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plastic free

Good Reads, Life & Style

How To Go Plastic Free

Something that many of us have been asking ourselves is just how to go plastic free when it seems like plastic is everywhere.

Thankfully Caroline Jones, author of How to Go Plastic Free* (affiliate link) which has recently been published through Carlton Books, is here today with a great guest post on some of the ways that she is going plastic-free, and some great ideas for us.

Take it away Caroline!

how to go plastic free book

My New Year’s resolution this year – and one I hope to keep going long past January – has been to try extra hard to cut down on my plastic waste. Having spent a big chunk of last year researching and writing my book entitled: How to Go Plastic Free, I realised that even though I’m an avid recycler and plastic avoider, there’s still a lot more I could be doing to make a difference.

Over the last 100 years, global plastic usage has grown from zero to the point where humanity now produces its own weight in plastic every single year. That’s a shocking 300 million tons of plastic – with only 10 percent of it recycled.

But from polluting oceans to filling up landfills for decades without decomposing, the devastating impact plastic has on our planet is now well documented. Yet with our daily life so dependent on a vast variety of plastic products, making the shift to living a life without plastic is undoubtedly a real challenge.

It’s easy to think that one person using less plastic isn’t going to save the world, but personal commitment is how all positive change begins. One person inspires another, and then another and before long a ripple becomes a wave of change that can remake our world for the better – for our own future and for many generations to come.

Here are the 5 changes I’ve started making this year to significantly reduce my plastic waste footprint…

plastic free book uk

1. Saying no to single use plastics – for good

This stuff is everywhere! Often in the form of food packaging, it includes any plastic that’s used just once and then thrown away or recycled. Because it’s so convenient, single-use plastic has seeped into every corner of our lives, but the negative impact it has on the environment is so immense we really need to reduce our reliance on it.

It’s so easy to buy a drink in a plastic bottle and a plastic wrapped sandwich every lunchtime – and then carry them out of the shop in a plastic bag. All of which is used for just a couple of minutes before being discarded forever.

Yet the huge amount of plastic needed to supply this takeaway lunch habit is terrifying. Even if only 15 percent of the world did this daily throughout their working life that’s over 2400 billion batches of discarded lunchtime plastic. It’s impossible to escape the consequences of throwing away such vast quantities of a material that takes hundreds of years to break down. And while some single use plastics items, such as plastic bottles, can be recycled, many can’t. Which makes them the worst form of plastic used today – hands down.

So, if there is a significant change to sign up to right away, it’s ditching single use plastic that can’t be recycled. Here are the top ten worst offenders that I’m planning to cut out for good this year.

1. Crisp packets

2. Wet wipes

3. Sandwich boxes

4. Sauce sachets

5. Ready meal trays

6. Pet food pouches

7. Ear buds

8. Plant pots

9. Plastic drinking straws

10. ‘Foilised’ (metallic) wrapping paper

2. Making my own bubbles

If you love sparkling water, as we do in our family, it could be time to invest in a SodaStream. This Eighties favourite has recently been repositioned as an eco-product, as using it to add bubbles to tap water means you can finally do away with plastic bottles of fizzy water – or having to carry heavy glass bottles back from the shop. 

Some models actually come with their own glass bottle to store your newly carbonated water in. Better still, it can save you money! Each gas canister (which can be refilled) makes up to 60 litres of water for around £13. With the leading sparkling water brand costing around £1 for a 1-litre bottle, you can get nearly 5 litres of SodaStream fizzy for a similar price. We’ve not stopped using ours since it arrived!

3. Getting to know my local milkman

Supermarket milk comes in plastic bottles, which you’ll want to avoid when you’re trying to go plastic-free. Shops also sell milk in cardboard containers, which may seem like a good option, but most are actually coated inside and out with a thin plastic layer. This makes them a mixed material item and therefore almost impossible to recycle.

This means your best is going old school and using a local milkman – as most people in the UK did up until the last 30 or so years. Home delivered milk is making a resurgence, and most areas have dairies that deliver locally, providing milk in returnable, reusable glass bottles. I found my local one online and have signed up.

4. Quit my coffee pod habit

The capsules used in nearly all popular single-serve coffee machines contain plastic and are notoriously bad for the environment as they can’t generally be recycled. One option is to source biodegradable options, such as Halo, who make compostable pods compatible with most popular machines. But generally speaking, swapping to a machine that uses loose coffee – either ground or whole beans – is the greenest way to go. Then you can seek out smaller, independent coffee shops and delis in your area and take your own jar or tin to fill up. My local shop offers a 10% discount for customers bringing their own container.

5. Leave my plastic at the supermarket

Finally, if you’re feeling brave and want to make a stand the next time you’re doing your supermarket shop, Greenpeace advise taking some of the plastic packaging you don’t want off the products you do want and leaving it at the checkout. So, I plan to do this from now on!

It might sound scary, but as customers we are well within our rights to do it – and are actually helping the supermarket to understand what shoppers really want. I also plan to write to the senior management team of my local supermarket to lobby for less plastic packaging. Because the more noise we all make, the sooner we will bring about lasting changes in plastic use.

Thanks Caroline! Caroline’s super book – How To Go Plastic Free* is packed full of easy eco tips and actions on how to live with fewer plastics, no matter how busy your life is, and is out now. Even if you can’t eliminate all plastics, Caroline offers great tips on picking better options.

ps: there are lots of plastic free ideas this way too if you are looking for more ideas on how to go plastic free :)

Home, Home and Garden

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

So, today let’s talk eco-friendly bin bag alternatives, and if you hang about to the end you might just find a twist in the tale…

Now, I know, I know, I appreciate bin bags are not the most glamorous of topics. It’s no plastic-free makeup or how to go plastic-free in the bathroom, but it’s important to talk about all the little ways we use plastic in our homes to see where plastic can be swapped for better alternatives, so let’s get down to bin bag business!

eco-friendly bin bag alternatives uk

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

1. Ditch the Bin Bag

By far the single most eco-friendly bin bag alternative is to go bag-less. Yup, completely cut out the need for a bin bag. Instead line the bottom of your kitchen bin with old newspaper, and simply tip the contents of your bin into your wheelie bin when the bin is full.

If you are composting food waste, either in your garden or via your local council’s food waste collection, then there is probably no need for a bin bag, as all the wet waste will be in your compost bin.

Voila! Cheap, cheerful and 100% sustainable!

2. There is No Other Alternative

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no other eco-friendly alternatives to bin bags other than the no bag method. You can go compostable*, you can go recycled plastic*, you can go degradable*, you could use a paper bag, but the moment that bag goes in landfill then it’s purpose is lost.

You see, as I explained in this post about biodegradable plastics, and if they are good for the environment, in order for biodegradation to occur three basic resources are required – heat, light, and oxygen.

If a biodegradable or compostable material, including paper and food, ends up in a landfill site it can take decades upon decades to decompose, all the while releasing the greenhouse gas methane (this is a really interesting/horrifying article if you’re keen to learn more – wait until you get to the bit about the 1967 order of guacamole…!). In short, this happens because in landfill sites waste is essentially mummified, in a complete absence of light and oxygen.  If food that has ended up in landfill stays pristine for 50 years or more, there really is little hope for biodegradable or compostable or paper bin bags in landfill.

3. No, Really, There is No Other Alternative

By now, maybe you’re hoping that there is another eco-friendly bin bag alternative answer that some clever bod has come up with. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and I think the whole eco-friendly bin bag question highlights the fact that we can’t simply shop our way to sustainability.

What we need aren’t eco-friendly bin bag alternatives but real change away from producing so much waste. Food composting facilities need to be available to everyone. We need to buy less stuff, and when we do need to buy products they need to be ones that don’t break so quickly or can be repaired easily and affordably. We need more repair cafes. We need to switch from using disposable products to reusable products as and when we can.

This is easier said than done – so this needs to be combined with support from the Government by taxing the hell out of producers who produce goods in unrecyclable packaging. There needs to be a crackdown on those that produce products that aren’t designed to last, such as manufacturers that design using planned obsolescence, and greater governmental support for the circular economy and zero waste.

In short, we don’t need to find a better bin bag, we just need to re-think our attitude to waste and all collectively work together to keep as many things out of landfill as possible. What do you think?