Saying no to plastic

I don’t know about you but, personally, I hate cling film. That thin, sticky plastic that’s meant to keep food fresh, used once only and discarded. It makes my blood boil using a product that was created to be binned, that can’t be recycled and doesn’t decompose naturally. Basically, when it comes to plastics, cling film really is EVIL.

So, I don’t buy it. But how do I keep my food fresh I hear you ask. Well, you know, I try not to cook too much in the first place, but if I have leftovers they go in a plastic resealable tub for taking to work, or in a bowl with a flat plate on top. Is that so hard, no, don’t think so. Alternatively, you can get reusable silicone lids, like these ones here, but frankly, there’s no need.

What about sandwiches, you say, surely you need cling film for them. No, no, and thrice, no. I have a nifty little solution (well, two of them actually in different patterns) called the Wrapper. (in the interests of honesty, there are other, similar products, but this is run by one of my oldest friends, so I’m mentioning hers).

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The re-wrap-it sandwich wrapper is plastic one side and fabric on the other. You put the sandwich inside, wrap it as shown, and seal with the Velcro. It’s hand made in Scotland (so good for local employment) and you can use it again and again, washing it in between, obviously, for my younger son’s packed lunch, which he takes every day. And, yes, it does contain plastic, but compare that one sheet of plastic with 240-or-so sheets of cling film/plastic sandwich bag/aluminium foil that I could be using for his sandwiches/pitta/wraps over the course of the year, and you see where I’m coming from.

Bye bye wasteful plastic, hello reusable metal

Farewell wasteful plastic, hello reusable metal

On the subject of packed lunches, I finally weaned myself off my addiction for cartons or mini-bottles of some sugary soft drink inside them. Well, it was more cold Turkey really, as I just stopped buying them. I had a small black, metal bottle (a freebie from a cycling proficiency course my elder son did) taking up space in a store cupboard, so I decided to utilise it. Bye bye to five mini-plastic bottles or cardboard cartons going into recycling every week, and welcome to less waste.

Thanks for the tips, Rae and Bea, my zero waste godmothers.

PS Look at the picture at the top of this blog. Really, look at it, see how much plastic is in the sea – that you can see. Now read this and see how much plastic there is in the sea, that you can’t see. Does this make my blog sound less like a rant and more like impassioned reasoning? Good, thought as much.

Refusing and reducing

Bea Johnson uses the mantra “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot”, so at the end of last year I took steps to up the ‘refusing’ aspect to bring less waste into my home. I’d already gone paperless on all my bills and filled out the Mail Preference Service requesting no junk mail, but I was still inundated with with a seemingly endless stream of brochures and catalogues landing on my doormat every week. So, as each one arrived, before chucking it straight into the recycling box, I took the offending brochure to the computer, found the company’s website and emailed their customer services requesting they stop sending them to me forthwith.

My next step was to request one one of those ‘no junk mail’ stickers from my local council that I can stick to my letter box to instruct the food deliverers, tree surgeons, painters and decorators and various other tradespeople against stuffing their gaudily printed advertising sheets through my door.

I also applied the ‘no thanks’ policy when I went shopping for my birthday present – not only did I take my own bags with me (been doing that for a few years now), but I also refused the box that was offered (again something I’ve done on and off for years, although sometimes those shoe boxes have come in very handy for my sons’ school projects).

However, on bringing my shoes home, I went one step further and embraced the Zero Waste philosophy about reducing the amount of stuff you have in your home so you can live more simply. Hands up, I am guilty of hoarding, so many of my cupboards are stacked with items I just can’t bear to throw away. This time I took a more ruthless approach, and rather than keep the shoes – “just in case” – my new ones were replacing, I thought “no” and donated them to a charity shop. Do I miss them? No, I have my new shoes. I did the same with an old handbag that had been gathering dust on the floor of my wardrobe for the last few years – again I couldn’t bear to chuck it – after receiving an OnFriday Fairtrade leather one from my lovely mum for my birthday.

Feeling virtuous, I was motivated to truly to get to grips with my recipe books. Hubby had given me Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipe book Plenty for Christmas so I took a long hard look at my groaning shelf of largely unused recipe books and decided to be ruthless. Going beyond the ‘one in, one out’ mantra I put half of them in pile and took them to a second-hand shop. What a satisfying feeling, that was made even more so, as I realised that I now had a spare half shelf, which by further disposing of various ‘it will come in useful one day’ items around it, became an entire shelf. Finally, I could re jig a total of four shelves to improve the ‘flow’ of my kitchen by relocating items where they are most accessible. The joy of rationalisation was mine. And, none of the stuff went in the bin, it was put for re-use in a local charity shop, hopefully helping other people.

Are you trying to reduce your waste levels? I’d like to hear how you’re getting on – leave a comment below.

Our seas are sick

The issue of plastic in the ocean is one that many of you are no doubt aware of, given that the ‘island of plastic’ floating in the Pacific was discovered as long ago as 1997. However, in those intervening 17 years the situation has significantly worsened as a blog entitled A Sea Full of Trash by Morgana Matus for Fix.com reveals.

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You are what you eat. Image: surfrider.org

As Morgana makes clear, some steps – although far too few – are being made to stop plastics entering our waterways, but the equally difficult issue is how to tackle the problem of the plastic already in our seas. The debris is found many fathoms deep, throughout our oceans, with unknown effects as this article in National Geographic makes clear, but what is undeniable is the sheer amount of it – 13,000 pieces of plastic litter in every single square kilometer of ocean globally. This plastic eventually breaks down into tiny microscopic particles that is then eaten by the marine life, entering the food chain and thereby being passed on to humans. And, it’s not just our seas that are ridden with this Plastic Poison, it’s reaching up into our rivers, too.

What can we do? Firstly, stop buying new plastic:

  1. Reuse your flimsy bags – when you run out (if you ever do), start using cloth bags instead. One that supports a marine charity like Global Ocean would be even better.
  2. Don’t buy bottled water – get a reusable steel bottle like these from Surfers Against Sewage.
  3. Some facial scrubs have microscopic plastic beads in them, that are having a devastating effect on fish in rivers and seas, so avoid these. The Good Scrub Guide tells you which products don’t contain them.
  4. Buy recycled products, choose reusable over throwaway, recycle as much of your waste as possible and refuse unnecessary plastics at shops and supermarkets. If you need advice on recycling check out this guide.

Secondly, support our oceans and the organisations trying to save them. I’ve already mentioned a few – Global Ocean, Surfers Against Sewage and the Marine Conservation Society, but there others you can support either financially or by volunteering for them. A quick internet search reveals a whole host of them – sadly demonstrating the huge need for their work. Organising a beach or riverside clear-up is a good start as that help prevent plastic getting into our waterways in the first place.

Thirdly, put pressure on our politicians, businesses and community leaders to tackle this problem.

  1. Write/email/tweet your MP.
  2. Tell the shops you buy from that you don’t want them to use plastics, ask them what they’re doing with their rubbish, demand they use recycled plastic wherever possible.
  3. Contact your local council and see how much of the rubbish they collect is being recycled, do they buy recycled, and if it’s not good enough, pressure them to do more.
  4. Make groups and bodies you’re involved in, such as schools, colleges, universities, youth organisations, sporting bodies, charities and faith groups, aware just how poisonous plastic is
  5. Talk about this with everyone you know. Share the issue. Alert others to the problem.
  6. You don’t have to do all these actions, just pick one, make a start.

As Anne Frank says: ‘how wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world’.

#DoOneThingToday – start saving our seas.