Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Day 5: Positivity

It has been a while since I first started thinking about avoiding plastic. So I thought I'd list the things I already have solutions for. Then I might feel less like this is an impossible task!


Single Step, Lancaster's ethical, vegetarian wholefood co-operative (without which I might end up very hungry) is amazing. They sell loose rice, oats, flour, dried fruit, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, yeast, rooibosh tea, museli, possibly couscous (but not pasta).

Pasta can be bought as lasagne sheets (which my mum has an amazing non-lasagne recipe for) from most supermarkets, which also sell flour and sugar in paper bags. Apparently there is a 'Food Weighhouse' in Preston where you can buy loose products (but take your own paper bags as they provide plastic). And a very helpful friend has done some research and found a shop in London called Unpackaged which does exactly what it says (and apparently sells toilet paper too!).

Booths cheese counter uses greaseproof paper bags - if you ask nicely they will miss out the sheet of plastic they usually use to pick the cheese up. Yoghurt is very easy to make - see Ele's blog for instructions and a review.

Orange juice and milk are delivered in returnable glass bottles by the milkman. Currently can't find the number for the dairy... but will look if anyone is interested.

I have an organic fruit+veg box delivered each week by Abel & Cole. They never send plastic bags (it mostly comes loose in a returnable cardboard box) but soft fruits, cherry tomatoes, cucumber etc come in plastic. They were very helpful when I asked if I could have a box with no plastic... but they can't do it. So I'll have to check online what they plan to send each week and ask for alternatives for plastic wrapped things.

Fast food: Greggs sell all sorts in paper bags, as will other bakeries if you can find one! The LUSU shop on Campus sells sandwiches in cardboard / cornstarch compostable packaging, and SoupedUp will even give you a discount on soup and chilli if you bring your own container. And you can always buy take-away pizza!


Single Step will refil bio-D and ecover products. (However, I only have a laundry liquid bottle at present so am hoping I don't run out of washing up liquid!). Also, most washing powders come in cardboard boxes (some contain plastic scoups). Single step also sell hand-knitted dishcloths (I'm yet to try one, but apparently they are very popular...)

Personal care

Soap is very easy to find loose; shampoo and conditioner can be bought in solid bars from LUSH (haven't tried this yet) but be warned: they might wrap it in plastic. Women will find the mooncup can replace tampons and lunapads (or equivalent) can replace sanitary towels. And I found a coconut fibre /wood nail brush in boots!

More on some of this another time...

Monday, 28 July 2008

Day three - a realisation

I thought this would be easy. I really thought I could give up obtaining new plastic for three months without changing my lifestyle or making much effort. I thought it would be a case of borrowing rather than buying the Saturday Guardian and not eating marmite. I already don't use plastic bags, choose loose fruit+veg, don't wear makeup or otherwise use products in plastic bottles.

I've begun to see this might not be the case. What happens when the batteries in my bike light run out? Where can I get cheese from (this might be a little easier to solve)? Is take away pizza the only non-plastic food available on campus post 5pm? Is it ok to have take-away vegi chilli (in a reusable container of course) with soured cream that is obviously straight from a plastic pot? What happens if someone gives me a present (perhaps not that likely in the next 3 months...)?

And the worst thing: as a theoretical physicist, I rely on my mechanical pencil. I think it may be impossible to work without it - a standard wooden pencil JUST WOULD NOT DO. (The refills come in a plastic box.)

This all seems rather inconvenient.

However, one decision was made today: chocolate digestives are not ok in someone else's house (but a cup of tea would be ok).

And finally, a link to the blog of Ele, a friend who is also giving up plastic.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

London: the first 24 hours

I woke up in Balham on Sunday morning, post house-party. Managed to stay plastic-free (and sober) for the party, which went on for some people 'till the sun rose. However, I realised that I haven't really thought about how I can apply 'no new plastic' to things from other people. For example, I (gladly) accepted a cup of tea this morning - probably the tea bags originally were in plastic wrapping, and certainly the milk was from a plastic bottle. I'm trying to eliminate plastic from my life but certainly not my friends, so I think this is OK. But it might be easy to over-extend this 'exemption' if not clarified properly. I think a cup of tea at someone's house is acceptable, but if I'm offered a biscuit wrapped in plastic, the answer must be 'no'. But it is less clear cut if something has obviously been in plastic, or might have been... I don't wish to be routing through bins to see if an apple came in a plastic bag. Hmm. I shall have to think about this.

Anyway, post-party (and clearing up with plastic bags...) I left for the train station via Waitrose, Sainsburys and M&S to look for some breakfast/lunch. Loose fruit + carrots from Waitrose, along with a muffin (in a paper bag). M&S was the only place for a sandwich - they package them in card with the window made from cornstarch (or equivalent). [My plastic ban only extends to petroleum based plastics, not bio-degradable cornstarch (not to be confused with evil degradable plastic).]

Many delayed trains later I arrived home to be greeted by a pile of letters with plastic address windows. Anyone got ideas on how to eliminate these? I already get most bills online only...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The beginning

Finally, we've set a date (and time) to begin:

Saturday 26th July 2008, 12:00

And for what?

Giving up plastic. From Saturday at noon, for the next three months, there will be no new plastic.

Including (but not limited to): bin liners, food in plastic wrapping, plastic lids (like on marmite jars), yoghurt pots, biros, toothpaste, toothbrushes, washing up liquid, takeaway containers...


One day, quite a few months ago, I got my bike fixed at a community bike shop. They were just beginning to become plastic bag and bottle-free. I thought something along the lines of 'how pointless and impossible'.

Months later, it turned out that I'd been thinking about this rather a lot, and it happened that knew I had to give up plastic. Hardly a decision, more an acceptance.

Is plastic even bad?

Well, no. As a material, it is a wonderful invention. Particularly, it has enabled developments in the field of medicine. BUT we think of it as a completely disposible product. I'm not just talking packaging obviously designed to be chucked, but things like tooth brushes, toys that have a useful lifetime of months or years, but actually do not decompose and hang around for perhaps 500 or 1000 years [yes, there will be sources quoted at some point, but not today].

And plastic is made from oil which might get rather expensive, or run out...

All this un-wanted plastic, while not decomposing, is causing all sorts of problems. Something like 97% of fulmars (a sea bird) have plastic in their stomachs. And so on. Perhaps more detail another day.

But mostly I think it is a waste. We just can't keep throwing stuff away.

Presuming I manage to update this with my rather busy lifestyle looking for non-plastic alternatives, I shall update with how things are going - alternatives we've discovered and any failures. Suggestions always welcome... particularly for toothpaste, toothbrushes and marmite.