It’s still there even if you can’t see it

Well, Plastic Free July has come round again and so I’m encouraged to think about single-use plastics and what more I can do to cut them out of my life. The actual challenge for the month, if you take a look at the website, is:

Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July. “Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then discarded. If refusing ALL single-use plastic sounds too daunting this time, try the TOP 4 challenge (plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups & straws).

I don’t exactly participate in the challenge, but every year I try to think about at what progress I might be able to make to reduce single use plastic consumption.

IMGP5103

Plastic-free-ish

By this time last year I had already ditched teabags (almost all of which contain plastic in the bags themselves, not just their packaging). Sadly, over the past year I have discovered that whatever containers we take to the shop to transport our loose tea home in, the tea actually arrives at the point of sale in packaging that does include plastic… despite my romantic notion that it might arrive in wooden tea chests! Yes, I know it means it’s fresh and there’s less wasted tea, but it appears that unless we grow our own, we cannot exclude plastic entirely from our tea-chain (like a food-chain, but more beverage-y).

And this sort of highlights the problem. It’s possible to think about solutions when you know that something is there, but when it’s hidden you may not even know you’ve got a problem at all. Perhaps I’m cynical, but when I read those stories on social media about the person who only generates a jam jar of waste in a gazillion years, I just think PAH! Unless you are self-sufficient, there is going to be some plastic waste in your life. Go to a restaurant? I bet some of their ingredients come wrapped in plastic – just because you don’t see it and don’t have to dispose of it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Grow your own food? I bet there was some plastic in the seed packet or enclosing the compost you bought.

And so, I’m not beating myself up about plastic… yes there’s some plastic packaging in my life, yes I wish there wasn’t, but hey, I’m trying little by little to reduce and otherwise either to reuse it or recycle it…

…instead I’m being concerned about all those hidden plastic fibres being shed from the fleece I bought because it was made from recycled plastic and which are now accumulating in our seas… sigh

Leave a comment

25 Comments

  1. Ann

     /  July 20, 2016

    I share your frustration Jan. We did plastic free November last year, and discovered our biggest use of plastic (of any sort) to be milk bottles. We now have it delivered in glass bottles. Turns out Tetra are pretty good, and they recycle their own. We rarely have other plastic bottles – the cleaning products are refilled (though we have to recycle the 5l ones that can’t be refilled – can’t think of a use yet) and the only other bottles are the occasional coke ones for toilet cleaning. Bags get re-used for the bin – not that we get many as we usually take cloth bags. Cups are a rarity and straws never. Our killers are the packets pasta comes in, and the cellophane packaging from our dry foods. Keep up the good work. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  2. Victoria

     /  July 20, 2016

    Don’t get me started on plastic packaging!! I struggle with this – running a business makes it exceptionally difficult to avoid plastic. I basically avoid non-recyclable plastic for a start, and then if I can also avoid recyclable plastic then I do. Neither of us has used plastic bags for years.
    I only really wear and wash natural fibres but was horrified to find out about the amount of nylon and acrylic fibre getting into water from ‘fleece’ products.
    One thing that really bugs me – the plastic bottles that washing liquid comes in are not recyclable, and I had problems with powders staining OH’s clothes. 😦 I’d buy everything in reusable glass bottles if I could.

    Like

    Reply
    • Sometimes it feels like the world is conspiring against us. We can refill bottles of washing liquid, washing up liquid and even toilet cleaner locally – that pleases me!

      Like

      Reply
  3. Jane Miller

     /  July 20, 2016

    Every time I go to one particular fast food place I get upset because they serve lots of their items in plastic containers with lids. The containers are really sturdy and nice, however, most get chucked in the trash bin as people are leaving. They used to have a recycling bin for their styrafoam cups, but that has dissapeared over the last few months. I have never seen them make an attempt to recycle the plastic containers. I try to take mine home with me and either recycle them or use them in some way..but sometimes I get busy and forget to not toss them out at the restaruant. Also, over time one can only store so many plastic containers! I guess I need to go to their website and ask some questions. Unfortunately, not going there to eat would be hard on us as we have appointments in that area and this eatery has the best assortment of fresher food choices. I know we could do better, as I’m sure most of us could and should.

    Like

    Reply
    • We try to avoid those sorts of disposable containers, but as you say it’s not always possible. Our favourite little local take-away is happy to put the food in containers we take with us – now that’s good service.

      Like

      Reply
  4. So hard, but you try so hard.. You are an inspiration.

    Like

    Reply
  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re doing exceedingly well. Don’t stop looking for ways to improve, but don’t beat yourself up for things beyond your control. The plastic that the bulk tea comes in is quite minor compared to all those tea bags. Plastic really is the best way to protect and ship a bulk product. For now. Science is working on that part of it. You really and truly are an inspiration!

    Like

    Reply
    • You are quite right about the tea… and the same is true for other things I buy… I’m think that in many cases, though, buying in bulk would reduce the packaging proportionally.

      Like

      Reply
  6. I have to admit that, even though I have a ‘no plastic bags’ deal with my shopping delivery, I could cry at the totally unneeded plastic that wraps, and even double-wraps, the food delivered – even salad stuff all seems to come wrapped in plastic nowadays!
    I fear we were spoilt when we spent so many years growing our own – buying from shops now has really opened our eyes to the utter waste of plastics we have to throw out, as there is nothing we can use them for, and which don’t even attempt at being recyclable 😦

    Like

    Reply
    • It genuinely is a joy to go into the garden and come in with food in my hand rather than any sort of packaging. It particularly annoys me that supermarkets insist on plastic wrapping organic fruit and veg. I guess it’s to make sure it doesn’t get muddled up with the other (cheaper) stuff.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Perhaps we should come at this a different way. Does anyone know if there is research being carried out on ways to retrieve/recover/digest or otherwise dispose of environmental plastic waste? Some superbug that will happily gobble up plastic but is not interested in living creatures? It seems to me that supporting that sort of initiative is also an excellent way of addressing a global problem.

    Like

    Reply
  8. We also try to lead a plastic-light lifestyle and at times fight feeling utterly defeated by the stuff we have no control over…in the end I guess it all comes down to mindfulness and managing your own backyard

    Like

    Reply
  9. This blog does a pretty good job of covering some of the ideas for replacing plastics. https://whatisnewinecomaterials.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/better-plastics-other-options/

    Like

    Reply
  10. Hi Mrs Snail. I’m traveling in Himachal Pradesh, a Northern state in the Himalayas of India. India has no proper way of dealing with plastics. There are a lot of people & they create a lot of rubbish! Cows eat most vegetable scraps (I love to walk out of my guesthouse with food & find a greatful cow), but plastics usually get burned, along with other rubbish that is collected into small bonfires on the street early in the mornings. To see this rubbish daily, and know at what I was contributing to it has made me rethink my habits to reduce the rubbish I create. In the UK a lot of my rubbish could be recycled so I could be more relaxed when buying stuff. Now I see what a problem it causes. If I don’t want to breath in toxic rubbish in the morning I have to do my best to reduce the rubbish I create today. This sentiment will also be true for me when I return home. I won’t buy anything in plastic unless I really need it. Which has meant I avoid a lot of processed junk food in favour of fruit & homemade treats, and in turn support local people rather than companies. Clean water is obviously a priority for me, I’m seeng that the situation with water is always changing from place to place or with the seasons and temperatures. Currently it’s monsoon and water from the usually good community taps is not suitable to drink. in some places you can find places with good water filters that will refill your bottle for about 12p. I’m sad to see the use of reusable glass soft drinks bottles as declined in favour of plastic bottles & aluminium cans (which don’t get recycled & don’t burn). Companies like Coca-Cola can surely afford to be more responsible! As in many countries plastic bags are a problem. Himachal Pradesh is one of the most environmentally aware states and have banned the use of plastic bags. Shop bags are now made with old news papers or biodegradable material. This is especially good news for all the street cows who usually eat the plastic bags.

    I did your permaculture introduction course at Karuna a few years ago. I have found your blog inspirational and it has helps me to keep trying to learn and improve my ethical living habits. I also feel a kind of emotional support to know there are other people making efforts to live more sustainably. You are doing a great thing by writing this blog. Thank you & Namaste

    Like

    Reply
    • How lovely to hear from you. It’s so interesting to discover how the situation in different countries differs. I have a friend who spent a year in Peru and her descriptions of the vast amounts of waste there made me feel so depressed. I guess that the best we can do is cut back on our own waste and spread the word as far and wide as possible. I totally agree about big companies, but they only seem to see the short term profit. A good reason to buy from small businesses, who we have a chance of influencing.
      I hope that you are enjoying your trip, rubbish aside.

      Like

      Reply
  11. Jan, I think that if everyone were as conscientious as you are, the world would be a better place. I know I could to far better, but I find that being aware of it helps when making choices. My soil amendments do come in plastic bags, and in winter our newspaper is delivered in a plastic wrapper as well. It’s taken hold and the industry that benefits from it is not easily letting go. I’ve been shopping with my own canvas bags for 35 years, but only recently were plastic bags banned in our area. Stores can no longer provided a plastic bag, and must charge 10 cents for a paper one. People are getting the message and the lakes and streams are better for it. Nearby San Francisco recently banned ALL polystyrene, so again, steps forward. I applaud your efforts and at the same time urge you not to be so hard on yourself. You’re setting a wonderful example for all of us.

    Like

    Reply
    • Thank you for your words of encouragement. Here in Wales shops were banned from giving out free plastic bags a few years ago but unfortunately they can still sell them – it seems like a much better idea to ban them entirely and charge for the paper ones.

      Like

      Reply
      • I agree! Most plastic bags are single use, not to mention flimsy. I’ve had some canvas bags in service for twenty plus years. They launder well, too.

        Like

        Reply

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: