Plastic free July – The things I’ve learned

I don’t think I’ll ever go completely plastic free due to our busy lives and also preferences for particular products which aren’t available without plastic packaging.

It’s interesting when you start to take a look at reducing personal consumption of plastic packaging in everyday life and you realise how much packaging has been actually changed to plastic over the last 10 years. With all the talk of reducing plastic packaging, this just seems a bit crazy. KitKat‘s, for example, used to be wrapped in foil and paper – both easily recyclable. The old foil wrappers in a tin of Roses or Quality Street are now plastic – this seems ridiculously backwards on an environmental level.

Most of these items that have been encased in plastic wrapping are what I would class as treats which I wouldn’t have very often and it’s a shame that they now come with a side helping of plastic induced guilt for me.

Weetabix used to wrap their product in paper, but it now comes with an internal layer of plastic laminated to the inside of it this making it non-recyclable.

On packagingnews.co.uk the spokesperson explains their reasons for this decision:

“Weetabix takes its responsibilities to the environment very seriously and develops its packaging primarily to protect the quality, safety and shelf-life of its products – wasted food is far more damaging to the environment than packaging.
We are signatories to the Wrap Courtauld Commitment and as such have demonstrated our commitment to using the most environmentally conscious materials which meet the needs stated earlier.
This new wrap contains a plastic layer to provide the necessary product protection, which means that it is not compostable. The paper used in this new packaging is from a sustainable source.”

So yeah, I do get it, wrapping stuff in plastic makes it last longer but how long do we really need it to last? I have never had Weetabix long enough for it to go off or not taste fresh. This is really frustrating as it’s something I have daily and get through a lot of. I haven’t found an alternative brand that doesn’t use plastic- if you find one that still uses plain old paper please let me know!

So, what am I going to do differently from now…

The first step for me is awareness, I do a lot of my shopping online, especially now that we have a baby, but the problem with that is you don’t get to see the packaging before buying the products. So I’ll be heading into Morrison’s where we usually do our online shop and checking out the packaging and making notes of anything that can be swapped out for a plastic free option.

The main thing I’m going to change is not buying multipacks of things. I bought a multipack of four cans of tomatoes and four cans of baked beans, both came coupled together with a layer of plastic which is completely unnecessary and I removed straightaway before putting them away in the cupboard, so it was complete and total waste.

This also applies with vegetables- buying a 3 pack of pre-packed peppers for instance.

Annoyingly buying these separately costs more but it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

I’d love to know what simple changes you’re making to reduce your plastic consumption.

Reusable nappies…

Simple and mess free right…? Hahaaaaaaaaaaaa 🤣

Our experience so far has not been the best. We’ve had urine leakage on several occasions, mainly in my jeans out of the side leg when I feed, and one pretty horrendous poonami when out- fortunately near to mothercare with their excellent baby change facilities!

We’ve resorted to mainly using the nappies in the house for these reasons.

We do have lots of different brands so I’m going to pay more attention to which ones leak then maybe not use those so much.

So far the Bambino Mio ones seem to be pretty good. I like that they are all in one with an attached but pull-out-able soaker core for washing. They are easy to use and, so far, leak-free!

Reusable nappies- the journey begins!

Now that we’ve had a couple of months for Edith to settled into our lives, we’re going to start trying out using reusable nappies.

In Edith’s first few months, she was getting through about 8-10 nappies a day however, now she’s sleeping for longer stretches a night and we are more savvy about when to change her we’re down to around 6 per day. Hence our decision to wait to start using reusables rather than using them from birth. Even so reducing this waste will make huge difference.

We are really lucky that we can try with little commitment as we’ve been given a huge stash of reusable nappies including liners, covers and a full briefing by a lovely generous Crafty Sew&So customer who saw some of my previous plastic-free living blog posts and wanted to support my explorations. She used them with both her 2 girls.

So instead of doling out £15+ per nappy we got the whole lot free! So we have to at least give them a try!

The “kit” consists of multi size outers which are made from PU laminated to polyester padding. They include lots of poppers to resize the nappy as she grows and a pocket to insert separate washable liner core.

This is called an all-in-one reusable nappy system – which i have been assured is as easy to use as a disposable! The onesize nappies should last from birth to potty training. The size of the nappy can be changed using the adjustable poppers and hook and loop fastenings.

The water resistant outer fabric shell is stretchy to cater for even the most active babies.

Most of the nappies we have been given are plain but there are some with really cute designs on.

The Bambino Mio range includes some lovely prints

Like disposables, a concealed absorbent core and stay-dry inner layer keep moisture away from baby’s delicate skin, leaving it cool and dry.

We were recommended to add an extra thin bamboo liner which holds solids and can be flushed down the loo.

The used nappies can then be stored in a specially designed bin with a mesh bag liner. When full, the bag can be removed and the whole thing can be put into the washing machine.

Sounds simple and mess free right?

We’ll see…!

Plastic free July – with a baby!

So as Plastic free July rolls around again, we’re welcoming a new addition to our family! Meet Edith, our 3 week old daughter!

She is adorable but also very loud and quite messy too!

A lot of her mess is cleared up with the genius that is baby wipes!

Did you know the majority of baby wipes contain or are predominantly made from plastics?

I HAD to find an alternative as we’d be using so many. So I did my research and bulk bought biodegradable wipes from Mum & You

Their wipes are biodegradable in normal landfill in 15 days!

Another alternative would be to make some reusable wipes from bamboo terry towelling cloth.

Bamboo has natural antibacterial properties so is ideal for this. It also dries quickly.

However, she is currently sleeping in our room so night-time nappies are changed up here and disposable wipes are making this process a whole lot more palatable at 3am at the mo!

However, when she’s being changed more downstairs in the nursery, next to the bathroom, we might switch to reusables.

We are also using Mum & You disposable biodegradable nappies at the mo. We will switch to reusables in a few months when we’re more settled into the changing routine!

As always, it’s one step at a time.

So that’s been our plastic free journey with our little lady so far. We really want her to have as low a carbon and plastic footprint as possible, and her main waste product is nappies and wipes so I’m glad we’ve nailed that one early!

Why reusable sanitary towels are actually much less gross than disposables…

So when I first started thinking about reusable sanitary towels I have to admit my reaction was urgh, gross! Childish and silly I know but that’s how I felt. Even at 35 I’m still a little squeamish about periods and I’m fortunate enough that I’ve always had a pretty easy ride when it comes to my “time of the month” so it’s never really been an open topic of discussion or concern.

I first started being aware that maybe there were better alternatives to disposables when I did plastic-free July and started to explore plastic swaps I could make for products I used regularly. Around this time Nada, the zero waste shop, opened in the square around the corner from Crafty Sew&So. They sold cloth pads, moon cups and other reusable sanitary products. I was intrigued.

However I found out soon after I was pregnant, so no need for sanitary products for a while!

The topic was raised again when a group of ladies asked to book a reusable towel making session at Crafty.

For the workshop, we used a pattern by Luna Wolf which you can download for free here. It’s a fab pattern with variations for everyone!

We all made pads and I have received great feedback about how effective they are 😊

After this session I really looked more deeply into the whole reusable sanitary products market. My main conclusion was that although using- mainly changing, carrying and washing – reusable pads might be a bit cumbersome, there are definitely ways to make it less so. Like making little waterproof pouches to carry used towels and using a net bag to wash them in.

I also realised that every sanitary product I’ve ever used is probably still in existence in landfill somewhere- or worse- in the ocean!

That’s the mind blowing revelation! And that is really gross!

So when it is time to go back to sanitary products I’m going to try the moon cup- or a variation of- and I’ve also made myself a batch of cloth pads too.

I’ve actually found them useful already as a precaution in case my waters break when I’ve been out this week. Just a little confidence boost which has helped me get out and about!

I feel that as I am having a daughter, it is doubly important to educate myself so I can educate and encourage her to be open minded about periods in general – by that time things will have changed but adopting an open attitude now is important.

Periods have never been a big issue in our family, with not much discussion. We were all very lucky was there was no need, we just got on with it. My mum even sent me swimming on the day I first got my period!

Pregnancy encouraged me to be more open about bodily issues with others especially my husband- whether he likes it or not! I want there to be an openness about everything as she grows up and he needs to know the facts as he is raising a girl!

NCT classes with open discussions about various less desirable effects of childbirth have helped us open up and talk about body stuff a bit more too.

I also want to raise our daughter to be very aware of small things she and we can do to reduce our impact on the world. I expect she’ll teach us much more than we know!

So in conclusion, I am now over my squeamishness and firmly committed to changing to reusable sanitary products. I’m also looking forward to using cloth nappies too- more about that adventure in another post!

Plastic Swap- Deodorant 2

Continuing my plastic swap series, I’m trying and reviewing non plastic alternatives for everyday items. I’ll pledge to try out the swap for a month and let you know how I get on and if I plan to keep the swap or drop the swap.

following on from my first Deodorant Swap I thought I’d try a few other alternatives

The first one I tried was a deodorant stick in a push up cardboard tube by Ben and Anna from Just Fair Trade. It was £10.

I like the packaging, the pushup tube is easy to use and not messy but I do have to press it down over the end of another narrower object to get it to push up towards the end as my fingers aren’t long enough!

It’s neat and portable so great for nights away, sports bag and holidays.

The main active ingredient is baking soda.

It also contains arrowroot powder which absorbs excess moisture and keeps the armpit dry.

It’s all bound together with coconut and sunflower oil and cornstarch.

This creates a solid stick which is a little tough to use when it’s cold. I tried wetting it with some warm water which helps it glide but makes it more messy.

I found it hard to put a thin layer on as suggested and as a result it did leave slightly crusty marks on my clothes.

Unlike Nudd, it is perfumed. I chose the Persian line and it’s lovely and fresh.

Swap or drop?

Swap – for travel – the packaging is very convenient- and on warm days! I like that it’s not messy and goes on fairly well when it’s warm. It’s pricey but smells move and has lasted fairly well- although I’m not using it regularly. I think if I used it everyday I’d get through it a bit too quickly for the price.

So the reason I’m not using it exclusively is I found another option… which I love!

Swap 3 is Aromaco solid deodorant from Lush at £5.50 for 100g.

I bought a long thin 120g piece. 2 months in and I’ve only used about half! It’s such good value and really works! It is a bit messy as there is no proper packaging but I tied some fabric around it to help me hold it and I keep it in a tin for storage.

It is brilliant, leaves no marks and glides on. And it works!

Swap or drop?

Definitely swap. It’s great value and works well. It’s fragrance free so I use it with my perfume.

Plastic Swaps- Toothbrush

So this is the first in my plastic swap series looking at things that I’ve swapped out for non-plastic alternatives. I’ll pledge to try out the swap for a month and let you know how I get on and if I plan to keep the swap or drop the swap.

Swap – Toothbrush

Why swap?
over 3.5 billion toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year, this amounts to over 1000 tones of polypropylene plastic and nylon going into landfill!

In New Zealand they’ve even got a Toothbrush wall – it’s not just a joke on Flight of the Concords! It was started as a bit of fun, but it does highlight the huge number of plastic toothbrushes that are thrown away.

Swap options:

Bamboo toothbrush

Bamboo is a natural cellulose fibre which is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. The fast growing plant is easily renewable so helps avoid further deforestation. Most bamboo toothbrush brands are packages in card so this is bio-degradable too, they retail at around £3 in the UK. The bamboo handle is compostable and the nylon bristles are apparently recyclable although I’m not sure how you’d remove them to put them in the recycling with getting them everywhere!

Another option is the bio-brush. German based Life without Plastic ( @LifeWoutPlastic ) designed a brush with bristles made from pig hair with a handle sculpted from sustainably harvested beech wood. It is the only plastic free toothbrush on the market. Sounds ok but I’m not keen on putting pigs hair in my mouth!

So Bamboo it is…

My swap:

Bamboo from the Just Shop in St.Martins Square, Leicester, because it’s convenient.

Getting used to the feel of a bamboo toothbrush is the major hurdle. After a few days I was fine with it although it does make my tongue tingle a bit! My husband Matt, on the other hand, was not keen. It was a bit like nails on a chalk board to him.

The bristles feel like a plastic toothbrush’s. One thing to note is that you don’t get the springiness I the handle like you do on some plastic brushes so you have to be careful not to brush too hard- as you can see I am a hard brusher!

The other thing to watch out for is mildew and mould. I find this can happen with plastic but comes off more easily. With bamboo, once the mould is set in it’s going nowhere.

The brush is also now showing signs of degrading – which, in a way, is reassuring as it shows it will break down after use!

Swap or drop?

Think I’ll stick with this one, it’s an easy swap. Once you get used the wood-in-mouth thing!

Plastic packaging pitfalls already!

Plastic packaging is everywhere! Even when the company is going to an effort in so many other ways!

Take this for example – biodegradable paper straws in biodegradable cardboard box printed with food safe ink (it says so on the side!) – with a non-recyclable plastic window! Gahhh!

It is impossible to buy meat without it being encased in a layer of shrink-wrapped plastic. And you cannot buy a lettuce, even from our local greengrocers, which isn’t encased in plastic film.

I think it comes down to this, we’ve got to get used to seeing less of our food before we buy it!

That’s no mean feet, with food scandals and the like there is definitely a level of distrust when I comes to food buying.

We need to trust that the images on the outside of the box are representative of what’s inside. And companies need to create that trust by using great photography and illustration and not relying on a plastic window.

This is one thing that drives me mad too – plastic sealant on glass jars. I specifically didn’t buy the brand of peanut butter that I usually buy because they’ve now put it in a plastic jar! But I still have to deal with “plastic-gate” no matter what!So much of this is about trust though. We need to be able to trust manufacturers are looking after our food before it gets to us and we need to be able to trust that other customers aren’t meddling either.

Iceland is the first UK supermarket to introduce a new plastic-free “trust mark”, allowing shoppers to see at a glance whether products use plastic in their packaging.

The label will be prominently displayed on food and drink products, making it easier for consumers to choose greener alternatives. Sounds good to me!

You can read more here

For today’s lunch I was super organised and made myself a delicious couscous salad. How long this level planning will continue I don’t know! Probably until about Thursday!

Sarah x