weekend links

Ten Things

plastic free swaps

Hello!  How’s it going?  I’ve decided that this year I’m going to try and make one plastic-free swap a month.  You can join me using the hashtag #plasticfreeswapamonth on Instagram if you’re looking for moral support and ideas. 

This month I swapped individual shampoo bottles for a 5-litre bottle of shampoo* and a glass bottle with a pump* (affiliate links) to decant it in to.  My partner and I have been using shampoo bars for a year now, but my kids hair and scalp took badly to the swap – from really itchy scalps to really greasy hair.  In the absence of refill stores in our area, we made the switch back to bottled shampoo for them, sticking with the shampoo bars for us, and focusing on other areas we could make a difference. 

This month I decided that even if there are no bulk shampoo refill shops within 15 miles of our house I could bring the refill shop to us.  Now I have a year’s supply of shampoo for my kids for just £20.  I’ve also decanted some into a small glass jar and am using the shampoo as a bubble bath too. 

Admittedly the 5-litre bottle may be plastic, but a lot of bulk stores dispense shampoo from 5-litre plastic bottles anyway, so the only difference is that I’m recycling the plastic rather than the shop, and it moves us away from using lots of smaller plastic bottles.  I’m calling it a win!  Do join in on Instagram if you can!  

This week’s links: 

1. In what is possibly the most exciting news I’ve read in ages, Tesco is set to trial refillable packaging later this year.  Customers will pay a small deposit for a reusable container alongside its contents, which they will then get back when they return the container. The container is then cleaned and refilled for the next person.

The system means we’ll see products in very different packaging than we’re used to. The use of plastic should be far less common than it is with disposable/recyclable packaging, and we might see some more premium materials, too – think handwash in glass dispensers. We’ll also see toothpaste tablets and aluminium ice cream tubs“.

It’s really exciting seeing the big supermarkets stepping up to help reduce waste.  

2.  In other similar news, Nestle, the planet’s largest packaged food company is ditching single-use plastic, by 2025.  Nestle also aims to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, phasing out any non-recyclable or hard to recycle packaging.  

Plastic bottles, in particular, will represent a major challenge for Nestlé–which makes billions by running 100 different water bottling operations in 34 countries across the world.  As a result, Nestlé seems to admit that it needs to think beyond typical plastic altogether. “While we are committed to pursuing recycling options where feasible, we know that 100% recyclability is not enough to successfully tackle the plastics waste crisis,” said Nestlé CEO Ulf Mark Schneider in a press release.  

3.  This was a fantastic read about the power of naming and shaming the big brands that contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter the oceans every year.  Although there’s no neat conclusion, I feel the story is only just beginning on this one and it will interesting to hear what happens next.

4.  Cigarette filters are the number one most littered plastic in the world.  The filters were introduced in the 1950s in response to lung cancer fears, but now it’s been proven they don’t even help prevent cancer.

5.  Would you pay $10 USD (£7.50) a month to help combat climate change?  70% of Americans say they wouldn’t, despite the fact that more Americans than ever are worried about climate change.  I’d imagine it would be a similar figure here, to be honest.  

6.  How social media is inspiring children to save the natural world – a refreshing change from the “social media is the ill of the world” articles.    

7.  Iceland (the supermarket) slips up – the supermarket has told the BBC that – in a bid to meet a pledge to remove palm oil from all its own-brand products – it removed its branding from some items, rather than the ingredient, showing just how hard it is to go palm oil free.  

8.  Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are in the bad books for new reasons – they sponsored a conference that promoted climate change denial.  Thanks guys.

9.  Has big business hijacked veganism – and sold it back to us?

Dickinson points to products such as Flora’s ‘Freedom Dairy Free Spread’ – and the fact that margarine has always been dairy free. “Margarine has existed forever, it’s hilarious – they just put it in a new package”. 

10. And finally, a great post from Lindsay on the 5 things you need to go zero waste, no purchase required.

Have a great Sunday!  We watched this programme about a nomadic Sumatran tribe last night and it’s well worth a watch.  I love Chris Packham, and this compelling programme was some serious food for thought. 


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?