standard-sized bath bombs, these mini ones are perfect for the shallower baths that my kids have.
The other eco-friendly option would be to bulk-buy ingredients and make your own bath bombs. This recipe from Good Food is one I’ve used in the past with great success.
Bubble Bath Bars
If you and/or your kids prefer bathing in a cloud of bubbles then there are still plastic-free bubble bath options out there. Bubble bath bars, for example, are bars that you crumble a little bit off of and sprinkle into running water for luxurious bubbles.
I have struggled to find plastic-free bubble baths bars that aren’t from Lush. Lush is on my avoid list due to some problematic behaviour (see exhibit A and exhibit B). As such, I avoid their stores.
I thought it would be easy to source bubble bath bars elsewhere. And it is easy to source them. The problem lies in sourcing ethical bubble bath bars. In particular, I struggled to find plastic-free bubble bath bars that don’t contain biodegradable glitter (spoiler: it doesn’t biodegrade and is just as bad for the environment as regular glitter) and/or mica. Mica is a problematic ingredient linked to child labour, deforestation, and unfair wages. Mica and/or biodegradable glitter seem to be de rigueur ingredients in bubble bath bars. As such, I don’t have any particular brands to recommend, but if I find any I will update this article by linking them here.
Bubble Bath In Glass Bottles
For an indulgent treat, bubble bath in glass bottles is a great plastic-free option. I have used Humble Bath Honey* in the past, which smelled divine. The bottles are pretty and can be re-used once empty. The only drawback is that this range isn’t vegan-friendly.
For a vegan-friendly option, Funky Soap* offers bubble bath in glass bottles in a variety of scents.
If you have a local refill store then bringing along an old container and filling that up makes for a good plastic-free bubble bath experience. If you don’t have a refill store near you, but do have a Body Shop, then the good news is that the Body Shop now offers a refill scheme. Whilst they don’t offer refillable bubble bath yet, you can get refillable shower gel. I’ve always found that shower gel makes for a perfectly acceptable bubble bath.
5 Litre Shampoo As Bubble Bath
Another great low-waste option is to buy 5 litre bottles of shampoo. You can buy 5 litre bubble baths, but I find buying shampoo a much more economical choice. As well as providing you with low-waste shampoo, with less plastic per ml of product, the shampoo also triples up as a liquid hand wash and a bubble bath.
My favourite bulk brands have re-use schemes in place for the 5 litre bottles. Here you can return the empty bottles back to the manufacturers for reuse. The brands taking part in such schemes include:
Did you know that some food items contain microplastic? Worryingly, here are eight key food and drink items that have been found to contain microplastic.
Nobody would willingly chow down on a bowlful of plastic. However, over the past few years, scientists have horrifyingly been finding microplastic in some of the most common food that we eat and the beverages that we drink. In fact, one study estimates that we each could be consuming as much as 5 grams of plastic a week. That’s the equivalent weight of a credit card. Over the course of a year, that’s 52 credit cards. Yikes!
Firstly, What Is Microplastic And Where Does It Come From?
Before looking at which foodstuffs contain microplastic, let’s first understand what microplastic is, and where it comes from.
Microplastics are what we call fragments of any type of plastic less than 5 mm in length. Sometimes these are visible to the human eye, other times they are so small that they cannot be seen.
Microplastics come from a variety of sources. Some microplastics are produced for commercial use, such as the cosmetics industry. Microbeads are banned. Yet other cosmetics like makeup and sunscreen (yes, sunscreen contains microplastic) are permitted to contain microplastic.
Other microplastics result from the breakdown of larger plastic items. These include plastic water bottles, plastic bags, and other items made of plastic. Microplastics are also shed from synthetic clothing when washed, and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Car tyres are also a major source of ocean microplastics. Meanwhile, paint flaking off of marine vessels is also a source. In short, there’s no single source, which makes it difficult to turn off the tap when it comes to microplastic.
Microplastics enter our food chain when they enter our oceans and waterways, and enter our soil. When microplastics are in the food we eat and that water we drink, this means we are ingesting plastic. The long-term effects of consuming plastic are not yet fully understood by scientists. However, microplastics have found in the placentas of unborn babies, in human faeces, and in our organs, such as our lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys.
The Food That Contains Microplastic
Now we know more about microplastic, here are the food and drink items that scientists have found to contain microplastic.
Fruit & Vegetables
Italian researchers found microplastic in fruit and vegetables. Apples and carrots have the highest levels of microplastic particles. However, microplastics appeared in other crops such as pears, broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, and turnips.
Contamination in fruit and vegetables is thought to occur when plants suck water that contains microplastics up through their roots. The microplastic pass into the shoots, and form the edible parts of the plants. Fruit is more highly contaminated than vegetables. This is because fruit trees are older with deeper, more established root systems, and so they take in more water compared to vegetables.
Would you like some microplastic on your chips? Yup, research has found microplastics in 90% of table salt brands sampled from across the globe. This means that even if the food you eat doesn’t contain microplastic, then what you season it with probably does. The bad news is that microplastic in salt isn’t geographically isolated to one part of the world. Therefore it’s impossible to find a salt that doesn’t contain microplastic. Sea salt has the highest concentration of microplastic, followed by lake salt and then rock salt.
Microplastics aren’t just found in the food we eat, but also in the beverages we drink. Tea, for example, contains microplastic. This is because teabags are heat-sealed using polypropylene plastic, to stop tea bags from breaking. Other brands use plastic mesh tea temples in place of paper-based tea bags. The good news is that some brands have started to phase out the use of plastic in their teabags. Check out my post on plastic-free teabags for an updated list for 2021.
If you’re thinking sod tea, I’ll just stick to water, then I’ve got bad news. Tap water contains microplastic. If this news makes you want to pass on tap water, then the bad news is that bottled water contains even more microplastic. In fact, researchers found that bottled water contains roughly twice as many plastic particles compared to tap water. And it was also found that the single largest source of plastic ingestion globally is through water, both bottled and tap.
It’s not entirely clear why bottled water is more contaminated. It could be contaminated source water. However, it is more likely that it has come from the plastic polymers used to make the bottles and bottle caps.
Reach for the tap – it’s better all round.
Bad news, beer lovers. In 2020, scientists found microplastic in beer. The study looked at a variety of beverages. Whilst microplastics were found in most of the beverages studied, beer was found to have the highest levels of microplastics.
Whilst the average number of particles found in beer was similar to the average number of particles found in tap water, water supply isn’t always a factor. Another study found that two beers brewed in the same city using the same municipal water supply had wildly different microplastic levels. This suggests the beer production process may also generate microplastics.
Fancy a side of plastic with your curry? A 2021 study found that microplastic is found in packaged rice. Regardless of whether the rice was packaged in paper or plastic, the type of packaging made no difference. And worryingly, pre-cooked rice (such as sachets of microwavable rice) contains four times as much plastic. The takeaway here is to try to avoid instant rice, and instead cook your own.
The researchers tried a number of methods to see if they could reduce the concentration of microplastic in rice. They found that shaking the rice in its packaging made no difference in the concentration of plastics. However, they did hit top tip gold. Washing your rice before cooking reduces plastic contamination by 20 to 40%.
Fish & Shellfish
Unsurprisingly, samples of fish and shellfish contain microplastic. Zoologists believe that this has come from fish ingesting microplastics found in water or on the seafloor, or by ingesting prey that have previously ingested microplastics themselves. Commercially farmed fish are also likely to be fed fishmeal that inadvertently contains microplastic.
Not all seafood is equal though. Since microplastics usually start out in an animal’s gut, seafood which includes the animal’s stomach, like mussels, oysters, shrimp, prawns, and other filter-feeding sea life, may be more likely to contain higher levels of microplastic.
Bees are the most infinitely complex and fascinating creatures. The bodies and legs of bees are covered in thousands of tiny hairs. When bees are in flight, these tiny hairs become positively charged. This is partly because of the friction of the air against the bee. When a positively charged bee lands on a flower, it attracts the negatively charged pollen grains. These grains then naturally stick to the bees’ hair.
It’s a whole world of wonder. And you’re probably wondering where the microplastic comes into play? Well, it’s not just pollen that the tiny hairs on bees collect and hold. These positively charged hairs also attract other matter. Traditionally this would have been bits of plant matter or dust, but it seems that bees are now also attracting airborne plastic. This plastic gets taken back to the hive, and consequently ends up in honey.
Where or who you buy your honey from seems to have little impact on the concentration of microplastic in each jar. One team of Danish scientists studied bees from hives located in different settings. Some hives were located in a city, and other hives were located in suburban and rural areas. It was anticipated that the bees located in urban areas would present the highest counts of microplastics. This is because urban areas contain the highest densities of microplastics. And indeed, the city bees did have the highest counts of microplastics. However, the surprising find was that the counts of microplastics on suburban and rural bees were not much lower. This highlights the role of wind in dispersing microplastics.
So What To Do About Microplastic In Food?
The probability is that microplastic is in the vast majority of the food that we eat and the things we drink. What’s more, it’s also in the air that we breathe. A study at Macquarie University in Sydney took samples of airborne dust from homes, where it was found that 40% of it was plastic. There’s simply no way to avoid microplastic.
Microplastic is a global problem that we as individuals alone can’t solve. What’s more, there isn’t one single solution to eliminating microplastic from the food we eat. Scientific American says that according to microplastic experts, in order to get a handle on our microplastic problem, the world needs to take three primary steps.
“In the short term society needs to significantly curtail unnecessary single-use plastic items such as water bottles, plastic shopping bags, straws, and utensils. In the medium term, governments need to strengthen garbage collection and recycling systems to prevent waste from leaking into the environment between the trash can and the landfill and to improve recycling rates. And in the long run, scientists need to devise ways to break plastic down into its most basic units, which can be rebuilt into new plastics or other materials.”
I would add a fourth primary step. That is that corporations need to reconsider their packaging and consider alternatives away from throwaway plastics as a matter of urgency. The worst plastic polluters include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive. These companies have a huge responsibility to curtail their plastic packaging and plastic usage.
Where Do We Begin?
In the interim, I think that instead of asking whether it is dangerous to eat apples or drink water or beer that contains microplastics, we should instead use this knowledge as a conversation starter. Discussing, as a society – including consumers, governments, scientists, and manufacturers – just how and when we should use various types of plastic materials feels like a good way forward. As a society, we can and must do better, and finding ways to turn the tap off on microplastics is imperative.
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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