Plastic Free July: My Honest Account
Written by Charlotte Dutton
Last month, inspired by the BBC One programme: War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita, who over the series highlighted the shocking truths of our plastic consumption. I decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon and really reflect on what I could do to reduce my own impact. I have written my honest experience; it is safe to say it isn’t a fairy-tale ending with a plastic-free happily ever after account of things, but it has opened my eyes to where I and others can reduce waste.
At the start of the July 2019, much in the same way Hugh did in Bristol, I decided to look at all the single use plastic in my life, a bit like opening Pandora’s box! I discovered that committing to a plastic free life when out/ travelling is difficult without proper preparation, and the kitchen was somewhat of a disaster but I had a relative amount of success in the bathroom, with some plastic products lined up to change in the future once they are finished.
As a Graduate Consultant, on a Graduate salary, money is an obstacle. One I became painfully aware of whilst trying to reduce my plastic consumption during the weekly food shop. When trying to shop ‘plastic packaging free’, it meant I wasn’t able to buy 80% of my usual items, but the alternative options were out of budget.
Out and About
I re-used empty jam/honey jars as storage containers, invested in Tupperware of all shapes and sizes and bought an extra water bottle for my car. I drive a lot – usually to the beach for surfing, to the gym or visiting friends and I like to keep hydrated. I found, an extra bottle in the boot of the car stops me heading somewhere, realising I need some water and resorting to plastic. I don’t notice it’s there half the time, but since I did it at the start of July, I haven’t bought a single plastic bottle of water! (Mini Victory Dance)
The Weekly Shop
Aldi had a limited choice of plastic free fruit and veg; broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce, bananas… all wrapped in plastic. When I looked at other supermarkets, I found it was often the case that the plastic free option was again, the more expensive option. Of course there are local grocery stores and farm shops, which have the added benefit of reduced air miles and supporting local business, but I found they still have an increased price tag, and aren’t easily accessible for everyone and usually closed after 5pm.
I would gladly pay more for my food, shop locally and choose the plastic free options, but on top of rent, bills and fuel, I’d have very little money to put into savings or to enjoy life outside of work. My immediate thought is, it shouldn’t be this hard! It’s easy to see how we have such a reliance on single use plastic when the decision for many is as easy as ‘cheap and convenient’. The financial aspect of making a plastic free or more eco friendly choice is something that I struggled with in pretty much every decision I made, and I found it really frustrating.
Home Cleaning Products
Switching out dish brushes/ sponges for a natural coconut option, using a cloth and spray rather than one use surface wipes and using Ocean Saver refillable cleaning products. My housemate and I are also experimenting with less chemical based cleaners – citric acid, white vinegar, bicarb of soda – things your Nan definitely knows about, but they work! I could also purchase glass spray bottles, and refillable bottles for detergent, but this is a work in progress.
I invested in a solid shampoo and conditioner bar, ditched the shower gel products for solid soap/body wash bar options, purchased a traditional razor and made my own body scrub. You can find loads of ‘recipes’ for body scrub online, and you don’t need to spend much at all. The one I made is a mix of coconut oil, sugar, lemon and honey – which also doubles as an in-shower moisturiser!
Coconut Oil, purchased in a glass jar, has a myriad of uses; hair conditioner, make-up remover and shaving gel!
I’m still searching for alternative products for my skin care routine, unfortunately cost is the problem again! The products I currently buy, set me back no more than £10 every couple of months. The same products, in a plastic free variant (or in Lush’s non-virgin plastic, which I’m counting as re-usable) would cost me over £40 – A commitment I would love to make, especially as a huge fan of Lush’s products, but I can’t financially make that commitment at the moment.
The financial implications of making plastic free swaps can’t be overlooked, I think a lot of people my age are in the same situation and feel the same way. We want to reduce our impact, we understand that most packaging is now used just once and thrown away, which is damaging our environment, but why do customers have to foot the bill for this change???