Friday, 26 July 2013

Plastic Free July

July's not quite over, but it's no longer relevant, it's become Plastic Free Forever.
Of course, having said that I will add it's an impossible task.  We can, at best,choose to use only minute amounts of the ubiquitous stuff.

I've been Facebooking about it over the month, and discussing, amongst other things, our surprise in discovering the strange places plastic  hides from us thwarting our attempts at eliminating it.

Glossy cardboard boxes are often coated in a thin veneer of plastic. You can't tell which ones do or don't until you rip the box at an angle to reveal the layer.

We were foiled by 'foil' that was actually silver plastic.

Glass bottles often have plastic lids, so you go for the tin lids, and then discover they have a plastic 'under'lid and most tin cans (which we normally avoid) have a plastic lining.

You can buy food in bulk bins, but generally it's been dearer than the supermarkets, sometimes by twice as much. We resolved this to some extent by taking in organically grown home produce and bartering it for food staples. 3.65 kilos of romanesco broccoli for polenta, cornflour, almonds, coconut and brown sugar. It cost us $1.05.

The fine ground polenta was to make corn chips as we have a chilli bean meal each week with salad and corn chips. But no one makes corn chips in a paper bag.  I mucked up the first time by trying to grind the corn myself and created an exciting moment or two for our would be dentist, but in the end the chooks and the sheep ate them and we bought fine ground polenta and tried again. They were, incidentally, delicious but also  time consuming.

While we make our own fetta cheese, we don't make 'yellow' cheese, as Caleb called it as a child. Buying cheese at the deli meant asking if they could not put it in plastic, but just wrap it in paper. This was so counter-culture it caused a few raising of brows or complete incomprehension with a side-order of scorn. I'd just acknowledge, yes, we're very odd, sorry about that.

It turns out you can't buy roll your own tobacco in anything but plastic. Trev's one smoke a day habit is not going to be broken any time soon, so we broke our vow.

But I'm not much better, without thinking I bought a pedometer online. When it arrived I opened it up and had the, 'O Ooh' moment. Then I did something even odder. I bought a new dress. A rare occasion. As I knocked back the plastic bag it was about to go in I realised the dress was made from synthetic material. Plastic. Doh!

We've had to change our diet. But we all agree it has not meant our diet has worsened. If anything it's improved.  Even if it does take us longer to shop for it, and sometimes to cook it.

But the biggest drawback has been using plastic packaging as the prime decision making criteria over a list of other essentials we normally pursue. The organic fair trade ground coffee came in plastic,so we bought the chemical instant coffee because it came in glass (but we discovered it had a plastic seal when we got home). We used to buy free-range chicken, but it only comes in plastic, and while we can buy the non-free range and have it wrapped in paper we're not going there. We couldn't buy organic pasta because it came in plastic, but we could buy foreign pasta in a box. Finally found it in a bulk bin and bought it in a paper bag.

homemade peppermints to replace
the box of tic tacs in my handbag
We're thankful we produce all our veggies, our milk, make our own yoghurt, some of our cheese, we have eggs, ducks and we still have loads of raspberries in the freezer, bottled tomatoes, apples and peaches, dried beans, olives and honey, and that we make our own toothpaste and soap and we use that to wash dishes and generally most things around the house. We're also thankful that you can buy unbleached recycled loo paper in a paper bag, but most of all ... chocolate still comes in real foil and paper! Yes!

Conclusions: we need more plastic free options, and living with only a minimal amount of 'new' plastic, is not so difficult. When July ends our challenge will continue.

Thanks to the Plastic Free July Challenge for pulling us back into line.


Anonymous said...

Synthetic clothing, I would have missed that one. It's a shame that we don't buy more cotton, linen and woolen products as all would help our worlds farmers so much more (and fair trade would keep the slavery out of cotton too) but we're so used to easy wear clothing these days.

We raise and cull our own chickens for meat but I still struggle to know how to keep them and freeze them plastic free. We can't keep them alive until we're ready for them as the noisy buggers are all roosters and annoy the neighbours but aside from cling film I am at a loss as to how to wrap them to prevent freezer burn. Any ideas?

Well done on making such an effort to be plastic free. So far in our endeavours to be just that we have failed miserably. The world is so in love with the wretched stuff that they are trying to plasticise everything I think.

Anonymous said...

Another great post. I too have found it impossible to be plastic free, although I do buy natural fabrics, and choose items with as little packing as I can. But sadly it is everywhere!
Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations. This has made an impact on our family (after reading your book) to move to a more sustainable way of living.
Dianne NZ

Jo said...

Linda, I have been trying for a couple of months to limit plastic in our house, and as you say, the more you look, the more you find it everywhere.
And people do think you are a bit mad. I have been going to the butcher's with my reusable containers, taking cloth bags to the bakery, and reusing paper bags at the wholefoods shop. I've started making my own cleaning products. But that is all hardly a dent in our plastic consumption, really. I just have to trust that making a tiny difference is a start..

Linda Cockburn said...

Hi Jo and rabidlittlehippy, Yes, it's impossible to eliminate it altogether, cardboard milk cartons aren't waxed anymore, they're plasticed.(yeah, I know that's not a word). But by pushing to remove it as much as possible eventually, with enough numbers the market will adapt, basically most producers want to provide a product that people want, and if they don't want plastic, they adapt.

It actually hasn't been as hard as I thought. We've probably reduced it by 95%, the rubbish bin has certainly noticed the difference. Again, it's about doing what you can, whether it makes a difference is kind of irrelevant when you understand that you're doing what is within your means, and it's better than colluding with those who prescribe waste.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it.... modern living is simply pervasive. Once the oil runs out, so will plastic. people won't know what hit them...!

Make sure you watch "Ten Bucks a Litre" on ABC TV Thursday 1 August...

Linda Cockburn said...

Hi Mike,
Yes, actually rolled out the TV and remembered how to plug in the aerial and watched Dick last night. It was pretty soft, but I guess he's pitching to the average Joe and Joanne. So all good. Not so keen on the push for nuclear. And Trev and I have been talking about buying the Nissan Leaf as our next car. As we have solar panels, and 70% of Tassie's power is from renewable sources we figure it's the best we can do. Pity it only does 160km and we're 79km from Hobart!

Jo said...

I agree with your assessment of the Dick Smith program. No mention at all of the biggest problem with nuclear - the waste.
And being Dick, he seems obsessed with big, technical solutions, whereas I think it will be small scale, simpler technology that will make the difference, because I think most developed countries are running out of capital for giant new technology that needs to be maintained forever..

Linda Cockburn said...

Absolutely Jo. But no one will voluntarily take a cut in lifestyle to the required degree. It's consumerism that got us here, and we can't consume our way back out of the hole we've dug. Do we have to wait till there is no other choice and what remains will only support a few? The answer seems to be yes.