My name is Lesley. I am a 59 year old grandmother from Swindon.
I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to start reducing plastics. It’s been bothering me more and more over the last year or two. I was shocked to learn about the plastic recycling myth and that so little plastic is actually able to be recycled. Before then I hadn’t considered the impact of the UK’s large scale shipping of plastic waste across the world and that it is not truly known what happens to it. Having your plastic picked up from the doorstep lulls you into a false sense of security. I blindly believed that plastic was properly recycled. How wrong I was!
Our out of control use of plastic is totally mad. We are ruining our planet. During my lifetime we have gone from hardly anything wrapped in plastic to today where it is almost impossible to buy anything not double wrapped in plastic and quite often in a box as well. So after 50 years of the ramping up of plastic packaging, look where we are now with landfill overflowing and our rivers and oceans stacked with stuff and even more sinister the invisible plastic particles in our water system getting into the food chain. What will the next 50 years be like if we don’t do something about it now?
It would be nice to think that businesses or the government would sort it out and quickly. But the changes needed are far too slow. Unfortunately I think it is only consumer habits that will force the system to change. Businesses are interested in profits not the planet. Plastic helps them make bigger profits, so although supermarkets are paying lip service to change none of them are acting fast enough.
I can’t wait any longer for the right legislation or for businesses to do what is necessary. I refuse to perpetuate the plastic disease.
The Changes I’ve Made So Far
My first attempt at reducing plastic was in response to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts ‘Waste Free February’ campaign, last year. I signed up in advance on Facebook and started to practice a few weeks ahead. I didn’t really get it at first and started worrying about things I couldn’t recycle on the doorstep like Tetra-packs. Instead of throwing them out I kept them and looked for a recycling solution but apparently it is very difficult to separate the card from the plastic and there is nowhere local to take them. Unfortunately they ended up in the waste after all. For everything else I did my best to go waste free during February but I wasn’t very good at it!
I didn’t want to give up and decided my next attempt would be more gradual. It takes quite a big effort to find alternatives and since my first attempt I realised that I couldn’t count recycling plastic as being waste-free!
My next strategy was to analyse my waste at the end of each week and find alternatives for the biggest and most common items and so to eliminate a few things at a time.
The first few weeks I found that veg, milk and yogurt packaging were my biggest waste items. I started getting a veg box delivered. The veg is unwrapped and the box can be reused 10-20 times. I also get milk delivered in glass bottles which are returned to the dairy and I’m now making my own yogurt. The veg and milk is a bit more expensive, but the home-made yogurt is much cheaper and extremely easy to make overnight. This has saved loads of plastic.
Finding an alternative to Soya milk was more difficult and those awful tetra-packs had to go. Someone told me Oat milk was easy to make so I tried that. Yes, it’s easy but I didn’t like it much and it is higher in carbs. Instead I invested in a Soup and Milk Maker and found out just how easy it is to make my own Soya milk. I soak dried Soya Beans overnight, then add it to the milk maker with water and a few dates to sweeten it slightly. Really nice. It’s so easy I realised I didn’t actually need the appliance, but I do like using it for milk making and also using up any left over veg for soup. No waste – great!
After that plastic bottles, cartons and dried food bags were my next most common items, such as fizzy drinks, shampoo, meat, bags of pasta and rice and the inner plastic lining for cereals etc. It is very difficult to purchase these without plastic. I searched around and found a few ‘bring your own’ packaging outlets. I soon got into the habit of taking my own containers and getting them topped up. I haven’t managed to sort out fizzy drinks though. Sometimes I buy it in glass bottles, but mostly I’ve stopped having fizzy drinks. Tap water is better for you and it’s surprising how quickly you can get used to it instead. I have a nice fizzy drink for a treat at the pub now and then.
At this point my waste has been much reduced and the biggest waste item in my bin is now fruit and vegetable peelings. We have a garden and already had a compost bin, so it was a good idea to start using it. I didn’t really know what to do with a compost bin, but found instruction on the internet. In short you can pop in most types of food waste as long as it’s not meat or fish, which is too smelly and attracts unwanted attention. Just turn it over once a week and it does its magic. We’ve since moved on to a Wormery as well, which is much more fun and apparently you can get an indoor version if you haven’t got an outside space. And all this saves plastic too as I don’t need a plastic bin liner any more. My weekly waste for the dustbin is reduced to one small brown paper bag.
I’ve found toilet roll and kitchen roll wrapped in compostable material and by the way you can put discarded kitchen roll in the compost bin too. In fact it is a good mix with vegetable waste and keeps the compost bin at the correct acidity.
I’m now down to a tiddly bit of waste per week. It is usually tiny bits of plastic jar sleeves or tags. I have just discovered Eco-bricks as a way to collect these up instead of putting them in the bin. I haven’t completed one yet, but that’s my next thing to try.
New Year’s Resolutions
Keep up what I’ve started and campaign much more for change. Also, I’m really hoping to be part of group setting up a new Zero Waste Outlet in Swindon.