Monday, 10 July 2017

My first full week of #PlasticFreeJuly

Not-new storage jars 
How is your Plastic Free July going?
After nine full days I am pleased with my efforts. Our landfill rubbish bag isn't noticeably emptier yet, but I am still using up much of what we already had so I expect the visual results there to be delayed. We usually fill one 15 litre rubbish bag a fortnight, which is already considerably less than our immediate neighbours (our recycling box being correspondingly much fuller). I am hoping to get the landfill rubbish down to one bag a month, if not by the end of July itself, then by the end of this summer.

The hardest part of this challenge, other than the plastic avoidance obviously, is not being sucked into the must-shop-for-new-hobby mindset for we are all conditioned. Insatiable consumerism is all very Brave New World and hard to resist. I am seeing pics of gorgeous pantries and kitchen cupboards stocked with matching kilner jars and steel tubs and my click-to-buy finger twitches! Instead I have temporarily stopped recycling jars and will repurpose them for storage solutions. I even pinched two out of a recycling box! Otherwise I will keep using our existing plastic tubs until they wear out and can be gradually replaced.

Being only able to buy loo roll wrapped in plastic got me thinking. When did their paper packaging stop? The same is true of kitchen roll so I thought about how we can use less. I now have a second tea towel hung up ready to be alternative kitchen roll. Wash and reuse! I am trying to avoid cling film too. An upturned bowl over a plate keeps refrigerated food fresh and protected, and using my 'not-new' jars for dry storage has freed up airtight plastic tubs for leftovers. I realised I am starting to do things as they were done years ago so my new mantra is What would Nana do?! The few pieces of her pyrex that I still have are suddenly very useful again.

Ecosewer sanitary pad 
I did buy a second Stainless Steel Flask so now Dave and I have one each. They are perfect for keeping tap water refreshingly cold so are ideal for Dave's tennis sessions. I also bought the pictured reusable sanitary pad for myself. I have used a menstrual Mooncup for almost fourteen years now and wouldn't be without it, but it sometimes can't cope with a heavy first night so I backed it up with a disposable pad. I never considered reusable pads, but now discover dozens of pretty examples available on Etsy. My one is made by Ecosewer and I am very pleased with it.

Then I got crafting! I crocheted reusable produce bags from cotton I already owned. Pictured below, the red and pink net one is for fruit and veg, the yellow one to transport Fresh Soap bars home from their shop in Torquay, and the little blue one is a soap saver pouch making soap bars usable right to their very ends. It works as a great exfoliator too!

I baked crackers from this Kitchn recipe. They taste good and were ridiculously easy - and cheap - to make. I just need more practice on rolling them out evenly.

I made toothpaste from this Treading My Own Path recipe. The glass bottles of glycerine, peppermint oil and clove oil did all have plastic lids and the glass pipette came in a plastic blister pack, but the bicarb was in a cardboard box! I think plastic usage will become less after two tubes worth. The toothpaste will become cheaper than my commercial brand after three tubes worth and, after nearly a week of use, I have already noticed my gums are less red and have stopped bleeding when I brush.

I already regularly make my own Sunflower Seed Milk for our daily porridge. This has more than halved our milk consumption keeping three tetrapacks (with plastic screw caps) out of our recycling each week. The laundry powder I made last year is still going strong too - from that original batch of ingredients!

Crocheted produce and soap bags 

Spotting the plastic that does still creep in has been discouraging, but at least I am now very aware of it and look around for alternatives. Having had no response from Silver Spoon to my e-mail asking why only demerara sugar is sold in plastic - white sugar being packed in paper - I bought a jar of honey. I now put honey on my porridge and in my herbal teas thereby stretching our sugar usage. I've seen local Devon honey for sale since so will make sure to buy that in future.

No response from Clipper or from Heath And Heather to my querying the plastic content of their teabags either - so I am assuming that means yes, their ostensibly paper teabags do contain strengthening plastic. I often wondered why teabag 'skeletons' remained in the compost when we had our veg garden - now I know. Plastic! I already own these brew baskets and an actual pottery teapot so, once our current tea is used up, I plan to take the loose tea route from now on. I just need to find loose tea that is Not sold in plastic bags!

What are your Plastic Free successes? Use the #PlasticFreeJuly hashtag to find great ideas and global support across most social media platforms!


  1. Response from Clipper about plastic in tea bags:
    "With regards to your concerns about there being plastic within tea bags we can confirm that certain types of tea bags do contain polymer fibres. Standard square or round tea bags which are the most common in the UK market will all contain a type of polymer fibre as they are made using heat-sealable filter paper. The tea bag filter paper requires a means of sealing the two layers of paper together as paper will not stick to paper and glue is not used. The filter paper Clipper uses for this type of tea bag contains polypropylene to provide the heat-seal function. The filter paper is food grade for its intended purpose and meets all relevant UK and EU Regulations.

    The filter paper used to produce tea bags with the string and tag attached does not need to be heat-sealable, as it is closed differently, and therefore does not contain any polymer fibres/plastic content.

    In terms of Clipper packaging in general we can confirm that we do not use PLA material (the biodegradable material used for some pyramid bags and other plastic packaging) as it is derived from corn which may be from GM sources."

  2. Response from Silver Spoon about brown sugar only being available in plastic packaging:
    "The problem we face is that as Billington's sugars are unrefined they contain a higher percentage of molasses compared to refined sugars, this makes them moister and more fragrant. If packaged incorrectly they would go hard before they reached the consumer. This unfortunately limits us on the type of packaging we can use and also what we are able to do with the packaging. We do however note your comments and these will be passed to packaging team."