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.

 

 

 

 

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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 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!

 

IS THIS REALLY A CHALLENGE?

Saying “No” to single-use plastic might seem fairly straight forward, but with only 2 days to go before my month (and hopefully a lifetime) of abstaining, it’s really dawning on me just how hard this is going to be.

My aim is to raise awareness of just how wasteful we are and how we are damaging the environment. Just take a look at how much single-use plastic you use every day and how much of it ends up in the bin – it’s shocking and let’s face it, mostly unnecessary.

Last year over 68% of beach litter found during the Great British Beach Clean was plastic. As well as looking awful, plastic litter can harm and kill wildlife and even tiny sea creatures like barnacles are known to ingest microscopic pieces of plastic.

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So, in terms of this challenge I’ll be changing the way I shop and also the way I think. I’m already pretty environmentally aware: I use eco-friendly cleaning and skin care products, buy loose unpackaged soap, refill my washing up liquid bottles, re-use freezer bags and recycle as much as I can, but the real challenge will be going that step further.

My biggest bug-bear so far is that I’ll have to cut down on organic food. I tend to buy organic fruit and veg from the supermarket simply because it is cheaper. But, it is all packaged in plastic, so either my purse will have to take the hit by buying local, or I’ll have to buy loose, non-organic veg instead.

I’m hoping that this will be in interesting journey, and hopefully it will make you think a little bit more about your shopping habits and choices too.

We can all make a difference by putting pressure on our councils to improve recycling and by telling shops that all this excessive plastic packaging is both unwanted and unnecessary.

If you’d like to donate to the Marine Conservation Society who work tirelessly to protect our seas and came up with this challenge, then you can do so here.

Thanks for reading!

Photo credit: Marine Conservation Society