My Plastic Free Week

Day 6

Today posited a new challenge and it came in the form of toiletries. I ran out of conditioner and shower gel simultaneously and replacing them, plastic free, was a struggle to say the least. You can buy bars of soap of course but they often come in a plastic wrapper! I found one in a cardboard box so luckily I won’t smell too bad even if I do spend half my time chasing it around the shower because I can’t get a good grip on the slippery little buggar.
Conditioner was a different story. In the whole of boots, I could not find a single one that didn’t come in a plastic bottle so I caved ( I have very porous hair which one delightful hairdresser once compared to hay so unfortunately vanity beat environmental conscience on this one). I thought it would all be okay as I was so sure that as long as I recycled it, the plastic would be reborn as something more useful than a conditioner bottle. However, I came home to a surprising and disheartening sight. Without thinking, when clearing up the empty bottles from the shower, my flatmate had thrown my empty conditioner straight in to the bin in the toilet which just goes straight down the rubbish shoot – not the recycling bin.

It set me off on to a spiralling crisis, during which I questioned every single bin I have ever used and how few of them actually get separated – my waste paper bin being example 1, general rubbish bins on the street being example 2. I shan’t bore you with the ins and outs of my spiral but basically – think about what you throw away where!! Recycling bins are not restricted to kitchens and I bet most of your toiletries come in plastic bottles.
This prompted me to think about how many of my other toiletries contain single use plastic and it painted a very sorry picture: cotton buds, deodorants, even face wipes are non-biodegradable!
I saw on facebook* that the UK is set to ban all single use plastic by 2025 but until then – clean your ears with tissue and recycle your conditioner bottles

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*Yes I know facebook journalism isnt the most reliable source but here is a link to the independent article – https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-plastic-ban-single-use-straws-cotton-buds-stirrers-greenpeace-wwf-a8312686.html

 

My Plastic Free Week

Day 3

Today was relatively uneventful in the plastic department, full of disappointments more than anything else! I went to the Cinema to see Isle of Dogs (great film btw, unbelievable, lighthearted animation combined with some dark satire which makes for a compelling juxtaposition) and every single snack was unavailable to me. My friend bought a drink which of course came with a straw, popcorn in a plastic bag and crisps, in a plastic bag. All to be thrown away.

Every snack I tried to buy was in plastic, so I ended up just seething at other people’s crunching. I nearly bought nachos just out of principle but £5 for some Doritos and salsa? Even I am not that proud!

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Day 4

Another uneventful day. Stayed at home all day but still managed to throw away 1 plastic wrapper when I finished a lettuce.

It seems one doesn’t even have to leave the house without using disposable plastics.

Tomorrow I have work which is concerning – it is plastic straw central! But, on top of that, we don’t recycle anything other than glass and cardboard. We use napkins and cling film without a care in the world and don’t even get me started on the milk wastage. If by any chance a fellow bartender is out there reading this and they have any ideas on how to encourage big businesses to recycle hollah at me.

 

My Plastic Free Week

Day 2

I went in to today feeling more prepared. I had my tupperware full of cous cous ready in the fridge for lunch as well as a bag of cashews and, most importantly, I have found a lidl’s own version kinder mini chocolate bars that are wrapped in paper and sold in a cardboard box – the plastic free lunch of champions. However, I was instantly frustrated by breakfast. I went to have some cereal which of course will always be associated with a cardboard cereal box, forgetting that in that box is a plastic bag – I am already starting to notice how completely unnecessary double packaging is.

Lunch was accompanied by a can of diet coke and luckily there are recycling points all over university so I have found a way to negate the single use plastic coke bottle dilemma this week seemed to pose.

On the way back from university I stopped in at Lidl to pick up some groceries and I was shocked at how little I could actually buy.

My shopping list consisted of:

1. Apple juice

2. Strawberries

3. Bananas

4. Pasta

5. Cheese

6. Eggs

7. Cous cous

8. Tortilla wraps

My actual purchases (that I could find plastic free) were:

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The cashews were an impulse buy – I had finished some nuts in the library today and had put the empty bag back in my rucksack and found to my delight Lidl had a self-service nut section (yes I am aware how painfully middle class that just sounded..) so I stocked up.

I am a student. Pasta is my go to meal. It’s a tale as old as time! So the first thing I did was google where I could do plastic free shopping and I have discovered a grain shop that sells all your cereals and pasta and grains loose so I will be hunting this shop out later in the week (this is the link to their facebook if you want to take a gander https://www.facebook.com/TheNewLeafCoop/).

I have also found a chain of delis that sell cheese in blocks as opposed to pre-bagged so I will have to get my halloumi fill from there this summer – I refuse to let my environmental crusade stop me enjoying a barbecue.

Day 2 – plastic thrown away 0.

Cheese bought – 0.

We’ll call this day a mixed bag.

(A mixed bag for life of course)

My Plastic Free Week

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My Plastic Free Week
I spend a lot of my life lambasting my friends in bars when they use straws – we have all seen the harrowing footage of turtles with straws up their noses, it still baffles me how anyone can use something so destructive so cavalierly when it is completely superfluous to our existence. However, the more I reflect on single use plastic the more I came to realise that straws represent a dislocation between us and the packaging we use. Yes, straws are pointless and unnecessary with so many alternatives (including just regular drinking – when did raising the glass to our mouth become too much effort?) but what about those plastic bags I take my vegetables home in from the supermarket? I certainly have not been reusing them! Every hangover for me usually requires at least one bottle of diet coke and I must confess I seldom reuse them. So I have decided to stop being preachy and start being practice-y. I am going to attempt to go for 1 week without buying any single use plastic. I am not going to try and go cold turkey; I have cupboards of Tupperware and plastic bags that I will continue to use as well as some packaged goods in the fridge that I won’t let go to waste for the sake of this experiment. I will however be seeking out plastic alternatives wherever possible and any plastic I do use will of course be going straight in the recycling bin and, most importantly, I will not purchase anything plastic for 1 week. What I aim to do this week is to show myself just how much plastic I use and to see how much of it I can personally cut down. Wish me luck!

Day 1
I started today with so much optimism. I already had my long life water bottle (no single use Evians for me anymore!) and I filled it with a smoothie to take in for breakfast. My banana’s have their own plastic skin so no need for a bag there. My berries I buy frozen, so they were already in their plastic in the freezer. That annoyed me a little but hey, at least they were caught and frozen in season! Almond milk from a cardboard carton and blend it up, happy days. No plastic thrown away there. Went to make myself a wrap for lunch and bam – sandwich bags are a massive no no! Not to worry, this is why we store all the Tupperware we get from takeaways. Off to the library I go.

Challenge 1. Coffee. Our library does not sell recyclable coffee cups. Looks like a caffeine free day as well as a plastic free day.

Challenge 2. I want a chocolate snack. You cannot buy loose chocolate. This day sucks.

Dinner consists of leftovers which my flatmate very kindly put in the fridge for me when she deep cleaned the kitchen this morning after our dinner party last night. Unfortunately, she has put cling film over the top of it to keep it in good condition. Challenge 3 – failed. Cling film is very much a single use plastic. Poor turtles.
Just when I thought I had negated the worst of the day (teabags come in cardboard boxes so I can still have one good thing in my life), flatmate number 2 opens her post for the day. There is a lot of excitement I can hear and it turns out it’s because the moth balls we ordered have arrived!! Excellent, I have a sparse wardrobe as it is, the last thing I need is my favourite jumper(s) to get savaged by moths. I will take this moment to say ‘moth balls’ is a very misleading name. They are not even a little bit round. It turns out they are capsules that you peel off the lid of and leave in your wardrobe. We got 4 each. That takes my thrown away plastic to 5 items and its only day 1.

Fingers crossed tomorrow is better.

 

“I can’t do anything, I am just one person!”

power of unity

Last night I was having dinner with my flatmate and we were talking about a documentary she had watched the night before, a documentary called Breadline Kids. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJDhnvuNgEg) It is about children below the bread line, living day to day on benefits or food banks but who remain painfully positive in the face of such adversity. As a documentary, it has its merits; it highlights the massive wealth disparity that is still so prevalent in this country and offers a human face to some damning statistics about poverty in Britain where, in spite of priding ourselves on being such a progressive first world nation, there are still 9 children in every classroom of 30 who live in poverty (http://www.cpag.org.uk/child-poverty-facts-and-figures). We discussed the merits of donating to food banks and the sad state of the benefits system that leaves so many isolated and ostracised, embarrassed to collect their food tokens to the point where many starve that day just to avoid the abuse hurled at them on their way to the centre. How many times have you heard the phrase “benefit scrounger” or “drain on society”, if not from people’s mouths then splashed across the front page of the tabloids? However, what scared me more than anything was her response to the documentary. She said “it’s so sad, because I can’t really do anything about it”. I was saddened but unsurprised by the total lack of faith in the state and the political system as a means of doing anything good, of changing the current socio-economic order for good, to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. This kind of apathy is rampent amongst our students today, a social group renowned through history as being the start of the most radical movements has become disillusioned and untrusting of politicians and the capability or even the desire of them to look out for anyone other than themselves.

I have been lucky enough to be brought up by overtly political parents. Both are seriously left wing, work in the public sector with PhDs that show they have the brains to match their passion. Furthermore, I have an incredible group of politically engaged friends who love to debate the merits of socialism just as much as they enjoy a cider in a beer garden (in fact we have done both many times over the years!). I have no doubt all this added up to me choosing to study politics at Edinburgh University where I now have been given the opportunity to understand my own views and everyone else’s through the lenses of histories most renowned scholars but I also know that not everyone has been offered these chances in life. Even the brightest amongst us, whom my flatmate is one of, have been shielded from the issues of today either by a limited curriculum or by parents who are just not that interested in Westminster and what’s going on there. Consequently, they are unaware that this mindset, this “I am only one person, I have no power” thought process is a result of a neoliberal political agenda of the right wing and centrist parties to keep the people divided and separate, to shield them from the truth that together, we have the power to change everything.

Even David Attenborough played a part in this, telling us all to recycle more in the final episode of Blue Planet II, making us think that it is each individual’s fault that the environment is dying when if we all looked at the bigger picture we would see that one person’s recycling habits cannot combat the huge amounts of oil being dumped in to oceans by global corporations or the preposterous amounts of wasted plastic being used by supermarkets and god forbid we reflected on the environmental impact of fast food chains and their intensive farming.

The big businesses and corporations are terrified of people as they know that, if everyone stops buying their product they will collapse. They know that if everyone holds them accountable for their tax dodging, environmentally damaging schemes they will no longer be able to capitalise on the people’s naivety to make ridiculous profits that they keep in tax havens to fund second, third and fourth homes. So to my flatmate and everyone else I say never underestimate the power you hold. You are lucky enough to live in a democracy so always use your vote. Your MPs have to respond to your emails so don’t hesitate to badger them with questions. Information is free in this country so if you find out you disapprove of a company’s conduct, don’t buy their products! Talk to people, encourage discussion debate and educate yourselves on the issues so when someone comes to you with the same apathy, you can show them the power they hold to.

Never stop trying to make the world a better place and never be afraid to show your opinion because together, I promise, we can make a difference. And it all starts with one person knowing they can.