2 Years on

It’s been almost 2 years since we posted on here and what has changed?

The issue has certainly rocketed up the agenda with articles appearing in mainstream media on a regular basis.  Barely a week goes by without some mention of the plastic problem, particularly relating to oceans and so things must be getting better surely?

Well no, purchasing without plastic is harder than ever so while the media and, to an extent, the public begin the understand big business ignores the problem and refuses to move on the matter.  All this means that we continue to purchase plastic packaging as nothing else is available.  It seems amazing that by now one large company hasn’t looked to make a move in the direction of plastic free as to be ahead of the game would clearly have longer term benefits.  Sadly, short term it will cost money so no-one wants to take the first step and be financially disadvantaged.  As ever they will wait for governments to legislate then moan about the matter and global trade seems to make this legislation harder and harder.  The prognosis doesn’t seem to be very good – while we all dither the situation just gets worse and worse.

Trying to be plastic free (or to be honest in our case low plastic) is still seen as a bit weird and yet all the media reports are saying it’s a good thing.  Perhaps if it were easier then it would quickly become more mainstream but in the meantime it’s just too hard for most people to consider.

Plastic bag consumption does appear to have gone down in the last 2 years but if you check out the supermarket then more of the veg and fruit is now prewrapped in plastic.  So in an average shop it seems likely that the amount of plastic has actually gone up rather than down in the same period.  The addiction continues…


Another Product Lost

It appears that our solution to tooth cleaning – Toothy Tabs from Lush – now come in plastic bottles instead of little cardboard boxes.  We have been in touch with Lush who are sympathetic but, to paraphrase, came up with the rationale that we have heard all too often – that plastic provides a better storage life and unfortunately life isn’t perfect and they have got to use the ‘most effective’ packaging for the product.

RIP Toothy Tabs – the search is on for an alternative…

Meanwhile we do have some pasta in cardboard boxes which we imported in our luggage after a short break in Corfu!  It won’t last long but all helps…

Pasta in a Greek supermarket
Pasta in a Greek supermarket

Plastic Free Shopping Spree in Hexham

Wood basket from Moles Country Store
Wood basket from Moles Country Store

On Saturday I decided it was time for a shopping spree in Hexham – a mecca for plastic free shoppers.  I had books to find so started in the Tynedale Hospice at Home’s charity book shop but didn’t find what I wanted so headed for Cogito Books which stocks a great selection of local and unusual publications.  I now have four Christmas presents sorted all without any plastic.

I moved on to get some every day essentials and treats:

  1. Listers Biscuit Box – for sweets and biscuits in paper bags.  I also bought a jar of Mrs Darlington’s Orange Curd there.
  2. Deli at Number 4 – the only place we have managed to source Mozarella cheese which the helpful staff weigh and put in one of our tubs.  They sell lots of other delicious cheeses, cakes, flours and jars.  A word of warning: the Ringtons’ Instant Hot Chocolate comes in individual plastic sachets not foil as the staff thought.

    Products from 21st Century Herbs
  3. Twenty First Century Herbs – for herbs in paper bags or take your own jars to fill, lemon myrtle soap (great for warding off insects), a solid block of hot chocolate wrapped in paper, local porridge oats, skin balm (great lavender smell and again good at warding of pesky beasties like ticks and midges) and organic cotton sanitary products.
  4. T E Liddell – for loose fruit and vegetables in paper bags.
  5. Moles Country Store – for a wood basket made out of entirely natural products and a cotton shirt with no plastic tags on the labels.  Unfortunately the wood basket label was attached with a tiny plastic tag.  Disappointingly the ‘Hug Rug‘ that markets itself as recycled, recyclable and environmentally friendly (and British made) comes with a large card label which turned our to be plastic coated – a simple packaging change would make a big difference.
  6. Gaia for some plastic free, fairtrade, natural clothes.
Hemp shirt from Gaia

There is also a great bakers next to Liddle (No.13 Artisan Bakery And Cafe) but I had done my bread shopping the day before in the Bellingham Bakery which is also a source of loose sweets in paper bags.  Sally

Please, only the start…

Great news that, at long last, England is making you pay to kill wildlife and pollute both land and sea.  The rest of the UK got there before us and with considerably less bother and confusion over the rules.  So one item of plastic, the carrier bag, has finally become a cost rather than free – 5p to kill a turtle anyone?  In the overall scheme of things this is a tiny step, far too late but I suppose we should try to be positive about tiny steps; you have to start somewhere.  But while we are on plastic bags why, at the same time that carrier bags get a charge on them, have most supermarkets almost abandoned loose apples in exchange for plastic bags of 6 at a time.  When we started plastic free back in January it was surprisingly easy to get plastic free fruit and vegetables in a supermarket now it’s almost impossible.  And, when’s a carrier bag not a carrier bag – the little bags for you to pointlessly put your loose bananas in is presumably still free and available to escape into the environment unchecked.  Nine months of plastic free and things seem to be worse rather than better and yet the media contains more and more on the problems of plastics in our oceans and rivers (for example the plastics in the Thames article in Saturday’s Independent) though are more concerned that we should dispose of our plastic waste better rather than consider reducing it in the first place.

But beyond the plastic bag, perhaps the next step should be to ban polystyrene (styrofoam) with its lack of recyclability, its wonderful ability to disintegrate into tiny but indestructible fragments and its amazing cocktail of toxins for the consumer and the environment.

Eating Out

Sigg metal container in the cardboard box (but missing the plastic wrap)
Sigg metal container in the cardboard box (but missing the plastic wrap)

It is now pretty inevitable that boxes for packed lunches will be plastic, a simple clip lid box or a more fancy novelty plastic case. All these tend to have clip mechanisms with a relatively short lifespan rendering the tub useless.  Of course it’s possible to buy metal tins but these tend to get bashed and distort easily.  However it is possible (if a little tricky) to find robust metal lunch boxes.  We recently bought a couple from Sigg – these aluminium boxes have been manufactured for years but are much harder to come by than the drinking bottles.

Sigg metal box
Sigg metal box

The current design has plastic clips (we’ll see how robust) and while the box does get bashed and dented it is still functional.  The box comes in a cardboard box but disappointingly the large viewing ‘window’ on the front means that the box is covered in a plastic wrap.  Hopefully the longevity of the box will outweigh this unfortunate packaging.  Looking at a history of these boxes (from colleagues at work who have them) the current Chinese made ones do seem a little less robust than older versions – presumably originally made in Switzerland.

Better late than never

OK so it’s been a while since we started and we’ve just tackled the problem of toothbrushes (using up stocks already bought up to now).  It seemed that while bamboo toothbrushes were available we had to settle for Nylon bristles – or go for pig bristles which certainly wasn’t an option for the vegetarians amongst us.  However on closer investigation bamboo toothbrushes with bamboo bristles were available from SaveSomeGreen (in packs of 1,3,6 or 12).  With 5 of us to supply the pack of 6 was duly bought only for the 6th to be snapped up by a colleague.  Oh, and the packaging used to send them out was plastic free too.

Bamboo toothbrush
Bamboo toothbrush

A week or two later and the verdict seems to be that while the wooden feeling takes a bit of getting used to the brush seems to be as effective as any other although a lack of ‘springiness’ was noted by one tester!  Whether they last for the expected length of time will only become apparent in due course.

So with bamboo toothbrushes and toothytabs from Lush we have turned tooth cleaning into a virtually plastic free zone (albeit the toothytabs have two small bits of plastic tape to seal the box closed!).

Not exactly a quick meal

Pasta has proved to be a major stumbling block in a plastic free life.  Gone are the days of a quick meal after a long day at work throwing some pasta together with a sauce of some kind.  Now the only pasta readily available from local shops is lasagna sheets.  So yesterday it was made from the raw ingredients, which in itself isn’t complicated; the hard bit is drying ready-made pasta for storing for a quick meal in the future.  We’re all for making from scratch but pasta is one of those things that is probably so much easier made in bulk, not laid out to dry around a small kitchen. If only we could find plastic free packaged pasta!

Making pasta
Making pasta