Plastic Free July – the challenge so far

Having done Plastic Free July last year, I felt like I was fairly well prepared for this year, but it still proves to be quite the challenge. It really opens your eyes to how much needless and pointless plastic we have around, and how much food and product manufacturers really need to change.

I recommend taking part in this – don’t worry, it’s not about eliminating all plastic! Although that would be great for us and the environment, sadly it would be virtually impossible these days. The challenge is about refusing single use plastic, that literally gets used for seconds or a couple of minutes and then discarded. What’s the problem, it can be recycled? Well no, it usually can’t – this deluge of plastic doesn’t break down, it ends up ruining our beaches and beautiful countryside and also threatening birds and marine life, as well as particles of plastic ingested by fish and marine life ending up back in the human food chain if you eat animals…
Plastic Free July

There are a couple of us taking on the challenge at Ethical Superstore, so I thought I would post something on the challenges we have found so far:

Cat food – increasingly found in plastic pouches, and with some brands the selection they have in tins isn’t the same flavours available in the pouches. I’ll be contacting a couple of brands to see why this is, as I’d like to ensure that we can get everything in tins and that they are aware of the impact of plastic. The dry food supplement and treat items are also predominantly in plastic, which is highly annoying. A lesser quality brand is available in cardboard boxes, but I won’t feed them this – I’ll have to do some more digging. Thankfully our cat litter is great biodegradable product packaged in fully compostable paper bags, I highly recommend it.

Bread – venture into a supermarket and take a look at the bread aisle. Especially if you remember you need a loaf at 9pm, when there’s no fresh bread out (even those I noticed were then sealed up for the customer in a plastic bag), they had ONE single type in waxed paper and that was nutrient poor white bread which I won’t eat. Every single one of the rest was in a plastic bag. So I ended up buying a packet bread mix, and I will be taking my first foray into breadmaking this weekend.

Yoghurt – I do normally make my own yoghurt, although I noticed on the trip to the supermarket that every single one was a plastic pot. I do know of an artisan brand that comes in glass pots for the individual sizes, but can’t recall the name and I’ve only seen them in one higher end supermarket. You can reduce plastic waste, at least, by buying the larger sizes or making your own in bulk with something like Easiyo.

Don’t even get me started on plastic carrier bags – I was pleased with the news this week that Oahu joins other islands in Hawaii to ban plastic bags at checkout counters. I’ve noticed a few local gift and sweet shops going for paper bags which is much preferable – at least they break down – although we tend to take reusable fabric shopping bags with us, which have lasted for a few years without any damage.

My colleague Richard also noticed tobacco tends to come in plastic wrapping, giving him pause to think about if he should finally quit smoking! Cigarette filters were quite the surprise in the news; none of us realising that the filters actually contain plastic and are a rising threat to marine life! Most of us assumed that they would be some kind of paper or a fabric mix.

Sadly I had to disappoint him with his favourite treats as he thought like many people do, that bags of crisps are actually made of recyclable foil. Nope – they’re actual metallic coated plastic film. If metallic foil or wrapping crumples up and holds its shape, it’s metal and can be recycled, but if it springs back it’s plasticised. I also noticed that it’s incredibly rare to find a singular chocolate bar or sweets in anything but plastic now, although the famous Tunnocks wafer still comes wrapped in its traditional foiled paper. This could be a good challenge to lose a little weight! 😉

We’d love to hear what challenges or issues you’ve noticed, or any ideas/tips you have. Also check out the #plasticfreejuly and #pfjuk hashtags on Twitter to catch up with people all over the world!

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  • Hello there. I have read your comments about plastic. WHY DOES HAM AND CHEESE END UP IN PLASTIC TRAYS WHICH ARE RECYCLABLE IN MOST CASES,BUT THE TOP TEAR OFF LID IS NOT RECYCLABLE? Some containers are Plastic Type 6 or 7 which is recyclable in Europe,but not The United Kingdom. Pop plastic bottles are recyclable,but THE LABEL IS PLASTIC WHICH IS NOT. Crisp bags are a nuisance as you say.Why is recyclable material not used? Is The Green Lobby NOT ABLE TO FORCE MANUFACTURERS TO JUST USE 100% RECYCLABLE MATERIAL? I SAY–IF IT IS MADE IT MUST BE RECYCLABLE WHEN FINISHED WITH. I await any answers. EDWARD.

    • Hi Edward, it’s amazing just how much plastic you can end up using in one day, I think the problem is that most people don’t realise or consider just how much they are using. The best way to persuade many mainstream manufacturers to cut down on plastic is to stop buying their overpackaged products, many of them will not do it if it doesn’t help their profitability. The Plastic Free July campaign is a great way to demonstrate just how much plastic people use in their daily lives, perhaps without realising it. Only once people know how much plastic has invaded our products will they be concerned about it, voice their concerns or choose products which aren’t packaged in plastic.

  • You can go to Aberystwith and buy plastic free loose rolling tobaccos But if that is too far how about growing (and curing) your own. There are links to a site below

    And you can still get a loose shag – I mean pipe tobacco!

    more info here

  • janice

    Hi. My Ecoleaf toilet rolls packed in something called Bioplast, looks like plastic but is compostable. I wonder why supermarkets etc., cannot use this material for their bags, wrappings.Also cotton string for fruit/veg bags/nets can be coated in natural gum/resin, which will then break down, even feed soil as compost. Its not rocket science to be kind to our Mother Earth.

  • janice

    Hi. Just another comment. I think there should be more articles/ programmes on TV. Radio, also in magazines about recycling. I was sitting, looking out my window other evening as bored for a while near a fairly busy road. Almost everyone passing early evening had a supermarket/shop plastic bag/bags. Full or with a couple of items in them. Do they care, or is it the other guy who should worry about a bag in a turtle’s gullet,not them. The other guy who bothers to take a reusable bag to work knowing they will shop on the way home. I have strong bags that fold up really small always with me.if your worried about leakage, reuse yr. plastic for as long as you can, or find recyclable plastic to put inside.As said before. If you open Ecoleaf T. roll bag carefully you can use that bag inside yr. fold up bag. Its made of potato . I havent got shares in Ecoleaf but am pleased to support their ethos.Hope I don’t sound boring but every little helps.

    • Leanne Johnson

      Hi Janice, thanks for your comments! Yes you’re right, keeping some reusable bags handy is the key – pop them in your car, desk, by the front door and take them with you every day. The foldable ones pack down tiny so can even fit in a handbag 🙂 It should become habit for everyone.

  • lynn h

    Only 6 months late to comment, but I believe teabags are also plasctisised. Being an avid recycler and composter I used to put teabags in the compost bin but sadly the skeleton of the teabag remains after months/years because I believe they use plastic in them.