My other ramblings

Turning Back The Tide Of Single Use Plastics

Until a couple of months ago, I’d not really heard the term ‘single use plastics’, but recently it’s been a topic of much discussion and awareness has been raised. This site explains more about what they are, and why they are such a huge environmental issue. I’ve always been fairly environmentally conscious, and so I’ve really been thinking hard about my own plastic usage and how to reduce it.

Lots of items that we buy come in plastic packaging that isn’t always reusable, such as fruit and vegetables in plastic bags. It makes it convenient, being able to just pick up a bag of apples and know it is a week’s worth, but how hard would it be to count out 5 loose ones and put them in the basket or a paper bag? Although the major supermarkets are very cheap for fruit and vegetables, I am considering buying more from our (slightly more expensive) local greengrocers as they don’t prepackage many items. They do provide a biodegradable plastic bag to carry home all of your purchases, which reduces the plastic usage considerably (if you buy 6 types of fruit/vegetables all in their own bags and just have one bag, that’s a big difference over aย  year), and taking my own (reusable) bag would reduce it further.

Milk is another frequent purchase that comes in plastic packaging (let’s face it, it wouldn’t fare particularly well in paper bags!), and I do wonder if perhaps people in the ‘old days’ had the right idea with glass bottles. The milk man has seen a huge rise in popularity around here, and we are considering jumping on the bandwagon. Even if we didn’t get all of our weekly milk delivered in traditional bottles, we could reduce our plastic usage considerably. (I calculated that it is around 4 times more expensive to do this, so I’ve yet to take the leap as the children do get through a lot of milk!)

The allotment is also an area where plastic is too common for my liking. I try to reuse and recycle where possible, for example the plastic trays that mushrooms come in make handy trays to contain pots with seedlings in on the conservatory windowsill. Although not technically single use, it would be nice if our efforts to grow our own produce were also environmentally kind. Last year we grew many seeds in peat pots. but I didn’t manage to get any more in the sales at the end of summer. However, I have read that the cardboard toilet roll inners can be cut in half and used to sow single seeds-especially squash and beans, which need to be kept in the greenhouse until late May. I’m planning on trying this, as the cardboard will break down nicely in the soil once they are planted out. If they do go too soggy before planting out time, I’ll repot into saved plastic pots with the cardboard.

I’m also looking at changing the brand of tea bags I use to one that doesn’t use plastic in the bag construction. I’d been composting them, not knowing that they contained tiny fragments of plastic, which then go into the soil. I’m hoping to find one that I like that I can also compost afterwards, wish me luck! I’d never even considered that they had plastic in, why is it even necessary?

As well as my own use of plastic, I’m trying to pass on the message to my children, for example encouraging them not to have a plastic straw at parties, and getting them to reuse their cups. (Parties are a real eye opener when it comes to single use plastics-forks, spoons, straws, cups, the list goes on!)

I have decided that we will continue to use up the things in our house that are on the single use list, but once they are gone I will be looking at more environmentally friendly alternatives (such as a set of reusable plastic cups and plates). It’s frightening just how much we throw away without a thought to the consequences. The only thing I will not use up is any product which contains plastic microbeads, as the damage they do to wildlife once they are in the water system is shocking. I looked at all of my beauty products and binned any with microbeads in straight away. I will also be considering purchases of plastic based items more carefully e.g. how long will it last? Is there a more environmentally friendly alternative?

Sometimes, when I am making one of these small changes, I think to myself ‘will it really make a difference?’ Then I think again, and realise that if we all thought like that, we wouldn’t make a change. However, if we all did something small, we could be really powerful. Some of the changes are also more costly financially, but I am trying to balance that with considering that the costs to our earth are far greater than a pound or two a week. After all, if people don’t start changing, we may find ourselves being taxed for our plastic use (think of the 5p carrier bag charge).

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, I’m thinking it will be more like the process of a ship’s engine being put into reverse. The use of plastics like this will continue forwards for a while as people use up what they have, and awareness and action spreads. Then hopefully, sales of them will drop offย  as the demand for these single use plastics will reduce, leading to production being massively cut down. Of course, there is the issue of all of the mess we have collectively created, and how that can be dealt with, but it isn’t too late, even if we can’t completely go back on what we have done. (Whilst writing this, I though of the scene in Titanic where they tried to avoid hitting the iceberg, I hope we manage to avoid a metaphorical scenario like that by changing in the nick of time.)

What changes could you make today? Tomorrow? Next week? Click on the link in the introduction to sign up to the single use plastics challenge if you want some ideas.

 

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41 thoughts on “Turning Back The Tide Of Single Use Plastics

  1. I had no idea there was plastic in tea bags! I use tea bags for work but at home I try to use loose tea. I might have to take my loose tea to work from now on.
    In Victoria where I live we are in the process of stopping the use of single use plastic shopping bags altogether. I don’t have an issue with taking my own bags to the shops. I do try to reuse any bags we get for pet pick ups, bin liners etc. The only issue we have is we have birds and they have a lot of mess and need to find an alternative for hubby as their waste is no good in the composite bin – too many seeds to sprout! We also have a number of shops where you can take your own glass jar/container and just pay for the contents by weight. In theory this is fabulous but for a family of 6 it is very expensive so I buy what I can afford this way. Purchasing this way also minimises waste but we generally have zero food waste (kids + dog + composite = nothing left!). I wish milk came in glass – it doesn’t here not even the people who deliver directly use glass. At one point not so long ago we were using 14 litres a week!
    We have a small veggie patch but are by no means self sufficient but it has to help and tastes way better than store bought. I really dislike how alot of our food comes prepacked – not just for the plastic I also like to select my own. Local farmers markets are great for this and I try to buy what I need there. Do you have those?
    My extended family is amazed at our stock of crockery and cutlery. I purchased a number of pieces (we have enough for about 50 people) a few years ago when we were hosting Christmas. I figured we have loads of occassions in the future to use them v’s plastic cutlery/paper plates plus it is nicer to eat of real plates.
    As for cosmetics/personal products it is hard. My girls and I have been purchasing products from an olive oil grove and other locally produced items. We stopped using microbead products once I found out about the damage they do. If we all try to reduce our use it has to make a difference.

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    1. I’m not sure if all tea bags have plastic in, I think it’s part of the sealing process. It sounds like you do loads already. There is a farmer’s market but not very often, I’ll keep an eye out for the next one. Thanks for leaving such a detailed comment, I’m sure it’ll inspire someone to make a change. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  2. Oh yes…this is a big problem but some of it will take a long time to change. Over here there is an online sale company called MightyNest. They sell a lot of non through away things. Surely there is one similar other places. And now.. the latest threat is …like in glass and pottery We seem to be on the losing end of creation .

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  3. The plastic in the teabags is a worry isn’t it? I didn’t know about it before. My mum always used a metal tea infuser gadget when I was growing up if she was just making one cup as opposed to a whole pot when dad was home or we had visitors. And I have at least one of these gadgets and never use them ๐Ÿ˜•. ( here, loose tea is heaps cheaper than tea bags too) Mid year here, the supermarkets will stop using plastic shopping bags…there are a number of community groups whose volunteers are making cloth bags and handing some out, selling others; they’re called Boomerang bags. Like the UK morsbags I saw years ago in a UK sewing mag I bought while I was hokidaying there? Lots of people like me are able to donate fabrics from our cupboards clearing up a lot of space! Lol

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    1. The cloth bags sound like a super idea. We invested in sturdy shopping bags at Aldi and keep a supply in both of our cars so it doesn’t matter who is shopping. I hope they will ban the single use bags here. I’m looking into loose tea, I will see what I can find in health shops. The more people boycott plastic containing brands the more pressure companies will be under to change.

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  4. I’m changing my shampoo (when I run out) apparantly lush and other brands do bars of shampoo, it’s got to be worth a try. Also gonna go back to a good old bar of soap in the shower once we’ve cleared our stash of shower gel. I hope this is a good start in my bathroom, I already use a bar of face was hand an ecoegg for my laundry. I’m also thinking of the storage space I’ll create with fewer bottles in the bathroom, a family of 4, we all currently have separate shampoo /conditioner, 3 types of body wash and a 9 year old that often creates a mess /bubble creation with a whole bottle of one thing or another ๐Ÿ˜ฑ we only use 3-4 pints of milk a week so I’m also considering a milkman, and will continue with 2 litres a week of dairy free milk alternatives in tetrapak cartons.

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    1. I’m considering solid shampoo too, and the kids love bath bombs so a trip to lush may be in order. I think we will probably get half of our milk from the milkman for a start, both of my 2 have milk to drink at bedtime and breakfast, as well as on cereal so going completely onto bottles would be a bit too expensive!

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  5. I have always been very passionate on that topic. Already in high school, I stood up for it although others tried to pull me down with the same arguments that I alone cannot do or change anything etc. It really is a huge problem.

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  6. A fabulous post Mrs.C.
    Like you, I didn’t know about the plastic used in sealing T.Bags – I saw details about this on a TV programme this week, and felt sick about being duped in this way. Why hadn’t this been made public before now? It had obviously been whispered in some places because some people knew about it, but it should have been shouted from the roof tops! We are currently searching for T.bags that don’t use plastic. It’s that or loose tea and using it in one of those individual metal tea ball strainer things.
    Cosmetics – yes known about those for a time… and the affects of those little plastic balls contained in cosmetics and cleansers are just awful for our animals and sea life.
    I’ve also grown so tired and bally cross about coffee and tea cups from coffee/tea outlets. They’re lined in plastic and cannot be recycled easily. There is at the moment, only one place in the UK (I believe) that has a set up for recycling them.
    I wish places like this would look to alternatives and only serve coffee in proper cups to people who are staying in-store to drink it.
    We HAVE to change what we’re doing because we are killing our planet. People are so ignorant to this and don’t understand that it DOES and WILL affect them. Other countries must take this on-board and change things.
    OK… stepping down off soap box.
    Great post Mrs.C. GREAT post. ~ C. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re spot on, we have to change. There is a growing trend towards reusable travel mugs for buying coffee from Costa etc on the go, hopefully that will grow. I’ve been boycotting micro beads for over a year now, there are so many natural exfoliants available which are far less damaging.
      Thanks for the comment, we all need to be on our soap boxes so the big companies hear us yelling for change. X

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  7. Haha… when you said ” Iโ€™m also looking at changing the brand of tea bags I use to one that doesnโ€™t use plastic in the bag construction.”
    We only changed our usage this week.. Reverting to loose tea.. An Organic Brand from the Health store… WOW and what a difference in taste..
    We have lots of plastic too, far too much .. And you have given us some good ideas of how to reduce our waste even more Mrs C..
    I stopped buying bottle water too..

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    1. Thank you, I’m definitely considering loose leaf tea. I am working on Mr C and his love of bottled flavoured water, even if he buys larger bottles rather than the little ones it would be a start.

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      1. Yes that would be a start as you say.. My daughter pointed out she watched a programme about tea picking, and making the other week I forget which Channel But she said if you saw it, you may not like your cuppa as much.. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. There is plastic in so many products. Now you have gotten me thinking about what more I can do to save the environment. Plastic has become such a convenience, I do hope that we can reverse it in time. I do bring my own biodegradable bags to the grocery store, and recycle all the plastic that I do use. Now to see about making the changes to reduce my use of plastic. It is true that one person can’t do it alone, but if we all become aware and do our part, just think of the changes we can make! Great post, Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thank you, it’s quite scary when you think about what is made of plastic. That’s why I think it’s good the focus is on the real throwaway items that don’t need to be made of plastic.

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  9. I am very conscious of our plastic use and try and avoid buying items with excess plastic packaging but the recycling bin does tend to fill up quickly.However, in our house hardly anything is single use as it gets claimed by the children for their craft projects and I see upcycling potential in almost everything!! I also worry about the effects of plastic contaminating food as it can cause hormonal imbalances. The children have to have plastic bottles at school (understandably as my son broke my glass one just 24 hours after I bought it!) so I always make sure they are BPA free. You really opened my eyes though PLASTIC IN TEA BAGS!!!! I checked my brand and shockingly, there is plastic in the bags – something to do with the sealing of the bag. I am appalled and have told them as much!!

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    1. It’s scandalous isn’t it! Our recycling is also usually scavenged by the children, much to Mr C’s dismay ๐Ÿ˜‚. I’ve not checked the school water bottle to see if it’s BPA free actually, I must do that.

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  10. This is such an interesting post. I used to be much more aware but recently I have definitely been taking whatever is quick and easy. It isn’t always better though ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I shall have to spend some time pondering what I could do to start small. It’s a very important topic!

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    1. It Is isn’t It, I think that when it came out about the plastic in tea bags there was a lot of controversy. So far so good on cutting down here though, I could do a lot more but I’ve made a start.

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