Happy New Year everyone. It’s 2018 and my One Year Zero Plastic challenge is up. It’s been an interesting one and, though not completely zero plastic, it’s been 99% plastic free.
This is most of my 2017 accumulated plastic*, which, I have to admit, I will be very glad to put in the recycling bin and get rid of it all! As you can see, if I had eliminated milk and apples, I’d have been down to very little. The bottom left corner is from packages through the post – Birthday and Christmas presents, but I’ll save most of it for reuse. The pile of plastic bags in the middle was from my buttons. The sunglasses were a necessary purchase one weekend when I went away without my prescription sunglasses. I had to get something light enough to fit over my own glasses. And the plunger was a last minute purchase on Christmas Eve when I realised that baking soda and vinegar were just not unblocking my handbasin. At 4.30pm on Christmas Eve, hunting in different shops for a wooden handled one was not really an option.
I did also salvage a takeaway food container from work and took some Lewis Road chocolate butter home to bake with as it was going to waste.
The container was to use as a compost caddy. It wasn’t a great solution and so yesterday, I splurged on a Joseph Joseph compost caddy. Yes, it’s plastic but having done some research, it seems that despite stainless steel or enamelled steel, metal doesn’t like citrus juice and wet coffee grounds and gradually rusts. I found a crockery one, but inside was plastic and it was an odd shape as well as being too big for my needs. Mine now sits nicely out of sight under the sink rather than using up valuable counter space.
I also bought these drawers which have laminate back and sides. But they were second hand and I expect will last me decades.
I’ve been asked a number of times if I’ll keep going. Any doubts I had were soon silenced when I read about how much plastic would be stockpiled next year. With China closing their doors to plastic recycling from abroad everyone is going to have to think harder about plastic. It confirms the growing realisation that recycling is a stopgap measure rather than a solution. I don’t know what’s going to happen but mainstream TV like Blue Planet highlighting the issues will hopefully mean that it doesn’t all go into landfill. If you’re interested, Greenpeace have made this little calculator to give you an idea how much disposable plastic you use. I’ve gone from about 1,500 pieces in 2016 to zero.
When I look back at my first post last year, I’ve achieved most of what I set out to do. What I didn’t realise even as I was doing it, was how much mental effort was involved. I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of ‘experiments’ that I expected done because just relearning how to do the basics of shopping and cooking without plastic took way more thinking than I expected. To be honest, there were a few weekends where I happily ate bread and butter for every meal because anything else involved too much work.
I think I’ve got into a rhythm now and this year, I’m planning to balance things a bit more. I won’t be completely zero plastic – things like the compost bin or glass storage with plastic lids make sense – but do hope to keep to the zero disposable/single use plastic. In addition, I’m going to target paper, which seems to be my next biggest waste. I’ve no ambitions to reduce my waste to fit in a glass jar, but some things should be fairly easy so I’m giving them a go.
I cut up a favourite top (which was pretty threadbare) to use as handkerchiefs in October, to see if I could manage as any I’ve seen in shops are very stiff. They work great and the bonus is if they get left in my pocket in the washing machine no tissue disasters! A cracked plastic flour container makes a great receptacle for used ones.
Odd as it seems, I quite like the idea that I’ve prolonged the life of an old favourite rather than just throwing it out.
The other thing on my paper hit list is brown paper bags. Most of the bakeries or bakery sections in the supermarket put goods in paper bags. Which is all well and good until you realise how many of them you’ve picked up.
I’m taking a 2 pronged approach to stop myself picking up paper bags that this year. One, make sure I have my own produce bags with me all the time and two, bake rather than buy. One of this years experiments will be breadmaking and another is scones as I’ve yet to master them. There will be no savoury scones in my kitchen though.
So here’s to ongoing ‘mostly plastic free’ living. If a town can do it, then so can I!
* I have also found 2 bottles of medicated shampoo, a box of dental floss and 2 toothpaste tubes hiding in the bathroom.