DAY ONE - 14TH JANUARY
Ok so here we go. Day 1 of my plastic diary, and Sunday seems like a gentle day to start. I won’t list every piece of plastic waste I create as that’s not terribly interesting, but I will share some highlights with you as the week goes on. I intend to not change my habits this week so I can be honest with myself (and you) about the kinds of plastic I get through in an average week, and notice where the quick and less quick wins might be. So please be gentle with me and refrain from unhelpful judgements...however absolutely do share your own experiences and suggest brilliant ways I could make changes!
A few notable plastic moments today: Been to Sainsbury’s and came home with plenty of unnecessary plastic already, eg apples bag straight in the bin (“not currently recycled” marked on it), along with outer wrappers from individually wrapped chocolate biscuits and bags of crisps (both for lunch boxes). I did remember to take my own shopping bags with me though . Found cotton buds with paper stems (although packaged in a plastic box!). Frustrating to see multipacks always require you buying extra plastic (packs of 4 cans of beans for example are vacuum packed in plastic) – I’d rather have the same discount and be responsible for selecting 4 cans off the shelf.
Came home and put the roast on – plastic film from ham joint in the bin. Cat food pouch has recyclable symbol on it, but seems like a mix of foil and plastic and certainly doesn’t pass the scrunch test, hmm wonder what the answer is there. Cling film that was covering a bowl of leftovers from the fridge, bin. Empty shampoo bottle, going in the recycling bin (I have a nagging memory the lid doesn’t though?). Tea bags – aargh they have plastic in them, who knew, definitely not ready to give them up yet. Plastic sleeves from individual components of a new landline phone I’ve just bought (most of the packaging was card fortunately).
So a quiet Sunday when I am here alone, and even that isn’t plastic free. Back to reality with kids, work and school tomorrow…more to come.
ps don't tell the kids this packet is "somehow" empty now and in the bin, oops!
DAY TWO - 15TH JANUARY
In the office today, remembered to take in my own lunch, but still plastic waste from that – crisp bag, yoghurt pot and biscuit wrapper. Finally thrown away one of those plastic containers that Chinese takeaway comes in – I’ve reused it a number of times for taking leftovers for lunch to work but they aren’t that robust and there is only so many times they survive the microwave. Got rid of a couple of punched pockets that had ripped, but otherwise a fairly plastic free day in the office, I don’t do the kind of work that requires lots of filing or office management etc (hurrah).
Chewing gum a couple of times – hadn’t occurred to me to add this to the list but there is plastic in the gum, and of course the wrapper. None of it is recyclable. But I really value chewing gum after a meal, it helps me to digest and keep my breath fresh which I am sure those around me appreciate! This is a tricky one, like tea bags I’d be reluctant to give it up.
Tray from the packet of sausages we had for tea (don’t know why it was needed to be honest as they are fairly robust on their own, more a question of style over substance, but at least it was recyclable). Plastic milk container finished with – not sure what to do about reducing those because a glass bottle delivery wouldn’t work for us due to our daily schedule and location.
Feel like I’ve just posed more questions for myself today than had realisations or reflections. Hopefully the week will bring more answers...?
DAY THREE - 16TH JANUARY
Working from home today, I tend to snack and drink tea more because I get bored on my own. Yes, yes I know I should be having healthy fruit snacks with their own biodegradable packaging, instead I’ve gone for the last of the Christmas chocolate orange (aren’t you impressed it's lasted this long though??!), and that has the full monty of cardboard, plastic and foil packaging. Not even sure if they are recyclable – the cardboard obviously is, but there are no markings or information about the plastic and foil, come on Terry’s you can do better than that.
Kids lunch boxes have been a plastic feast – individually wrapped one of everything plus plastic sandwich wrappers, straw with the juice box. I do find packed lunches a difficulty to make plastic free. Oh I‘m sure I could bake and make everything from scratch…but as a full time working mum of two and the only adult in the house means that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. I’m hoping for a revelation here – any ideas?
A few other bits and pieces have ended up in the bin – plastic around multipacks of tins of tuna, packets of raisins, rolls of toilet paper. Again, the multibuy discounts for larger packs come at a plastic cost. Also used the last of the bag of potatoes so the non-recyclable plastic wrap is in the bin.
I have been delighted that many of my non-Faversham friends have commented to me about our plastic campaign, and empathised with my diary findings. Thrilled to report that one friend has already pledged to replacing cling film with reusable tubs for storing leftovers. Little steps like these are vital, I’m feeling good.
DAY FOUR - 17TH JANUARY
May the 4th (day) be with you...
I was out and about at meetings mostly today, which meant more consumption. Remembered to ask for my cup of tea in the café to be in a mug rather than a takeaway cup, but I'm annoyed because I forgot to bring my water bottle so have had to buy a plastic bottle of water – I’ll feel grotty by the end of the day if I don’t drink so it’s a trade-off really. Really struggled to get out of bed this morning and consequently rushed around and didn’t make any lunch, so it was a sandwich and yoghurt from Waitrose – all plastic and cardboard wrapped.
Back home, we used a tub of crème fraiche as an ingredient for tea, in a plastic tub and I’m not sure there would be a good alternative to that. Cut open a melon but we didn’t eat it all so I automatically went to the cling film to wrap it and store it in the fridge – like my friend yesterday I think that’s one quick win I can make in the future.
We finished the toothpaste pump this evening – recyclable symbol on the side so I’m tempted to put it in the recycle bin but I reckon they will have a hard time making use of it – lots of components and toothpaste dregs. It would be good to have clearer information from manufacturers, I’m wondering if a generic recycle symbol is good enough. Those pumps probably aren't a great idea on reflection, with all that plastic, perhaps a tube has less, I've never given it any thought. Which I guess is the point of this diary!
Disposed of the packaging from my new tv box – they had clearly made a great effort to use cardboard overall (well done Now TV), but there still remained a selection of small bits of plastic from individual components and plastic wrapped wire ties. It doesn’t look much but it’s still out there.
DAY FIVE - 18TH JANUARY
Put some clothes for the charity shop in one of their bags that came through the door the other day. Got home and realised I forgot to put that bag outside before I left for work. So, will need to decant the clothes into the next bag that comes through the door and throw this one away. I like the convenience of being able to give to charity on my doorstep, but feel less comfortable about the unsolicited plastic through my door!
Son’s subscription mag arrived, covered in a plastic wrap with no recycle symbol so it so that’s headed for landfill. I guess that's a protection thing so it arrives in one piece, but an envelope could be a good replacement? Maybe there is a logistics/packing issue for that.
Was sorting through my wash bag earlier and came across a little packet of cotton buds I have picked up in a hotel recently. Pleasantly surprised to see they are paper stems….but wrapped in two layers of plastic to get at them.
On my way out of the door now with a friend to the pub, I'm doing Dry January so soft drinks for me, I must remember to ask for no straws, I'll let you know how I get on.
DAY SIX - 19TH JANUARY
You will be pleased to hear that I wasn't offered any straws in my soft drinks on my night out yesterday, thanks to Furlongs Ale House and ASK Italian, and I refrained from any bags of crisps or pork scratchings so a plastic free evening, from a consumption point of view anyway.
Another pre-weekend dash to Sainsbury's this evening though was not so plastic free, but at 8pm on a Friday night while son is at football training is about the best time I get to shop so my choices are limited! Treated myself to a little bunch of daffodils while I was there, even they have a couple of elastic bands and a plastic-coated label.
We finished a bottle of squash in the week but was able to put that to good use by sending it into school with my son so they could make mini compost environments to study their topic of bacteria and bugs. Hopefully they all get recycled at the end of the experiment and not just thrown away.
I was inspired earlier to ask for a recycling bin in our little office kitchen at work. We have a recycling bin out in the corridor (barely 20 yards away), but so much plastic waste (milk bottles, salad tubs etc) ends up in the regular bin because it is right there under the kitchen counter, and I know I am just as guilty. We have chosen one with an obvious recycling logo on the front, and I shall lobby all my colleagues to get involved. Oh dear, danger of becoming the office warrior, must remember to play nicely...
DAY SEVEN - 20TH JANUARY
Out in London today seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - absolutely amazing. Made myself a packed lunch for the journey up, reused a bread bag for my sarnies - I didn’t want to bring any Tupperware that I would then have to carry around the whole day.
We went to Chinatown for dinner, and my lemon towel and fortune cookie arrived in plastic. The fortune in my cookie didn’t make up for that - something about lowering my expectations?!?! Pah.
The drink I am currently supping in the theatre bar waiting for part 2 is in a plastic glass, but a robust one that clearly gets reused. My sister and I indulged in a packet of minstrels during the show, but shared it so that’s only half the waste surely?!
So actually, not too plastic heavy today, a good way to round off my week. I’ll post some reflections tomorrow about what I have taken from this week, a lot is buzzing around my head.
Until then, time to take my seat.
I hope you enjoyed reading my diary posts last week, I thought I might share my reflections.
It was interesting to notice that an overwhelming proportion of the waste in my landfill bin is plastic. In one way this is great – shows how much of the rest of our waste (food, paper, metal) is already recycled, but it also demonstrates we still have lots to do. I've been surprised at how poorly labelled many plastic items are about whether they can be recycled, and how. I suspect that leads many people, like me, to simply landfill. Clearer labelling would enable us to recycle the plastics that we do use.
Reduction can be challenging - plastic invades every corner of our lives, and being a busy working mum on a budget reduces my opportunities to make a broad range of choices on this. However I will endeavour to seek out low or no plastic alternatives to items in supermarkets, and I will try a couple of options such as Jack's Vegand Who Gives A Crap. It's clear that continuing to put pressure on shops and manufacturers is needed, and it has been great to see both local and national retailers pledging to make reductions in the last week or so.
I’ll be honest and say there are some things I’d be reluctant to give up on – tea bags being number 1. Although a wonderful chum, after a discussion about our campaign prompted by my diary, bought me a one-cup tea infuser so I can at least use that at home.
Finally, I intend to talk to people more about this. No-one wants to be lectured, but I will continue to share ideas and tips. Crucially, I will keep the conversation going in my own home.