Plastic is something that is so embedded in our everyday lives that we don’t even think about it. It wraps our food in the supermarket and our medicine in the pharmacy. Appliances are made out of plastic. Toothbrushes, dental floss, menstrual pads are made of it. Kids toys, dogs toys, shoes, clothes. And sooner or later, all these stuff will be tossed in a bin.
Interesting enough, nobody ever tells us what really happens with all those stuff. You really need to dig deeper to find out the ugly truth – that pretty much every piece of plastic ever produced still exists, and most of it isn’t recycled.
Recycling is primarily the responsibility of local authorities, which have suffered dramatic, austerity-driven budget cuts during the years when recycling rates have stalled and now declined. But fortunately there are loads of ‘plastic-free bonkers’ like myself out there trying to revert this depressing scenario.
When I’ve started researching about zero waste lifestyle two years ago, I was so impressed that there was so much information on the web about how to avoid plastic packaging. The main issue was – most of the videos and blog posts were from USA, and here in London there aren’t so many bulk options. There are shops here and there where you can find some things, but it is still quite a challenge to be totally plastic-free.
To enter this Plastic Free July challenge like a champ you do need a ‘survival kit’. Consider getting yourself a:
Reusable coffee cup: if you can’t function properly without your good ol’ coffee, this item will be saving you some cash in the long run. Some coffee shops give customers a discount if they bring their own cup to refill. In hectic days I can have up to 3 coffees, just make the math and this will become 15 disposable cups/weekly saved from the landfill plus one free coffee from all the discounts!
Reusable water bottle: I drink a lot of water and I could easily go through 3 small bottles a day. If I drank bottled water I would be spending at least 3 pounds a day. That would be 15 a week, a hard earned cash I could be saving by switching to tap water.
Reusable cutlery: most of the take-away places don’t offer compostable disposable cutlery, so a good way to avoid getting the plastic ones is having a travel set living in your bag, wrapped in a cloth napkin. Sporks are small and versatile.
Reusable containers: if you can invest in stainless steel ones, do it. They are food safe, they will last for life and they are pretty. I carry mine everywhere to take my breakfast pastry in, my lunch to take away, or even to buy cheese when I pop down the farmers market.
Beeswax wraps: they are cotton cloths embedded with beeswax, and a great substitute of cling film. Always good for 'food to go' plastic-free.
Shopping tote: avoid paying 5p for a plastic bag that you don’t actually need. Just have one always ready in your bag or car.
Bulk shops for your grocery run: Kate Arnell from Ecoboost wrote a great guide on London shops. There’s also Béa Johnson’s Bulk Locator app. And of course, Bulk Market coming up soon :-)