My name is Becky, I’m 30 years old and work as a Transport Planner. I live with my husband and our dog Daisy.
I have always thought of myself as pretty environmentally-conscious, I try to cycle and walk everywhere, and I’ve always recycled and composted where possible. Since programmes such as Blue Planet I have become more aware of the issue of plastics.
However, it wasn’t until I saw ‘Plastic Free July’ being promoted by SCAN and Sarah Church that I really started reading up on the issue of plastics. These two facts convinced me to take on the challenge:
- Only about 9% of the plastic we send to be recycled actually gets processed, and rather than being recycled, it gets ‘downcycled’ into something like garden furniture, which in turn cannot be recycled again.
- Every bit of plastic I use daily is going to outlive me! I might only use that plastic fork for a few minutes at most but that is going to still be floating around somewhere long after I’m gone.
The Changes I’ve Made So Far
Prior to the ‘Plastic Free July’ challenge we had already started reducing plastics in the bathroom. We’d switched to bar soap and shampoo from Lush, I bought a proper razor and stopped using disposables and I’d discovered the wonders of the Menstrual Cup (it’s fantastic!).
So, we thought, “what the hell, how hard can it be to reduce plastic elsewhere?”. We were already receiving a weekly fruit and veg box delivery from Riverford, where packaging is minimised, but what I really struggled with was cheese! Being vegetarian I suppose I had an over-reliance on cheese. I soon realised that shopping at big supermarkets was not going to work. Instead I took to my local independent shops, many of which I had never used before.
I found that local businesses were much more open to helping me in my challenge, and I discovered places such as ‘Dapaolo Simply Italian’ who were happy to sell me cheese in my own container. I found herbs and spices available loose in ‘Pulse’, and how they sell items such as porridge oats, rice and grains in bulk and re-use packaging bags.
I found fresh yeast available in my local Polish Delicatessen, this enabled me to learn how to make dough and solve the issue of plastic-wrapped pizzas and loaves of bread. Pizzas have never tasted so good, and by preparing dough in bulk and then freezing it I had a readymade pizza base whenever I wanted! Crisps were also a challenge, so we looked for alternatives. We learnt the perfect technique for making popcorn from scratch, and have recently discovered how quick and easy it is to make toffee popcorn!
Over the month I read more about reducing plastic waste, which led me to discovering that it’s not just about swapping a plastic bag for a paper one but reducing waste all together. There wasn’t some magical land where all the waste we threw away went, it just was out of sight so out of mind…passing my problem to someone else to deal with. This led me to really think about reducing our waste in general.
Since we were moving house in July we took the opportunity to downsize our bin. Like most people we had a waste bin in every room of the house and a large kitchen bin. I’d noticed over the last year with the reduction in plastic in the bathroom I rarely needed to empty the bathroom bin, this got me thinking, do we actually need a bin in every room of the house? Our small bathroom bin is now the only bin in the house and it is now in the kitchen. Making it harder to throw things away has made us consider everything we throw away and find ways to re-purpose, repair, re-use and reduce our waste. We used to have a blue bin bag full of waste every fortnight, we now barely have a carrier bags worth of waste over 6 weeks, it really is incredible how the challenge has helped change our habits!
This challenge did not come easy to us though. We didn’t manage to get through July without plastic, we found it sneakily hidden everywhere. I also ended up losing half a stone of weight due to the difficulties in finding food in the first few weeks! Furthermore, we soon realised that we’d go hungry at lunchtime if we didn’t bring a packed lunch to work (supermarket options were all plastic-wrapped!).
Since July we have changed so many of our habits and I’m discovering the joys of cooking and crafting, due to buying in bulk and making from scratch I rarely need to go food shopping either! We soon realised that currently, living in Swindon, we were unable to live a normal life completely plastic-free. We do still buy diary products in plastic where there is no other option, but this is much less than before. It’s also our fortnightly bin collection tomorrow and for the first time I haven’t even got a carrier-bag full of plastic to put out for collection!
My New Year’s Resolutions
We have done pretty well since July at learning how to cook things from scratch and adopting new habits to minimise waste but we can always do better! I used to rely heavily on ‘Quorn’, which predominately comes in plastic, I’d like to work on finding better ways to use beans and pulses as an alternative to this. I’m interested in making more things from scratch such as cleaning agents, cooking sauces etc. It’s really given me a sense of enjoyment and empowerment realising that I can make all sorts of things from a few basic raw ingredients and don’t need to buy all this pre-prepared food. I am also keen to try making an ‘ecobrick’, where you put any plastic you use into a bottle and build things out of it. It’s all about taking responsibility for your plastic waste and not giving it to someone else to deal with. All in all I would strongly encourage others to try doing a ‘Plastic-Free’ month, it was a fantastic learning experience and we have really change for the better as a result!