Plastic fantastic?

I now use a Pyrex roaster rather than a roasting tin and foil

I now use a Pyrex roaster rather than a roasting tin and foil

In my push towards a more sustainable life I’m always keen to avoid ‘single-use’ products where possible. As a result, every piece of aluminium foil in my kitchen is used multiple times, getting progressively smaller and more wrinkled until it finally enters the recycling bin. This makes good financial sense too, as I haven’t bought a new roll of the stuff for about five years. Where possible, however, I try to avoid using it at all – a Pyrex chicken roaster with a lid, for example, means that I never use a roasting tin and foil any more.

However, there are some occasions when it’s very difficult to avoid single-use items… plastic bottles of shampoo, for example. I’m happy that I only use the shampoo once (it’s a consumable after all), but what about the container? OK, I put it in the plastic recycling bin, but making a bottle for a single use seems really inefficient. The Body Shop used to refill bottles of shampoo, but they haven’t done so for many years now and I don’t know of anywhere else that does.

So, it is with interest that I have been reading Westywrites’ blog posts on just this subject ‘Plastic-free Me’. Westy is working up to taking part in ‘Plastic-free July 2014‘ which

aims to raise awareness of the massive consumption of single-use plastics throughout the world. The goal is to cut out completely (eek!) those plastics that we use for sometimes just a matter of minutes that potentially end up in landfill forever more
(Plastic-free Me: introduction)

Once you start thinking about all the single-use plastics that we encounter, certainly here in the UK, you begin to realise how much energy and how many resources we are being wasted. Even folks like me, who really do think about this sort of thing quite a lot, are still responsible for lots of plastic that’s only used once; for example, the bag my muesli comes in, the wrappers around magazines I subscribe to (although some of these now come in paper or cornstarch envelopes), my shampoo bottle, milk cartons, wrappers around plastic cd cases… I could go on.

We take our own containers when we buy coffee

We take our own containers when we buy coffee

Over the past few years we have reduced our use: we take a container to the coffee merchant and get that refilled rather than taking it away in a fancy plastic/foil/paper multi-layered bag; we buy unwrapped soap; we get bottles of various cleaning products refilled; we buy in bulk (this does not eliminate packaging, but does reduce it); we save small plastic bags, wash them out and reuse them; we never accept a plastic carrier bag and always have a cotton one or basket when out shopping; we reuse plastic bottles and containers when possible; we save bubble-wrap for re-use; and we try to buy food in paper rather than plastic packaging.

Buying in bulk and in paper packaging. We'll probably store potatoes in the bag once the oats are eaten.

Buying in bulk and in paper packaging. We’ll probably store potatoes in the bag once the oats are eaten.

However, without making my own shampoo, I’m at a loss to know how to avoid this single-use plastic. And there’s a limit to the number of small plastic bottles you can make use of round the house. So, I will be reading about Westy’s journey to a plastic-free July with interest and hopefully, I’ll get some new ideas along the way…. or perhaps you have some for me now?

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20 Comments

  1. Maya Panika

     /  November 6, 2013

    I love Lush’s solid shampoos, they come wrapped in paper and – if you keep them dry – they last for ages. I think Lush refill heir plastic bottles too – or at least re-sue them (? I think!)

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  2. Maya Panika

     /  November 6, 2013

    Sorry about the typos, I’m still trying to get to grips with a new laptop.

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  3. I also use Lush’s solid shampoos to avoid plastic! Specifically the Godiva shampoo and conditioner bar, which works well with a diluted white vinegar rinse. I tried hand made shampoo bars from stalls at green festivals but they never worked well enough.

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  4. Various companies do Shampoo in 5-litre containers (I use http://www.faithinnature.co.uk/, but there are others)- the containers are still single use but 5-litre containers seem much more useful around the house and garden!

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    • Thanks Charli… I could certainly use 5l containers around the house and garden and, in addition, I already use Faith in Nature shampoo. It’s great to have some choices.

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  5. I’m so glad to read this post 🙂 I feel exactly the same, isn’t it awful how they make it so hard to avoid buying plastic/foil/etc when shopping?
    It would be an interesting experiment a plastic-free month 🙂 I’d like to join
    I never tried FIN, is it good for dry hair? mine are terrible sensitive and so far I could only use some product I buy back home

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  6. Hi Jan, can you get local milk delivered in glass bottles? We get organic milk 3 times a week and no plastic bottles. My local herbalist makes her own shampoo and i take the bottle back to be refilled, but soild shampoo sounds good too, but i’m not to keen on Lush, the smells are too over powering for me. x

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    • Sadly, when our local dairy farmer retired (he used to deliver unpasturised milk in glass bottles) no one replaced him – it’s really sad.
      Oh, I wish there was someone local who made shampoo – that would be ideal, I agree about the very perfumed nature of Lush, but I’m prepared to give the shampoo a go next time I’m near a shop,

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  7. Good luck with that! I am interested to see what you use and if it works!

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  8. When I was still in Aus I was on a mission to reduce plastic and I found my local bulk whole-foods place had shampoo & conditioner in drums and let you re-fill your own bottles.

    Here in Peru the plastic use and waste is just astonishing. Polystyrene is everywhere, and as I’ve been stuck in hotels/hostels for 3 weeks with no ability to cook I’ve been adding to the problem. Thankfully I’m finally in a house with a kitchen as of tomorrow and I’ve brought my trusty shopping bags with me, so I can get my plastic use down, but there’s really no easy to avoid it here (especially as you can’t flush toilet paper, and I need a way to keep that waste clean and set it out for collection – no bins, just bags of rubbish by the curb *sigh*)

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    • Now, you really do have a challenge! I suppose that if corn starch bags are available they might help, but it sounds like the whole culture is going to to make it difficult. At least you are able to do some things now you are in a house! x

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  9. So happy to see someone working hard to break away from over-packaging and plastics. I am an environmental major- in one class I did an indepth study on plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable- at all. At some point in its recycling process it becomes unable to be recycled again, and is then nothing but trash that never biodegrades. (It breaks down into tiny particles that just end up in our soil, water, animals, etc but it never ever goes away.) As a result of that study, we are moving back to glass and paper products (because we can plant a tree.. and more and more paper-based industries ARE replanting to keep their industry sustainable.) Keep it up! 🙂

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    • Thanks for visiting… I wish that everyone would be a bit more thoughtful about the resources they use, but really, we need to pressure manufacturers and at least do away with all that superfluous packaging!

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