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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