We made it! The last week of Plastic Free July has been and gone. And while it wasn’t all a walk in the park, it has definitely opened my eyes to the easy side of plastic-free living, and the difficult side of plastic-free living. Even though I haven’t been able to completely eliminate plastic this month, it has given me scope for what to aim for over the coming months – that’s right, I’m not giving up just because the month is over! So let’s recap the final week.
Eating unhealthy = plastic
This last week was a long one. Sleepy, grumpy, and “hangry” are all words to describe my mood. And that combination of moods resulted in quick fix food and trips to the vending machine at 3.30 pm. Needless to say the Aero from the vending machine was covered in plastic wrap, and the bottle of Coca Cola I got at the takeaway shop with my burger was of the plastic variety. Finally, the cocktail I had on Friday night came with a straw. And in all three cases, I didn’t even realise until I’d inhaled all of these things.
All of this has made me realise that if you eat healthy foods, you’re most likely going to avoid plastic catastrophes. Had I just had a glass of water instead of the soft drink I would have avoided the plastic bottle. Had I packed more fruit or baked something from scratch I might have avoided the chocolate fix. I don’t think anyone was going to be able to stop me from having a drink on Friday night, so there’s no excuse for that one really, other than remembering to ask for no straw. But really, going plastic-free is going to change many areas of your life, and they’re all for the better. Needless to say, this week I am hoping to avoid the vending machine, and hopefully my afternoon munchies will be cured by these homemade muffins:
Don’t let yourself be ‘greenwashed’
With the zero-waste, plastic-free movement growing stronger and stronger every day, there are companies out there that will try and tell you their product is green and safe for the environment. But do your research. Really. One perfect example is the issue of RACV’s Royal Auto I received in the post today. It comes in a completely unnecessary plastic sleeve. (Someone explain to me why we need these?!) And this sleeve has stamped all over it “biowrap” and “degradable”. Guess what? A lot of the time, that means absolutely zip. In fact, from what I’ve heard, these are usually worse than your standard plastic bags, because it simply means they break up into smaller microplastics faster than other plastic bags.
It’s hard to know what the truth is sometimes, and I certainly don’t have the experience to provide a definitive answer. but my advice would be if there’s an alternative that doesn’t involve plastic, then that’s the winner every time. Otherwise, here’s some further reading on the subject:
- 1 Million Women
- Shop Naturally
- Check out the War on Waste on ABC iView – Craig Reucassel explores this too!
Plastic bin liner solutions
Finally, a word on bin liners. As you probably know, Coles and Woolworths announced they are phasing out free plastic bags. Which prompts the question, what do we do about bin liners? The answer is absolutely NOT to go out and purchase plastic bin liners from the cleaning aisle of your local supermarket – even if they say they’re safe (see greenwashing, above). That completely defeats the purpose of a plastic bag ban.
One of the best things you can do, is get a composting system for your home. To me the only benefit of a plastic bin liner is that it’s waterproof – i.e. your food waste won’t leak out of it. But, if you eliminate food waste from going into your bin, there’s no need for plastic. I’m not qualified to go into details about all the different composting systems, but I can tell you about my own experience with a bokashi bin. This is a form of composting that’s perfect if you don’t have a backyard, or don’t want to deal with worms and smelly outdoor bins. It ferments the food scraps with the assistance of an organic accelerator spray. I just started using mine, and so far, so good. The bin is small, it fits under my bench, I put my food scraps in there, spray it and I’m done.
Adding my scraps in there means my rubbish bin only has dry rubbish in it – and it’s very minimal because most of the rubbish I produce is recyclable cardboard or glass packaging, and the occasional plastic item. Also, where I used to take my bag of rubbish out to my kerbside bin several times a week because it was getting smelly from food scraps, I now only have one small bag of rubbish per week. And who knows? Maybe that will decrease further as I take more steps to reduce rubbish.
As for what I will be using to line my bin when I finally rid myself of bags – my plan is to become an origami pro and try newspaper!
- I keep forgetting to add this each week, but I guess technically the tetra packs my soy milk comes in counts as plastic. It’s such a shame. Wouldn’t it be nice if it could be purchased in glass bottles?
- As already mentioned, my “hangry” plastics: Coca Cola bottle, plastic straw, Aero chocolate wrapper
- I ran out of produce bags and had to use a plastic bag to purchase a loaf of bread. But, that bag is staying with me to be reused as an emergency bread bag.
- I finally finished my bathroom cleaner – the spray bottle is rinsed, ready for a batch of homemade cleaner.
- I was really hoping I could say plastic bags for good, but, alas, I found another stash! But I’m close. I’m really close!
There’s so many things that didn’t fit into Plastic Free July, but that I will explore over the coming months. On my list:
- I purchased a selection of samples of solid shampoo bars
- Using up more household cleaners to be replaced with homemade ones
- Making my own cotton rounds to decrease the amount of cotton wool pads I buy. This will mean less plastic packaging, and also less waste.
- Using the last of my non-compostable tea bags, and making the switch to loose-leaf teas
I hope your plastic-free journeys are going well. If you have any tips (especially if it relates to the origami bin liners!) please leave a comment below.