The Big Picture: why do we need to go Plastic Free?
Plastic-Free July is a great time to start or continue down your journey to cut out single-use plastic. I’m sure many of you are keen to do this, but when faced with supermarket aisles full of plastic, it is very hard not to just automatically pick up what is being pushed at you.
Did you know that plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas, and the oil and gas industry is desperate to keep making money so is pushing plastic as the new way to keep their coffers full, now that there are so many renewable forms of energy?
For PlasticFreeJuly we have a series of 5 blogs you can read throughout July – written by Marianne Jordan – who is the founder of local plastic-free support group Ethical Fridays @ethical_fridays Marianne is the winner of St Albans Mayor’s Pride Award “Environmentalist of the Year 2020
According to the documentary film “The Story of Plastic,” a massive pipeline has been constructed across America to pipe all that newly fracked gas to the East Coast, where it is shipped to the INEOS plastic plant at Grangemouth, Scotland.
INEOS (Yes! those people who sponsor British Cycling) is the company who turn fracked gas into tiny plastic pellets called nurdles which are then used to make all types of plastic items. Go to any beach in the world and you will find nurdles in the sand.
According to the Nurdlehunt charity, as many as 35 tankers full of these tiny lightweight floating plastics enter the sea every year from the UK alone, that is 53 billion pellets with no way of removing them. Once in the ocean, more harmful chemicals bond to them and they are eaten by all types of marine life and have been found in the stomachs of countless fish, birds and mammals. See more about nurdles here.
We’ve got your back! – how to take action, bit by bit..
By now you are anxious to know what you can do to stop this. Each week during Plastic Free July, we will tackle a different part of the problem, including food packaging, your bathroom, your desk/gifts, and which companies are the big plastic-producing (and therefore plastic polluting) companies. This week, we will start with some easy swaps in…
I’m sure the cupboard under your sink is full of plastic bottles, plastic sponges, plastic scrubbers, plastic brushes and plastic microfiber wipes.
All of these can be swapped for plastic-free versions.
Plastic free washing up?
Washing Up Liquid: No need to buy a single-use bottle of washing up liquid ever again! Instead save the empty bottle to be refilled at both The Refill Pantry (London Road) and Eat Wholefoods warehouse (Hatfield Road), both St Albans.
If you can’t get to these, try one of the refill delivery services:
Glass bottles: if you prefer to eliminate all plastic from your house, invest in a glass bottle with dispenser (Refill Pantry or online). Tincture sells gentle chemical-free washing up liquid refills in amber glass bottles and Fill has various cleaning products in clear glass.
Washing up bars: go totally bottle-free with a solid washing up bar see online at:
Plastic sponges break down into tiny microplastics as you use them, which then get into the water system
Sponges and brushes
There is now a big range of washing up sponges, brushes and scrubbers made from natural biodegradable materials. Plastic sponges break down into tiny microplastics as you use them, which then get into the water system, so swapping to a sponge made of plant cellulose will help stop this problem. Some are available from The Refill Pantry, and also look online. When lockdown allows, you can also buy these and much more at the St Albans market from the Phase Out Plastic stall; In #lockdown at the time of writing, if you message them through Facebook they will deliver.
Plastic-free dishwasher tablets are available from Wilko’s (Doesn’t Cost the Earth range), Aldi (Eco-Action), Refill Pantry (Ecoleaf) or Ocado (Attitude) or how about subscribing to one of the refill delivery services such as Splosh, Fill or Smol?
Rinse aid: White vinegar works well as a rinse aid, but the Refill Pantry sells actual rinse aid. Online, Fill rinse aid comes in a glass bottle.
Dishwasher Salt: Find dishwasher salt in cardboard, e.g. Sainsbury’s and Ocado’s own brand 1kg boxes. Or visit Letchworth’s refill shop: Bamboo Turtle, which sells loose dishwasher salt and tablets, as well as citric acid, laundry powder and various cleaners.
A lot of your cleaning can be done with just white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Bicarb is good for cleaning sinks and baths and vinegar is good for glass, backsplashes, kitchen surfaces (not granite) and tiles. Look online for more. Both of these are available as refills at the Refill Pantry, along with multi-surface cleaner and toilet cleaner. Dri-Pak boxes of Bicarbonate of Soda, Borax Substitute and Citric Acid can be found in Wilko’s and Robert Dyas. However, if you can’t give up your scented spray cleaner just yet, there are lots of refills available.
Soaking some orange peel in white vinegar for 2 weeks gives it a citrus scent and adds to the cleaning power. Fill half a spray bottle with vinegar then top up with water for an all-purpose cleaning spray.
Iron & Velvet produce dissolvable sachets of surface cleaner, anti-bacterial surface cleaner, oven cleaner, glass & mirror cleaner, floor cleaner (and some bathroom products). Just pop one into an empty spray bottle filled with water, give it a shake and off you go! Some of these can be found at The Refill Pantry.
Ocean Saver also produce dissolvable sachets of multi-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, kitchen cleaner, anti-bacterial cleaner, floor cleaner and wooden floor cleaner (and bathroom cleaner) and can be found in the M&S at London Colney.
Why not make some washable kitchen towels by cutting up some old vests or a towel?
Laundry liquid and fabric conditioner can be refilled at Eat Wholefoods warehouse and The Refill Pantry, so save your bottles to be refilled. For online see Splosh which do various laundry liquids, fabric conditioner and stain remover in different scents. If you prefer liquid capsules, Smol will post you laundry capsules in a plastic-free cardboard box with a child-lock mechanism.
Laundry powder is relatively easy to find, but brands without harsh chemicals are Ecover, which comes without a plastic scoop and is in most supermarkets; Bio-D washing powder in a brown paper sack available through Ocado and online or Mangle & Wringer pure laundry powder in a paper sack (online).
But for a really low carbon option, try some Laundry Detergent Sheets by Simply Living Eco (Refill Pantry) or Tru Earth Laundry Strips. These are very lightweight sheets of detergent which have a very low transport cost and very little packaging. For completely chemical-free alternatives, try Ecoegg (Robert Dyas etc) or natural Soapnuts (Refill Pantry).