Plastic free Tips

Reusable Bags

5 trillion plastic bags are produced globally every year. This counter is pretty sobering.

I'm sure you've all read the stories about whales and other creatures being washed up dead with stomachs full of them.

So don't use them! There is no need. Keep a reusable bag by the door/ in your handbag/ find the ones that can scrunch up into your pocket, or, if all else fails, use your pockets, hands, hats, shoes...whatever you must, just NOT a plastic bag!

Also, don't just think of the bigger bags - those flimsy excuses for bags that the supermarket dole out for fruit & veg are some of the worst. Get yourself a few string or cotton mesh bags like these beauties.

Dental Care

If you're in East Dulwich/ Nunhead area the toothbrushes, floss and tablets can be bought at Karavan Eco on Lordship Lane or BYO in Nunhead.

Toothbrushes

An average person will use 300 in a lifetime and we throw away over 250 million plastic ones a year in the UK. They take up to 1000 years to degrade and they cannot be recycled in your household recycling. You could take them to a Terracycle drop off point (clunky site but you can search for them here) or simply switch to bamboo one which can be composted once you've removed the bristles - I tend to simply snap them off rather than plier them out bristle by bristle. These are now widely available, some options here, here and here.

Toothpaste

Another plastic that cannot be recycled in household recycling and on average we use 276 tubes in a lifetime. Denttabs are a German brand who make toothpaste tablets. Sounds weird but bear with me - pop them in your mouth, chew for about 20 seconds and they turn into paste then just do your teeth as usual. They contain 1.450ppm of fluoride per tablet which is the amount recommended by dentists. Buy them here, here and here.

Dental floss

Not only is most floss packaged in plastic but it is plastic! Some is even coated in teflon, yes, the stuff your frying pan is made from. You can get all natural silk floss and charcoal floss (that does sadly still contain a bit of plastic) from Georganics here. They are both packaged in cardboard and can be purchased with a glass container or as a refill.

Interdentals

These tricky little devils usually come with plastic handles too (TePe is the brand most will have heard of). I was told by my dentist recently I needed to use these so checked the good old internet and found some with, you guessed it, bamboo handles! Made by The Humble Co. They are available in Boots or online here and here.

Microfibre Plastics

Synthetic clothing contains tiny plastic microfibres that are making their way from your washing machine into rivers and oceans. The tiny fibres are extremely small and almost invisible. Unfortunately, sewage treatment plants cannot effectively filter out all these microfibres.⁣⁣

Once in the environment these microfibres gradually make their way up the food chain to end up on our plates.⁣⁣

The Guppy Friend Washing Bag that can be bought here is a bag that reduces the loss of microfibres from your clothes and traps those that break off inside the bag.⁣⁣⁣⁣

It’s incredibly simple and easy to use. We’ve had one for almost a year now and it has quickly become part of the washing routine.⁣⁣

How to use it:

  1. Place any synthetic clothing inside the bag and place in your machine with other natural fibres outside the bag (nb. you do have to have other clothes outside of the bag too otherwise the spin cycle won’t work).⁣⁣
  2. Wash as usual.⁣⁣
  3. Remove everything and feel good about stopping hundreds of thousands of micro plastics from entering our water system.⁣⁣
  4. Occasionally pick out the lint-like microplastics that gather in the zip area of the bag.⁣⁣⁣⁣

It’s hard to pin down but estimates vary between 2000 and 1 million microfibres can be released PER wash. Yes, PER wash!⁣⁣

So get yourself a Guppy Friend, buy natural over synthetic clothing and generally just buy and wash less!⁣⁣

Food Packaging

Zero waste shops

67% of single use plastic used in the UK is food packaging. It is easily the most prevalent single-use plastic in our house and something we are constantly trying to reduce (with varying degrees of success).

The advent of zero waste shops has been an absolute game changer here, there are more and more of these popping up - we are lucky to have two physical stores and one online/pick up service in the area:

Gather also has recycling bins for hard to recycle packaging such as crisp/ biscuit/ sweet packets, dental products, fruit pouches, beauty products and bread bags.

If you're not local you can search https://zerowastenear.me/ or https://useless.london to find your nearest zero waste store.

Supermarket Plastics

If you want to make a point to your current shop (aside from switching your spending to a zero waste option!) then remove the excess packaging at the till and return (politely) to the customer service desk - enough people doing this will help get the message across to these stores to push their suppliers to package items more responsibly.

Alternatively you can send all excess packaging back to the supermarkets, using their customer services FREEPOST address with a note enclosed that reads "Thank you, I don't want this. Please cut back on your packaging".

Addresses can be found here,

As with all these tips, they require some thought and some forward planning and no-one gets it right all the time but if you can change your habits just a little bit it can make a huge difference. We have virtually cut out supermarket shopping from our lives and it feels better to support local businesses, buy higher quality goods and cut out the dreaded single use plastic as much as possible.

Thanks for all the tips and suggestions, please keep them coming!

Kitchen Plastics

This one is centred around the kitchen where there are lots of plastic-free wins to be had with simple switches:

Milk

We get ours delivered in glass bottles by Milk & More. Even though reusable glass bottles are heavy and require higher temperatures during the initial production process (thereby consuming more energy), they are generally the better option, particularly if the milkman delivers local milk and does so in an electrically powered milk float. Both of which is the case for Milk & More. If you can’t make this switch then please do remember to recycle your plastic milk bottles as they are widely recycled.

Coffee

Whether you like a tea or a coffee (or both) there are plastic free options available. Coffee pod machines should be banned entirely IMO but if you have a machine and want to use them try Halo (the only pods that are home compostable). Otherwise there are plenty of bean or ground refill options now available (just pop into your favourite coffee shop with your own bag or container and ask!).

Tea

Most tea bags use polypropylene to stick them together so contrary to popular belief are NOT compostable. So switch to tea leaves (amazing selection locally at Crystal Palace Market here) and get the tea pot/ strainer ritual back in action. Or switch to a fully compostable brand like Teapigs. More can be found in this article (thanks to trashplastic for the link).

Clingfilm

This is the worst type of single-use plastic - impossible to recycle and easily replaceable. Get some reusable tupperware or better still, tins to keep leftover food at home it for sandwiches and other snacks on the go. A few options here, here and here.

Stasher Bags

I haven't tried these yet but they look pretty handy and I've heard good things about them. Made from food-grade silicone you can bake, microwave, boil and freeze them without leaching hazardous chemicals. Can be bought here among other online places.

Beeswax wraps

Are another alternative made from fabric and beeswax that melts ever so slightly under your hands to seal whatever you are wrapping it around. These clever wraps can be re-used over and over and can now be bought at many online places like here and here or at the local zero waste stores already mentioned. At the very least tin foil is better than clingfilm and can be re-used if you’re gentle with it.

Compostable bags

If You Care do a range of compostable bags (both the type to line your food bin but also sandwich and snack bags) and other environmentally friendly kitchen products that you can check out here. We use their compostable bags, baking paper, recycled foil and firelighters.

Dishwasher tablets

These dishwasher tablets from Ecoleaf have a soluble wrapper made from plant based ingredients that dissolves in the machine so you just pop them in. They also contain rinse aid so no need to buy that separately.

Reuse & Refill

As with all other areas, these two Rs should always come before Recycle. Old glass jars have endless storage uses, bags of any description that you end up with should be put to good use and anything that can be refilled from your local zero waste shop (inc. washing up liquid, hand soap and other cleaning products) should be. Remember you can find your nearest one here or here. (Photo from Karavan Eco)