Plastic-free July

Sometimes I think about all the plastic items I have used and thrown away – how most of them still exist and will still be around for hundreds of years to come. All those toys, take away containers, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, disposable forks, plastic bags. Just my own personal pile of used-and-not-recycled plastic must be a mountain by now! It weighs on my mind.

I’ve been trying to reduce my use of plastic as much as I can. Last year I tried my best to do plastic-free July and realised just how many of my everyday items are plastic, or wrapped in plastic. It’s really hard to eat a variety of food without buying plastics – it pretty much just leaves fresh fruits and veggies or bulk bin items. Since then, I’ve aimed to reduce my incidental plastic use, particularly for single-use items like water bottles, take away containers and cutlery, coffee cups etc. I’ve started carrying around a take away coffee cup and my own utensils. When I know I’m going somewhere that only has take away food options, I try and remember to bring my own container.

I’ve also been considering my packaging more carefully when supermarket shopping. I’ve been using the bulk bins and refill station at New World in Durham Street. I figure a small changes are better than nothing.

This year for plastic-free July I’ve decided to target a specific plastic product category – toiletries. I’ve taken an inventory of all my products that come in plastic and have considered how I can reduce the amount of plastic I consume. Here’s my summary of everything I use and some notes about what I intend to change.

Shampoo and conditioner
The Body Shop shampoo and conditioner bottles I’m using are almost empty, so I’ve purchased shampoo and conditioner bars from Ethique. I’ve talked to a few people who use these products and they rave about them, so I’m dipping my toe by buying small bars of shampoo and conditioner. It’s also a real plus that all their products are vegan, ethically sourced and cruelty-free.

Body wash
I have a full bottle of the current Body Shop wash that I use, so once that’s all gone (and the bottle recycled) I will consider purchasing a wash bar. I’ll see how the shampoo and conditioner goes. I have some concerns about how well they travel, and I shower at the gym 3-4 days a week, so my toiletries need to be portable. Again, Ethique has a really nice range…

Face wash and moisturiser
I’ve got very oily skin (this is the secret of my youthful complexion!), and I’ve finally found a face wash and a moisturiser with SPF that work for me, so I am loathe to change these. These plastic-encased items are in the too-hard basket for now.

I’ve decided this one can go. What is it even for? I’ve never really known, but used it for years. I’ll see what happens when I ditch it.

Body moisturiser
I probably don’t really need this either if I’m honest. I think it’s just a habit. I’m going to give this one a miss too and see what happens. If my skin doesn’t cope, then maybe I will consider the Ethique moisture bar. This one sounds yum.

Toothbrush and toothpaste
As a kid, I remember having tooth powder (thanks hippy mother). I don’t know where it came from, and I’ve never seen it anywhere since. So I googled…Did you know that you can buy tooth tablets? Me either, but you can. I liked the look of the ones that Lush sell, but they come in a plastic bottles! The ones from Eco Easy come in cardboard packaging, but I don’t know if you can buy them locally (trying to avoid the air miles!). I reckon I might find a good solution at Piko for my toothpaste, and I know they sell bamboo toothbrushes too.

The one I use comes in a glass bottle so I am going to stick with it for now. If the Ethique experiment goes well, this will probably be the next target for a bar option.

I’ve really enjoyed doing the research and planning for this activity. I’ve learned a lot about the different plastic-free alternatives out there, including the fact that some of them are cheaper and (I hope!) better than what I currently use.

Some companies clearly put a lot of effort into creating plastic-free packaging. Lush has a whole section on its website dedicated to package-free products. They sell lipstick refills. Who knew!

I was pretty disappointed when I did my inventory and realised that all of my beloved Body Shop products are plastic-wrapped. There is no mention of plastic-free packaging on their website. I was surprise that they weren’t on the cutting edge of this plastic-free movement, so I did a bit of googling. I found out that Body Shop intends to reduce its plastic use 70% by 2020. This Metro article has the details.

And apparently you can make plastic out of pollution nowadays. Two birds, one stone…

Have you thought about what small contribution you might make to save us from a world awash with plastic?

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