Second of our blog series for @PlasticFreeJuly By Marianne Jordan, founder of local plastic-free support group Ethical Fridays (@ethical_fridays on Instagram) and winner of St Albans Mayor’s Pride Award “Environmentalist of the Year 2020”
The big picture
Plastic does not bio-degrade, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still in the world somewhere. According to The Guardian, 38.5 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK and only half are recycled. The UK produces more waste than it can process and since China stopped accepting waste for recycling, there is a massive issue of what to do with it all.
So where is the plastic coming from? According to Break Free From Plastic’s global beach audit, the world’s most polluting company is Coca Cola. Their plastic packaging has been found in significant amounts across all the world’s oceans and beaches. This is followed by the other big brands (in descending order from most polluting): Nestle, Pepsico, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars, Colgate-Palmolive, Perfetti van Melle.
These big multi-nationals need to take responsibility for the pollution they are creating and recycling their own plastic, and as consumers we need to drive change through our choices.
As a consumer you have the power to stop creating waste and support the smaller, local producers and manufacturers with better sustainability policies and practices and to hit the multinationals where it hurts – in their pockets.
There are lots of great small companies in the UK making all sorts of plastic-free, sustainable products.
So, this week, let’s look at some ideas to rid your bathroom of polluting plastics and support these small businesses at the same time:
Refill your plastic bottles with toilet cleaner at Eat Wholefoods warehouse (Hatfield Road, St Albans) or The Refill Pantry (London Road, St Albans). Postal refills are available from Splosh (based in Wales) and Fill (based in Northampton.) ‘Natural bleach‘ powder is available from Mangle & Wringer (Gloucestershire), which gives a satisfying fizz as you add it to the loo with hot water.
To get rid of stains cause by limescale, use a box of citric acid powder (available in Wilko’s or Robert Dyas) dissolved in a bucket of warm water. Pour into clean toilet and leave overnight. You hardly need to scrub in the morning, just flush and admire! Also works for limescale build up around plugholes and showers.
Save your bathroom spray bottles for refilling at The Refill Pantry or get refills online from Splosh, Fill, Iron & Velvet (Dudley) and Ocean Saver (Yorkshire). These all have bathroom cleaner, floor cleaner and window /glass cleaner.
The Refill Pantry also sells white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Or try something different with Mangle & Wringer’s bathroom balm in an aluminium tin, wipe on and rinse off. Great for bathtubs. Don’t forget to use compostable scrubbers/brushes/sponges as well or cut an old towel into squares.
No, I’m not hoarding, I’m just getting my regular order of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper! Why fight for plastic-wrapped, forest-depleting toilet paper in a supermarket when you can get recycled or bamboo-based, paper wrapped, charity-supporting toilet paper delivered in a box? Cheeky Panda also deliver boxes of bamboo toilet paper.
Bamboo is really soft but be aware both of the above are made in China. For toilet paper made in the UK from 100% UK recycled paper, try Ecoleaf (4 and 9 pack in compostable wrap) or Essential Trading (in compostable wrap.)
Toothpaste – take a tablet?
Plastic toothpaste tubes are not collected for recycling (see below for specialist drop off points) so this is definitely something which needs swapping.
How about trying toothpaste tablets? Just chew, then brush with a wetted brush. There are tablets with and without fluoride. Denttabs are available from The Refill Pantry; Brushd and EcoLiving are available online or you can set up a subsciptions for a monthly delivery with Brush Fresh or The White Teeth Box For toothpaste without fluoride there are a range of pastes and powders in glass jars available online and in The Refill Pantry, e.g. Georganics and Truthpaste, which both have a kid-friendly orange flavour paste.
There is also the Phase Out Plastic stall at St Albans market; during lockdown the stall has been closed but they will deliver if you message them. They have a delivery box bundle including Truthpaste.
Bamboo toothbrushes are all the rage, nowadays. Bamboo is fast growing and has natural anti-bacterial properties, but bear in mind the bristles are still made from plastic. You need to break the bristles off before popping the bamboo in the compost.
Bamboo brushes are sold in the Refill Pantry, the Phase Out Plastic market stall, and many places online, some are sold in packs with different colour bristles for each family member or you can just write your name on them. You can even set up a subscription at www.wearebristle.com However, if you still have a perfectly functional electric toothbrush, there are now recyclable plastic toothbrush heads you can buy from LiveCoco and Brushd. Both companies give you an envelope to send your used brushes back for recycling.
Keep all your old plastic toothpaste tubes, packaging and brushes to recycle at a Terracycle collection point (High Oaks Dental Practice, St Albans; Wayside Dental Practice, Harpenden) – This is not a green light to keep buying more plastic stuff! Just a way to get rid of what you already have. Terracycle collect other hard-to-recycle items, such as contact lens cases or pet food pouches. Search https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/brigades/ to find out more.
Mouthwash tablets and floss
Dental Floss can be made from cornfibre or silk, but double check that it is 100% plastic-free, as some may still contain a bit of polyester. Others are biodegradable but check if you can home compost. Bambaw, Georganics and Tevra all make floss packaged in glass jars, refills available. Georganics also make various flavours of dissolvable mouthwash tablets for gargling, sold in glass jars. Mouthwash tablets and silk floss in Refill Pantry.
Swapping to bars of soap is a great way to reduce plastic (and carbon footprint) but rather than throw a perfectly functional soap dispenser away, you can refill it with handwash at Eat Wholefoods warehouse, The Refill Pantry and online through Tincture, Splosh, Fill, Conscious Skincare etc.
If you want palm-oil free bars of soap (and who wouldn’t?) try Friendly Soap (Refill Pantry and the Phase Out Plastic market stall), Alter/Native, Oliva, Primal Suds, Neal’s Yard or Lush, to name a few. Also support all the small local soap makers out there. A selection of palm oil free soaps can be found on Ethical Superstore or Peace With The Wild , and also from local social enterprise Aerende.
You can refill your bottles at Eat Wholefoods and The Refill Pantry, but why not try a bar of soap? If you are really not ready to go zero waste, buy bodywash in a glass or aluminium bottle eg Neal’s Yard, Conscious Skincare. But really, just try soap. There are so many to choose from.
Shampoo and conditioner
Again, your bottles can be refilled at the usual places, but have you tried a shampoo or conditioner bar? Both Lush and Refill Pantry sell a selection of these, so there will be one to suit your hair type. There are loads more online e.g. Friendly Soap, Manmane, Wild Sage & Co, Primal Suds, Bain & Savon ( based in Cumbria) etc.
According to Mutiny, over 4 billion plastic disposable razors are thrown into landfill every year. Plastic-free re-usable metal razors and blades can be bought at The Refill Pantry and online, suitable for both men and women.
Be sure to store your used blades in a blade bank until ready to recycle eg Mutiny’s Razor Blade Bank.
Instead of shaving foam from an aerosol can, shave the old fashioned (and fun) way by making your own lather with a cream or bar. Try Conscious Skincare Fuzz Off Shave Gel in aluminium bottle, Peace with the Wild Shaving Cream in aluminium tin or go totally zero waste with one of the many shaving bars out there eg Friendly Soap Shaving Bar, Mutiny’s “Black Pearl” shaving soap.
Shaving brushes are traditionally made with badger fur (and you can still buy them – who would kill a wild animal just to shave?) so the best alternative is to use synthetic (plastic) bristles with a wooden handle. Mutiny and Wild Sage & Co shaving brushes are animal-free and come in plastic-free packaging.
For those who shun shaving, Rugged Nature sell a natural beard kit with beard oil, beard balm, scissors and a wooden comb in a cotton bag, or for a vegan beard balm try Flawless or Mutiny. Manmane makes a range of vegan-friendly moustache waxes, beard balms and oils as well as beard soap and shaving soap. It also sells Inxfix Tattoo Conditioning Salve & Revivier.
I have spent so much money on natural deodorants over the years, trying to find the perfect one – this is one product that you have to get right! My personal favourites are Biork crystal stick in cork packaging for weekends (Refill Pantry) and Lush Sunflower Deodorant Bar, bar for workdays (online only). Yes it is more expensive than a roll-on, but it lasts for a good 9 months. If you want to know how well it works – ask my colleagues! Lush has a range of deodorant bars and powders. Other deodorant bars I’ve yet to try are Primal Suds NO BO bars, based in Hampshire) Kutis deodorant sticks in cardboard and pastes such as FitPit or Earth Conscious (Refill Pantry and online.)
Plastic tampon applicators are single use and are found washed up on beaches all over the UK. The Womens’s Environmental Network have shown that tampons themselves also contain up to 6% plastic material and pads are made of up to 90% plastic (Women’s Environmental Network). It is time to swap to a more sustainable alternative.
There are 3 types of reusable period products: washable pads, washable pants and silicone menstrual cups, each with various designs. There are an increasing number of companies making each type and although they are a big investment up front, it is so worth it, as they will last for years.
Wuka period pants are a local business and are designed in St Albans by local environmentalist Ruby Raut, so definitely one to check out: find them in many Sainsburys stores including St Albans. For a list of all plastic-free brands check out campaigner Ella Daish’s blog
Other bits and pieces
Face creams, cleansing bars, make-up, make-up removers, scrubs, hand and foot creams as well as washable make-up remover pads, shower puffs, exfoliating mitts – all of these can be bought without plastic. All of the companies named above will do some or all of these, or try Plastic Freedom, The Plastic Free Shop, Kempii, and so many others. Start experimenting with some new brands and discover a whole new beauty routine! Be proud of your plastic-free bathroom.
Next time we will be looking at food packaging.