My Plastic Free Blog – Ben

About Me

I’m an organiser with SCAN and am coordinating the Plastic Free Swindon campaign. I have been an active campaigner for the last four years and am dedicated to making positive change. It has given my life much purpose. Besides campaigning, I love to sing and play guitar around Swindon. Spread the love, as a good friend always says.

I make further considerations when buying products which have made the transition to being plastic-free more difficult. I buy almost entirely from independent, local shops as I recognise the many benefits of doing so. I only buy vegan produce so as not to cause suffering to animals. And I mostly buy local organic produce – good for the environment and local people / economy. Good for me.

Changes Made So Far:

I now keep my diet fairly simple by buying whole foods. It is cheaper and healthier than buying processed food. Swindon Pulse Wholefoods provide a range of organic vegetables, many of them provided loose from local sources. Some, such as spinach and kale, are served in plastic bags. This is how they are supplied to Pulse. So, until a non-plastic option becomes available, I won’t buy them. I tend to buy apples as there is a lot of variety and they are local. I also buy loose Fair Trade bananas and oranges.

I eat bread every day. I couldn’t find a suitable local option to buy bread so I decided to have a go at making my own. My first efforts were not so good. Over time though, I have come to love making bread, it’s fun and good exercise. I often sing whilst doing so. The bread loves me back. It’s delicious and doesn’t cost much, about £1 a loaf. The flour comes in bulk; the price of a 16kg paper sack is just over £20. I use spreads such as jam, pickle, chutney and peanut butter, which come in glass jars with metal lids. I have been reusing the jars for herbs and spices but may soon run out of personal uses for them. Return schemes would be good. I buy organic rapeseed and olive oil for cooking. The bottles have unnecessary plastic drip pourers (not sure of the proper term) inside; am seeking alternatives.

I now eat organic porridge for breakfast. In bulk, it comes in a paper sack (25kg) which works out to a good price for providing such a nutritious start to the day. The oats keep for a long time this way.

Eating a vegan diet, I get a much of my protein from beans, pulses and lentils. Sadly, Pulse don’t sell them loose. So, I have been buying them in tins, which is not ideal. I don’t currently eat rice or pasta as I can only find them in plastic.

Photo of a small bunch of Liqourice roots tied with a bit of string
Liquorice as a replacement for toothpaste

I’ve stopped using toothpaste, with its plastic tubing and poisonous fluoride, to using salt and chewing on a stick of liquorice. I use a bamboo toothbrush, which is not ideal due to the bristles containing some nylon. It’s a lot better than a fully plastic one though. Hopefully, a better option will come to the fore soon.

I use very little dish-washing detergent as water is usually sufficient to clean off plant matter. Pulse offer a refill service for several products. For keeping myself clean, I buy loose organic soap and shampoo bars from Pulse or Lush. I use apple cider vinegar and lemon for cleaning everything from kitchen work surfaces to the toilet. Cloths are old T-shirts. I am not yet sure what to do about detergent for washing clothes. A friend kindly bought me a Cora Ball for Christmas. You put it in the washing machine with the clothes and it collects plastic microfibres that are released during washing. The WI have been running a campaign to raise awareness and take action on plastic microfibres.

I carry a bag with other bags in it everywhere I go. I would like to see plastic bags banned, they have been in some countries. Why do we need to continually create bags that get used once? Many charity shops provide reused carrier bags for people who haven’t brought a bag with them. Why can’t the supermarkets and other big businesses do the same? I went to Ireland years ago and they had boxes in the corner for people to put their groceries in. Why not do that? Another option would be to only sell fabric bags.

I carry a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of places in Swindon that support the Refill scheme such as Baristocats and Pulse (the first local businesses to do so). I love Refill, it’s simple and makes a big difference. Refill Swindon (web / Facebook) has been set up and organised by Hollie, who was involved in the Plastic Free Falmouth campaign (web / Facebook). I would like to help the project grow in Swindon, it is one of my focuses for 2019.

I occasionally buy take-away food when I’m out. When I do, I make sure to get it in brown paper, cardboard or compostable containers such as the ones used by Indy’s cafe. Having conversations with cafe and restaurant owners raises awareness and encourages change. For instance, the people of the outdoor cafe in town have been looking into alternatives to polystyrene containers. They now serve me chips in brown paper bags, which other people have also started asking for. Be the change… it works!

How much Sellotape or similar gets used in a day? With Christmas just gone, I ‘m not sure that I want to know. There are alternatives to plastic tape such as rubber bands, paper tape and string. However, I tried using rubber bands and reused cardboard to send a birthday present. I was really proud of my cobbled-together package. But I was told that it could not be accepted as it may get stuck in the machines used to sort parcels.

Most other things that I buy come from charity shops, mainly books, films and clothes. Why buy new? Isn’t there already enough stuff in the world? Having reduced consumption and waste, I am able to afford organic food, am healthier and so is the planet. Holistic understanding – it’s all important / related; what exists in isolation?

New Year’s Resolution:

I used some plastic in 2018 and was given items packaged with it. I have a bag containing my plastic waste for the year and from which I plan to make ecobricks for the new Ecobricks Swindon group.

I would like to be completely waste free by the end of 2019 at the latest, am involved in setting up the new zero waste shop, signed up for Wiltshire Wildlife’s ‘Waste Free February‘, involved with a sustainability event, Sustainable Choices, in Shrivenham in March. Then it’s Ecofest in Swindon in April. Hope to learn much from being involved in these events and will pass on that knowledge to help us move towards zero waste.

Plans for going waste free include:
– Making apple cider vinegar. Fairly easy to make and has a variety of uses, from cleaning to detox.
– Replacing toilet tissue. It is unnecessary and has negative environmental impacts through deforestation, transportation and chemicals used in bleaching and recycling. Those chemicals are also not good in contact with our bodies. So, I am going to find clothes that aren’t wanted by charity shops, cut them into rags and use them with water instead of toilet paper. There will be a container by the toilet and I will boil, wash and reuse them.

Looking forward to 2019, there are a lot of positives as we start the year. Momentum is building around environmental issues which is heartening and much-needed. To travel the path, first we must be the path…