Plastic has been in the news a lot recently, with more and more people recognising the devastating effect it can have on the environment, particularly marine life. It’s high on the agenda for marine conservation organisations, including Whale and Dolphin Conservation (#notwhalefood), and Marine Conservation Society (#stoptheplastictide). The UK government is taking steps to reduce ocean plastic pollution too, including plastic straws and takeaway coffee cups.
I’ve actually been on Skype today in my role as a Volunteer Speaker for WDC, talking to a class of schoolchildren from Yarborough Academy in Grimsby about whales and dolphins and the effects of plastic. The children are going to design plastic-free tote bags to help tackle the problem of plastic bags, which they will be selling in their local supermarket!
A growing number of people have decided to take on the challenge of “plastic free February” (#PlasticFreebruary, #PlasticFreeFebruary), and “challenge” is the right word – with so many products wrapped in plastic, it can be difficult to find alternatives. I’ve been going out of my way to find some plastic-free versions of products I buy this month, and some are certainly more challenging than others.
Cucumbers were particularly difficult, but I did manage to find this plastic-free cucumber and plastic-free radishes from Panthywel Farm at Llanelli market. I also managed to find locally produced rapeseed oil not only in a glass bottle, but one that you can take back to refill, from Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthne.
We’ve also started having local, organic produce delivered once a fortnight from Banc Organics, who do use some plastic (e.g. punnets), but take these back to re-use next time!
One of the big problems with plastic is that so much of it can’t be recycled, but make sure you check the packaging carefully. Some plastic can be recycled but is not collected with normal household recycling. Look out for example for anything labelled as “plastic – film” (such as what’s normally used to wrap toilet rolls – although there are plastic-free alternatives like those sold by whogivesacrap.org!), as this can be recycled at supermarkets along with plastic carrier bags.
In the garden – paper pots and growing your own food
One way to not only eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging but to know exactly what you’re getting with your food is to grow your own. Even at this time of year there are seeds that can be started in the vegetable garden. Onion and leek seeds can be planted in February, as well as salad leaves, which so far I’ve been completely unable to find plastic free in the shops. But my seeds that I planted a week ago in the greenhouse have germinated already!
Now is also the time to start seed potatoes chitting on a sunny windowsill, ready to plant out in March. I’ve started three seed potatoes already in the greenhouse, hoping they’ll get a head start and I can harvest some towards the end of May. I managed to find plastic-free seed potatoes at my local Wyevale garden centre, where they’re sold loose so you can choose your own and put them into your own bag, or one of the paper bags provided.
You can reduce plastic in your garden even more by making your own biodegradable seed-starting pots out of old newspapers. You can buy kits like the one in the photo to help you, or just wrap a piece of newspaper around a glass jar or tin can and stick together with biodegradable sticky tape. Make sure you do it quite loosely so you can remove the tin or jar. These pots work well in the greenhouse, but I can’t imagine they’d survive long outside here in the Welsh rain!
In the bathroom – homemade body care
There are shops that sell body care products without packaging. I’m a big fan of Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, which is also paraben-free. But you can also have a go at making many of your own products. The challenge then becomes sourcing ingredients without plastic, but where that isn’t possible at least by buying in bulk the amount of packaging is reduced. Once you’ve created your products put them into small glass jars, which can be washed and reused.
This month I’ve made this lavender soap, with homegrown lavender flowers, placed in a small piece of burlap to give as a gift, and I’m about to start on a whole range of products to create a plastic-free “home spa experience”, which I’ll share next month. 🙂
When creating themed soaps and bath bombs as gifts, I do sometimes like to add some glitter, but as this is going to be washed down the drain and isn’t always extracted during waste-processing, there’s a chance it can end up in the ocean and cause problems for wildlife. That’s why it’s important if you are making your own glittery cosmetics or body care products that you choose biodegradable glitters, like EcoStardust or Bio-Glitter, which are made from cellulose plant material rather than plastic. 🙂