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11 Surprising Items That Contain Plastic

things that contain plastic

Plastic turns up in the most unexpected places. Here are 11 surprising items that contain plastic or are made from plastic, that will shock you.

Plastic is a relatively new material, with widespread usage not occurring until the 1960s.  Despite this, plastic is a ubiquitous part of just about every aspect of our daily lives.  But were you aware of just how omnipresent it is?  I’ve rounded up 11 surprising household items that contain plastic. Be warned – you may be shocked!

The Surprising Items That Contain Plastic

sources of hidden plastics

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1. Chewing Gum

It’s hard to believe, but chewing gum is actually made of plastic.  Manufacturers don’t tend to disclose their ingredients.  Perhaps because chewing on plastic doesn’t sound particularly appealing!

The reason manufacturers do not need to disclose exact ingredients in their gum bases is that these are considered trade secrets.  Therefore they can use non-specific terms such as “gum base”.  This makes it hard for consumers to know exactly what’s in their chewing gum.

What we do know is that most gum bases contain polyethylene.  This is a plastic that’s used to make plastic bottles, plastic bags, and seal tea bags.  Gum bases also tend to contain polyisobutylene.  Polyisobutylene is a rubber that’s used to make the inner tubes of tyres.  A delightful thing to chew on, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Of course, it wasn’t always like this.  Chewing gum was made without plastic up until around the 1960s.  At this point, it became more economical for manufacturers to use more synthetic ingredients, such as the plastics listed above.

From what I have read, I believe that all the main gum brands use plastics and rubbers in their gum production.

If giving up gum isn’t for you, then thankfully there are now a few plastic-free chewing gum brands out there. Try Milliways*, Nuud*, Nopla* or Chewsy* for a plastic-free chew. And for an added plastic-free bonus, these brands also package their gum in plastic-free packaging.

2. Clothing

Clothing is the one area that gives me the biggest headache.  All clothing made from man-made fibres, such as microfibre fleece, polyester, acrylic, and nylon is made from plastic.  And every time you wash those items of clothing, microplastics are released into our waterways, as the fabric sheds in the wash.

There are some solutions.  When you buy new clothes try to purchase clothing made from natural fibres over synthetic fibres, if you can.  I wouldn’t recommend purging your wardrobe of man-made materials though.  Donating clothes to charity doesn’t help the microplastic problem as the person buying the clothes will wash and wear them.

I would also never advocate binning perfectly good clothes.  Instead, you could wash them in some of the new products coming out, such as Guppyfriend*.  This acts as a microplastic filter until your clothes reach the end of their lifespan.

A parliamentary bill that would require manufacturers to fit microplastic-catching filters to new domestic and commercial washing machines is also currently under discussion in the UK. If approved, this would shift responsibility on to washing machine manufacturers rather than the general public, which is always a good thing.

3. Disposable Coffee Cups

The hidden plastic in disposable coffee cups has been in the news a lot in recent years, so I guess this one may not be such a surprise to you.  However, I thought it is worth bringing to your attention again in case you missed the news.

If you did miss this, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic.  This makes it difficult to recycle them.  A 25p ‘latte levy’ was proposed, as a tax on consumers.  It was thought this would encourage people to use reusable coffee cups.  However, the UK Government voted against this levy in 2018.

Many coffee shops now offer compostable coffee cups. However, these are problematic, as these can only be composted in industrial composting facilities. There are few and far between facilities available, and unless the coffee shop has partnered with an industrial composting scheme for their cups, then these cups typically end up in landfill.

Looking for an alternative?  My favourite reusable coffee cup is the Stojo cup*.  This is a collapsible silicone cup that when flattened down takes us very little room in your bag.  It then pops up in seconds when you’re ready for your cup of coffee.

4. Drink Cans

items that contain plastic

Think a drink can is just made of aluminium?  Well, it turns out that every single drink can on the market is lined with a plastic resin, usually epoxy.  This stops the drink contained within corroding the aluminium.  Wired reports in a rather oddly fascinating article that “without that [expoxy] shield, a can of Coke would corrode in three days“.

Roughly 80% of that epoxy is bisphenol-A or BPA for short.  BPA has been associated with a myriad of negative health implications.  And interestingly, that same Wired article I quoted above goes on to note that Frederick vom Saal, a respected biologist who leads research into the effects of BPA on our endocrine systems, won’t buy canned foods or beverages.  He also won’t allow polycarbonate plastics in his home.  Food for thought.

5. Glass Jars with Lids

Think glass jars are a great plastic-free solution?  Well, I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but whilst glass jars themselves don’t contain plastic, the lids of glass jars contain a layer of plastic on them.

Yup, almost all jar lids are lined with plastisol, a PVC product.  The purpose of the plastisol is to produce a vacuum seal and also to help the lid resist corrosion from acidic ingredients.  Good for food storage, not so great if you’re looking to give plastic the heave-ho.

Jar lids are recyclable by most Local Authorities, so you can pop them in your recycling bin.  Alternatively, save up your jars and lids to make preserves (I have this book*, which I love).  This helps you avoid having to recycle the lids, as recycling is very resource-intensive. 

If preserving isn’t your thing then you could save up your jars and list them for free on Freecycle, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or similar.  They will be snapped up by local jam and chutney makers in seconds!

6. Glitter

More surprising news is that glitter is in fact a microplastic.  When will the bad news stop, I ask you?! 

As well as regular glitter for cosmetic and craft purposes, consider glittery greetings cards, present labels, and wrapping paper as sources of microplastic. 

These products can’t be recycled so why not make 2022 the year you give up glitter?  Many big brands are stopping making glittery greeting cards, so there are lots of alternatives out there.

If living in a world without glitter is too big an ask, fear not, all is not lost!  I have sourced some eco-friendly alternatives to glitter for you.

7. PLAs and Corn-Based Biodegradable Packaging

Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a type of plastic made from corn.  While this makes it fossil fuel-free, it’s very much still a plastic.  It’s sold as a greener alternative to conventional plastic, and it’s widely touted to be biodegradable.  But there are some problems.

I’ve written in length about the problems with biodegradable plastics if you fancy a longer read. 

If you just need a quick summary then here goes.  PLAs can be difficult to recycle, and many local authorities cannot recycle them.  Biodegradable is not the same as compostable, so you can’t compost them at home.  PLA plastics will only biodegrade in commercial composters where temperatures are consistently high.  Sending them to landfill isn’t a good option either – PLAs won’t break down in landfill, where waste is mummified in anaerobic conditions.

The lesson here is that some so-called green alternatives to plastic sadly aren’t as green as they make out.

8. Produce Stickers

Remembered to take a produce bag to the shop with you to stock up on fruit and veg?  Great work!  Sadly, however, your grocery shopping isn’t as plastic-free as you would have hoped.  Those stickers stuck to each and every single piece of produce is a plastic. 

This can be difficult to avoid, but the good news (finally!) is that retailers are looking into replacing plastic labels with laser marking. Granted, retailers have been looking into this for a long time and very little to no progress has been made, but at least the issue is on their radar.

9.  Tea Bags

hidden plastics

I’ve written at length about plastic in tea bags, but in case you need a short summary many tea bags are heat-sealed using polyethylene, a plastic that will not break down in your compost heap. 

The good news is that many brands have taken this problem seriously, and there are many plastic-free teas available. Some of these teas even come in plastic-free packaging.  See my guide to plastic-free teas for the full rundown.

If you do have plastic teabags, then you can tear them open and compost the tea leaves. The teabag can then be placed in your general waste bin.

As an alternative, I’d suggest switching to loose leaf tea.  I’m still on the hunt for a good decaff loose leaf tea so if you come across one do let me know!

10. Tetra Paks

Tetra Paks are the cartons that you commonly buy long-life or plant-based milk, juice, and/or chopped tomatoes in. 

Many people believe Tetra Paks to be made from waxed cardboard.  However, when you look a little deeper the Tetra Pak website states that cartons are made from wood in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of aluminium and polyethylene plastic. The most common Tetra Pak carton is 75% paper, 20% polyethylene, and 5% aluminium.

While Tetra Pak cartons state that they are recyclable, in reality, it’s a different picture.  These thin layers of aluminium and plastic make it difficult to separate these mixed materials. This means they are not easily recyclable at every recycling plant.

According to the Tetra Pak website, there is only one dedicated carton recycling facility in the UK.  This is in Halifax.  So, whether your Tetra Paks get recycled or not depends on if your Local Authority sends collected Tetra Paks to Halifax.  Tetra Pak says 65% of Local Authorities in the UK use this facility, so there is still some way to go.

Looking for an alternative to tetra paks?  Some dairies will deliver milk, including oat milk, in glass bottles.  Try Milk and More*, if you are in England and McQueens Dairies if you are in Central Scotland.

11. Tin/Aluminium Cans

Much like drinks cans, tin and aluminium cans are lined with plastic.  Indeed, the Independent reported in 2010 that the majority of food cans in the UK are lined with a plastic coating containing bisphenol A (BPA). More recent publications report this situation as unchanged over the last decade.

The coating prevents acids and other substances from corroding the tin or aluminium of the can. However, some experts say the leaching of BPA into the can’s contents could be a potential health hazard.

Looking for an alternative?  Buy dried pulses instead of tinned pulses, and get into the habit of soaking them overnight before use.  Tricky, I know!

12. Sunscreen

Finally, did you know that many sunscreen products contain microplastic? It’s true, the actual cream itself contains tiny fragments of plastic. What’s worse, when we swim, shower or bathe after applying sunscreen, those bits of microplastic get washed off into the water.

Why is this plastic there? For a start, microplastics bind together the product ingredients. This means that the cream doesn’t split or separate in the tube. Secondly, the use of microplastics helps to add waterproof properties to your sunscreen. And thirdly, microplastics are often cheaper to use, compared to more expensive plastic-free ingredients.

The good news is that some manufacturers have found ways to formulate their sunscreen without the use of plastic. Nivea, for example, is now microplastic-free, as of 2022, as well as lots of smaller ethical brands.

What Can We Do About Unnecessary Plastic?

I appreciate all of this information may be a little shocking and perhaps a tad overwhelming.  I’m not sharing this to overwhelm but to help share this information because I believe that the more we know, the more informed choices we can make. 

Plus, the more we know, the more we can lobby manufacturers and retailers to provide better packaging solutions and to avoid the use of unnecessary plastic.  For example, here’s a petition you can sign to lobby supermarkets to reduce their plastic packaging.

Have you found any more surprising sources of plastic?  Do let me know in the comments below.

Home, Home and Garden

Best Organic Cotton Bedding Brands For A Great Night’s Sleep

Our bedding can make a huge difference to the quality of our sleep. Cotton, for example, is much more breathable and cooling, compared to polyester blends. If you are looking to upgrade your bedding to cotton, then check out the Moral Fibres recommendations for the best organic cotton bedding brands.

To help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. This means that Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items purchased through these links. This income helps keep this site running.

For many of us, cotton is our top choice when it comes to bedding. And for good reason. Cotton is breathable, hypoallergenic and long-lasting.

What’s more cotton helps to draw moisture away from the skin. This has two benefits. It helps to keep you cool during hot summer nights and helps to keep you cosy during the autumn and winter chills.

Due to the many benefits of cotton, cotton is the second most-produced fibre in the world, after polyester. Choosing organic cotton is one great way to make a tangible positive impact on the environment.

Why Organic Cotton?

Until recently, it was claimed that using organic cotton uses 91% less water compared to non-organic cotton. However, these claims have now been thoroughly debunked. This doesn’t make organic cotton a bad choice though when it comes to bedding. Organic cotton is grown without synthetic chemicals and pesticides and without genetically modified (GMO) seeds.

Conventional cotton, on the other hand, is grown with synthetic chemical inputs and/or genetically modified seeds.

Removing synthetic pesticides from the cotton-growing process is good for the environment – reducing the risk of biodiversity loss associated with pesticides. It also helps to protect the health of farm workers, and cotton pickers, as well as communities living close to cotton farms.

Choosing organic cotton over inferior standards, such as BCI Cotton, also helps maintain a market for organic cotton.

The Best Organic Cotton Bedding Brands To Know

Bed with pink bed sheets, with blue text box that says the best organic cotton bedding brands for a great night's sleep.

To help you find the best organic cotton bedding brands, here are the Moral Fibres’ top picks when it comes to duvet covers, pillowcases, fitted sheets and more.

Urbanara

Urbanara bed covers in navy blue.

Urbanara* is a great choice for organic cotton bedding. Its Manteigas Percale Bedding range – comprising of duvet covers, pillowcases and fitted sheets – comes in six different colours. These range from muted neutrals to rich hues to complement any style of bedroom.

The Mateigas range is made in Portugal, from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. This independent certification ensures that no synthetic pesticides have been used in the production of the raw cotton.

The range is also OEKO-TEX certified. This is an independent test and certification process, to ensure that finished products are free of harmful levels of toxic substances, such as harmful dyes added during an item’s production.

With a 200 thread count, these light, breathable and soft duvet covers will help you get a great night’s sleep.

Check out the full range of organic cotton bedding directly at Urbanara*, from £52.

Fou Furnishings

Striped organic cotton bedding from Fou Furnishings.

If you are looking for plain white duvet covers, or white with a subtle pattern, then Fou Furnishing’s range of organic cotton bedding is one to look at.

Only available in white, the entire range including duvet covers, pillowcases and flat sheets – are all made from organic cotton, sourced from Fairtrade suppliers in India. With an envelope opening on the duvet, there are no poppers or buttons to contend with either.

Fou Furnishings is certified by GOTS. And with a 250 thread count, Fou Furnishings say its ethically sourced range has been specially created to be durable, yet consistent with the quality you’d find in high-end hotels.

Available in single, double and king size, single duvet covers.

Available via Ethical Superstore* and Traidcraft*, from £22.95 to £94.95.

Natural Collection

Natural Collection white duvet cover and pillows.

Natural Collection’s range of bedding* comes in a cream colour. Rather than a design decision, this is because Natural Collection’s organic cotton bedding is naturally whitened. As no chlorine or optical brighteners have been used the sheets are therefore not a ‘true’ white, and are more cream, or ecru.

Natural Collection has been supporting sustainable production, ethical innovation and green ideas since 1999.

With duvet covers available in single, double and king size, alongside matching pillowcases, the only thing missing from the range are fitted sheets.

Browse the Natural Collection range at Ethical Superstore*, from £26.95.

The Wool Room Organic Cotton Bedding

Bed made with Wool Room white duvet cover.

Contrary to what the name may suggest, The Wool Room’s range of luxurious bedding* is made from organic cotton, not wool!

The Wool Room’s bedding is made in Portugal from 100% organic percale cotton. Percale isn’t a fabric blend – it’s the name of a type of weave specifically used when making bed linen. It’s a simple criss-cross pattern, which enables the threads to be woven tightly. This gives a light, crisp, and durable finish to your sheets.

The Wool Room’s organic cotton is GOTS-certified, for your peace of mind. And this 200 thread count range of duvet covers and fitted and flat sheets come in single, double, kingsize, super king and emperor sizes.

You can also find a range of matching organic cotton pillowcases – in Oxford, Housewife and even V-shaped – for all your pillow-related needs.

Browse the full range directly at The Wool Room*, from £10.99.

Marquis & Dawe

Marquis & Dawe organic cotton bedding in dark blue.

Marquis & Dawe’s range of organic cotton bedding* comes in four shades – moss green, dusk blue, white and perfectly pale – a creamy hue. These are available in organic percale cotton, and in organic cotton sateen depending on your preference.

If you are wondering what sateen is, then again, like percale, sateen isn’t a blend of fibres. Instead, sateen refers to the weave of the cotton fibres.

When making sateen, the cotton is woven to maximise the visible threads on the top side of the fabric. This gives sateen a softness and shine to the upper side of the fabric, whilst the bottom side has a dull appearance. Sateen is also silky, and wrinkle-resistant. It’s also heavier, so tends to be warmer.

If you are a hot sleeper, then I’d pick regular cotton over sateen. And if you are always cold then sateen may be a cosier choice for you.

Marquis & Dawe’s range of bedding is made in Portugal and is both 100% GOTS certified organic and Oeko-Tex certified.

Available in single, double, king, and super-king sizes, the bedding also ships plastic-free.

View the full Marquis & Dawe range at Not On The High Street*, from £55.

As always, I seek to keep this page updated, so as and when I find more organic cotton bedding brands I’ll be sure to list them here.

And although it’s unlikely that you need advice on keeping warm right now, do also check out my simple tip on how to keep warm in bed. This is especially so if you are upgrading your bed sheets, as you may want to size up!