DAYS 16 & 17 – DON’T FLUSH!

The Marine Conservation Society have launched a new “Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush” campaign to encourage us all to think before we flush the loo.

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Image credit: Marine Conservation Society

Last year, around 50 wipes per kilometre were picked up during the Great British Beach Clean weekend, which is a 30% rise from the previous year and a whopping 400% increase in the last decade.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the Plastic Challenge? Well, I was surprised to find out that many wet wipes contain plastic fibres, and so by flushing them, those tiny bits of plastic end up in the food chain.

Also, around £88 million is being spent annually on sorting out sewer blockages caused by unflushables such as wet wipes, sanitary waste, fats and oils and the water companies will certainly be passing that cost straight on to us, the customer. So it’s bad for the environment and bad for your purse.

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Photo credit: Natasha Ewins

Personally, it has never occurred to me to flush anything but poo, wee and toilet tissue down the loo, but it’s obvious from beach cleans that people do regularly flush all kinds of stuff. So the message is simply – think before you flush!

Now we’re not just talking baby wipes here. Cleaning your face and house has been made quick and easy with wipes, and our disposable society has sucked them right up, often for good reason: convenience and worries about spreading illness.

In terms of baby wipes, I’ve always bought Jackson Reece Kinder by Nature which are available in most supermarkets and chemists. They’re biodegradable, compostable and don’t contain nasty chemicals like parabens and SLS, but that still doesn’t mean they are flushable (in fact they state “do not flush” on the packet). And if you’re thinking they must be super expensive too, you’re wrong; I have never paid more than £1.50/packet and sometimes only £1/packet because I buy them in bulk wherever there’s an offer on – sneaky huh! This makes them cheaper than many un-eco varieties.

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Even biodegradable & compostable wipes are not flushable!

But, even eco-friendly wet wipes come in a plastic packets. The only solution I have found for this is Terracycle who have a network of collectors for a variety of things including wet wipe packets, biscuit wrappers, spray bottle tops, pens and Ella’s baby food pouches. What can be recycled is often specific to the sponsors (ie. the big name manufacturers) but as well as providing recycling for items which would otherwise end up in landfill, the collectors can earn money for charity. Sadly, our local collector has recently stopped taking baby wipe wrappers although is still able to take household wipe wrappers (these rules are made up by the sponsors not her!)

The huge increase in wet wipes found on the beach is indicative of the fact they are such a handy, disposable product and, quite frankly, I have no idea how parents coped with poonami nappies before their invention. But there are great, reusable alternatives such as Cheeky Wipes.

Whilst, I think re-usable wipes are great for hands and faces, I’m less convinced about dealing with poo. The video demo makes it look easy (I am convinced they’re effective) but what do you do with your bag of poo-laden wipes? It’s suggested to wash them with anti-bacterial laundry wash, which is something I’m concerned about, as it will be flushing straight out into the aquatic ecosystem, and who knows what problems that will cause? Presumably, you’d also have to keep bottom and face wipes separate, and I can’t imagine nursery or grandma taking well all these extra instructions when they’re on childcare duty. Suddenly the extra washing, drying, sorting, soaking, explaining instructions, dealing with poo and anti bacterial wash seems an awful lot of hassle, and it’s understandable why most people opt for disposable wipes.

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Eco-friendly wipes and the most bio-degradable nappies I can find!

I decided at the start of the Plastic Challenge that it was my challenge rather than my toddler’s. I’d love him to be single-use-plastic free too (and he’s doing pretty well!) but there were a variety of reasons that I knew this would be near impossible; wet wipes being just one of them. Unless I made a huge investment (over £250) in re-usable nappies and all the associated paraphernalia (which I had previously discounted as an option) it would be virtually impossible to go entirely plastic-free in terms of the baby. However, we are using 77% biodegradable disposable nappies (the most biodegradable nappies available including their packaging), plus biodegradable & compostable wipes. The wet wipe packets and the plastic medicine bottle top have so far been the only real stumbling blocks. Overall, our little one seems to be coping with single-use-plastic free life pretty well, despite my hit and miss cooking, but that’s a story for another day.

 

 

 

 

DAY 15 – FROZEN PEAS & BAKEWELL TARTS

After some investigation and a bit of detective work I purchased some frozen peas in a cardboard box. Who knew you could get peas in a box? But actually the reason for the investigation was that I could see a plastic bag peeping out of the boxed spinach next to it. The box of peas was securely sealed so with a lot of box-shaking and discussion with shop assistants, the general consensus was that the peas were loose in the box with no hidden plastic, although no-one knew for sure. The only thing for it was to buy the box and hope for the best.

Dinner time came and I’d like to say that the opening of the pea box was ceremonious, but it wasn’t. There was too much going on. The cooking was coming to a head and my shouting about whether or not there was plastic in the pea box was greeted with some disgruntled mumbling along with some panicked pan juggling.

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Is there plastic hidden in the box?

The good news is that there was no plastic and we were able to enjoy our peas guilt free. As we tucked into our meal my other half told me how his plastic-free day had been:

Imagine this – you run into the local Co-op on your way to work, pick up a single fresh Bakewell tart in its handy, recyclable foil tray and say no to the paper bag with plastic window, thinking the tart will be well and truly demolished by 11am. But, at the end of the working day, your Bakewell is still there (this is the part many of us will find hard to believe – Really? You had a Bakewell tart sat on your desk all day and you didn’t eat it?) There are too many bags and boxes to carry to the car so you need something to wrap the Bakewell in to transport it home. You look around the office – what can you use? Ah! Printer paper of course! So you put the tart down on the boss’ desk and carefully wrap it in a nice clean sheet of paper, gather up the numerous bags and head off home. Except when you get home you can’t find it. The next morning you go into work and the boss gives you a strange look and thanks you for the um… “little present you left me”.

Ah…going plastic free can be so much fun!

DAYS 13 & 14 – RETURN OF THE JARS

Saying no to single-use plastic has made me change my shopping habits. Now, instead of wandering the supermarket aisles adding various unlisted things into the trolley, I now have to go to high street shops for very specific things. It’s great visiting the bakers and the green-grocers, but as anyone with small children will appreciate, it’s actually much more difficult and time consuming. Preventing a toddler knocking over displays and eating the produce is way easier if they are confined to a shopping trolley! And don’t even mention pushchairs – I can tell you that where I live, it involves bumping up and down a lot of steps into narrow shops where goodies are all within the “swipe zone”. Then you have to hang on to shopping bags whilst manoeuvring yourself and the pushchair around irritated customers before renegotiating the steps to get out. For everybody’s sanity, this is something I won’t even attempt anymore.

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Bulk buying peanut butter is now out because of the plastic container

As a result I’m tending to shop during my child-free moments, rushing around like a blue-bottomed fly to get it done as quickly as possible. I guess it’s inevitable that this is likely to result in the odd mistake.

For me, shopping in the supermarket nowadays consists of a list of about three or four items, and I’ve often come away with only two due to the lack of non-plastic options. Day 13 was no different; after a whizz round the local shops, I nipped to the supermarket to get a couple of items including peanut butter and jam, knowing that both came in glass jars. Easy, I thought…

The peanut butter is slightly annoying because we used to buy it in large (plastic) containers as it’s way cheaper considering the vast quantities that we consume. And as for the jam, I knew they sold St Dalfour which contains only fruit rather than added refined sugar, so I opted for that, plus a glass jar of peanut butter, then trotted off home.

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The sneaky transparent plastic jar lid seals

The bad news came later on, when my partner was having a piece of toast: “Um, you know this jar has got a plastic seal around the lid?” he shouted. “What? No! OMG! How did I not notice that?” I actually filled with panic, distress and self-loathing at having fallen foul of the plastic-gremlins who seemed determined to trip me up.

Okay, so the jar will have to go back and I’ll simply look for another brand (easier said than done as Meridian peanut butter has a metal rather than plastic lid and doesn’t contain palm oil). But, to add insult to injury, I realised this morning (Day 14) that the jam jar was just the same: another sneaky transparent collar of plastic around the lid.

I actually feel a bit stupid for having not noticed the plastic wrap at the time, particularly as it’s something that even prior to this challenge used to irritate me regularly – why is it even there? What happened to the old pop-top lids which meant it was obvious if a jar had been opened. And if it’s so essential, why do only some jars have them?

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Why are plastic jar seals used instead of pop-top lids?

I’m also starting to think that organic and eco-products are often the worst offenders when it comes to single-use plastic which is somewhat ironic considering the consumers that they’re hoping to attract.

Next job; it’s back to the supermarket to stand in a queue at customer services for half an hour to return the plastic-sealed jars. A fitting penance for my time-saving, rushed-shopping mistake. At least the toddler will be safely confined to a trolley.

DAY 12 – KETCHUP CATCH-UP

It’s time for another hair wash: After the initial fail of bicarbonate of soda shampoo due to operator error (I used too little of it), it turned out that bicarb is actually fairly effective. However, I’d also heard it rumoured that tomato ketchup made a great shampoo too.

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Not one to pass up on such a delightful prospect, I eagerly took the bottle of ketchup into the shower. One large dollop of the red stuff onto my hand (it was chilled from the fridge so probably would have been more pleasant at room temperature, if truth be told) and I keenly rubbed it into my wet hair and scalp.

I had a vague memory of ketchup in relation to washing hair but was reminded properly when someone mentioned blonde hair turning green after swimming. That was it! Ketchup is supposed to be great for removing the green stain of chlorine from bleached hair.

Even established hairdressers, Percy & Reed agree; “For blonde hair that has gone green from chlorine or salt water, shampoo your hair as normal, then rinse tomato ketchup through your hair and leave it on for about five minutes.”

Ah, okay, that was not what I did. I used the ketchup as my shampoo, and here’s what happened:

MY VERDICT:

KETCHUP SHAMPOO – The washing experience itself was interesting as it conjured up vaguely pleasant memories of eating chips but felt a little at odds with taking a hot shower. After rinsing thoroughly, I keenly dried my hair to see the results.

I’ve always felt that ketchup was good for cutting through the grease of chips during dinner, but it turns out it doesn’t do much for greasy hair. In fact, it seemed to make it even more greasy. To add to that, my hair smelled of tomato ketchup – not good!

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Basically, I took a photo as evidence, then went straight back to the bathroom to wash my hair again with the tried and tested bicarb of soda. The results: nice squeaky clean hair and no stench of ketchup – phew!

The ketchup bottle is now safely back in the fridge, where it belongs.

On a final, slightly unsavoury note, it seems that ketchup can actually be classed as a “no-poo shampoo” as it’s said to be great for washing dogs after they’ve rolled in nasty stuff. I have to say, I’d definitely rather the dog smelled of ketchup than fox poo!

DAYS 10 & 11 – SIX EASY NO-PLASTIC SWAPS

There have been a few things along my “no single-use plastic” journey which have been relatively easy to replace, so I thought I’d share some of them with you:

CHOCOLATE: Hooray! Personally, I would find life hard without dark chocolate, so this one makes me very happy. But it’s not just the dark stuff; you can buy plenty of other types of chocolate without plastic packaging. Most 100g bars are in either recyclable foil & cardboard or paper and card. Virtually all supermarkets stock a wide variety, including milk, ginger, orange, salted caramel and one of our favourite treats Lindt Dark Strawberry Intense chocolate. My staple though, has to be Green & Blacks Organic 70% yum!

Replacing face and body moisturisers with one recyclable tin of All Round Cream

MOISTURISER: I have to admit that I’m generally not brand-loyal and often try out new eco-products that I’ve never heard of before. However, Lavera is one of the big players in eco-brand cosmetics and toiletries and I was pleased to find a large (recyclable) tin of their Organic All-Round Cream which is for both face and body. Previously, I’d been using a glass jar of night moisturiser (with plastic lid), a plastic pump bottle of day moisturiser and a plastic bottle of body lotion. All of them are eco/organic products and I will recycle all the containers, of course. Back to the All-Round Cream: I genuinely love it! It smells amazing and is rich and creamy and there’s no plastic in sight. Well done Lavera – I might have just become brand loyal.

SOAP: This is a fairly easy one if you have an independent health food shop nearby. I’ve noticed a number of places do un-packaged Faith in Nature soap. It’s that simple (assuming the shop don’t then put it in a plastic bag!) However, it looks like they only sell it plastic wrapped if you buy online.

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Out with the plastic tub of eco-deodorant and in with the tin!

DEODORANT: Over the years I have tried numerous “no-nasties” deodorants. To be honest I have yet to find one which works anywhere near as well as the alleged breast cancer inducing, aluminium- laden high street versions. I’ve always reserved those for sweat-inducing social occasions. However, particularly in winter, I find there’s usually no need for a mega-deodorant, so am happy with my eco-deodorants the majority of the time.

I was using Soapwalla deodorant which seemed to be fairly effective on normal days but comes in a plastic pot. I’ve since changed to Earth Conscious Hippy Paste deodorant in a recyclable tin, which smells good but doesn’t stop the stink on super sweaty days. They do however, make a donation from their sales to the Marine Conservation Society, which is a bonus!

LOO ROLL: I have found recycled Ecoleaf loo roll (why would anyone use anything else to wipe their bum?) in a biodegradable potato-starch wrap at our local health food shop. I’ve also seen it being sold in the organic farm shop so it’s fairly easy to come by. Prior to this challenge I used to line the bathroom bin with the plastic loo roll wrapper but now it will be the biodegradable version getting a second life before it’s sent to the tip.

Recycled loo roll in compostable wrap

DISH CLOTHS: Finally, I have found some not packaged in plastic hiding at the local supermarket! As well as only being wrapped in paper, the wrapper was gummed rather than sticky-taped together. Clean work surfaces, here we come!

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The elusive non-plastic wrapped dishcloths!

I hope this post might inspire you to look around and choose products without plastic packaging too as it’s not always that hard!

DAY 9 – PLASTIC AND PARACETAMOL

The day started with a trip to the doctor with my toddler. Luckily, it was nothing major and all I needed for him was paracetamol. This got me thinking about drugs and single-use plastic packaging. I do remember glass jars of tablets as a kid, and you can still buy them filled with vitamins and other supplements in health food shops, but prescription medicine? I’m not so sure.

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Junior paracetamol in a glass bottle but with plastic cap and measuring spoon

Off to the chemist I trotted with a tired toddler in tow and after lengthy discussions and investigating a few boxes of medicines, I found this brand, Junior Parapaed, which comes in a glass bottle – hooray! (Unlike the other more popular brands). But, it does still has a plastic cap and comes with a plastic measuring spoon – boo!

Judge me as you will, but I decided that as this is my challenge, not my toddler’s, that denying him medicine for the rest of the month would be utterly ridiculous and downright cruel! (I’m also not subjecting him to the disgusting, non-minty home-made bicarb & coconut oil toothpaste!) The only other option would be for me to ask someone else to buy the medicine for him, but that seemed equally stupid as ultimately it wouldn’t save any plastic at all. So I just got on with it and bought it, plastic cap ‘n’ all.

So officially, that’s it, the world of single-use plastic has beaten me; but hang on…no, I’m not giving up because I don’t think buying medicine for a toddler who can’t buy it for himself counts. Like I said, this is my challenge, not his!

But this incident has really begged the question of what I will do if I get ill or simply get a headache? Is it even possible to get paracetamol or ibuprofen packaged in anything other than single-use plastic and foil packs? You can still get aspirin in bottles, but they’re plastic of course – no surprise there.

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No sign of paracetamol sold in glass jars

When I asked in the chemist about non-plastic options, the lady reminisced with me about glass jars but thought that health and safety regulations had probably put a stop to them: It appears that ill people may simply be more likely to drop glass jars than people who frequent health food shops.

 

 

 

DAY 8 – WORLD OCEAN’S DAY

It’s World Ocean’s Day! You may have heard of it and you’ll probably see it on social media, but most importantly you can take part, and honestly, it won’t take much effort!

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I’m not going to preach on about the wonders of the ocean. I’m sure that most of you have an appreciation of it, whether that’s from exploring rock pools as a child or swimming off a beautiful beach whilst on holiday. And let’s face it, none of us want to spend time hanging out on beaches covered in litter or swimming in oceans filled with sewage.

You can do your bit by joining or even organising a beach clean-up, which is a surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying pastime. The Marine Conservation Society organise the annual Great British Beach Clean, and last year volunteers picked up an astounding 100 plastic bottles per kilometre amongst all the other rubbish.

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Image Credit: Jacki Clarke

But surely we need to tackle the root of the problem? If we simply reduce the amount of waste we produce, then there would be less litter polluting our planet.

So here are a few QUICK TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR WASTE today:

1) Say “No” to single-use plastic bottles of water. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill up at home, work or when you’re out and about. I have an Onya bottle but have found the cap a bit leaky, however their sports cap is great and water tight.

2) Don’t use disposable take-away cups, either enjoy your time sitting in a cafe drinking from a crockery cup or invest in a reusable travel mug. There are plenty of stylish options like these bamboo reusable take-away cups.

3) Think before you flush! Don’t put anything down the loo except wee, poo and toilet tissue. Anything else should go in the bin. I am constantly astounded by the amount of sewage related debris on the beach because people think their toilet is a one way street to some imaginary waste tip.

Cotton bud sticks credit Marine Conservation Society

Image Credit: Marine Conservation Society

4) Say “No” to disposable plastic straws. Seriously, you don’t need a straw, and if you really  think you do you can buy reusable ones.

5) Choose products with less packaging. It’s often not possible to avoid single-use plastic, as I’m discovering, but there is choice out there. Do you really need that chocolate éclair packaged in a plastic tray within a box with a plastic window? Maybe you could buy a delicious bar of chocolate packaged only in recyclable foil and cardboard instead?

As long as there’s an appetite for over-packaging,  the litter will continue, but if we all make a small change in our shopping habits, the manufacturers and retailers will start to take notice. Lots of small changes can lead to a big one, so go on…

Choose to make one small change today!