Plastic Free Week 1: Bottles, beach toys & more

It’s been a busy week here at Science Calling with a variety of plastic already eliminated. Lots of people have joined in by reducing their own plastic as well as helping with brilliant tips. Here’s a summary of the first seven days of the challenge:

Day 1) Water Bottles

Starting off with one of the biggest hitters in terms of single-use plastic packaging: Water bottles. Over the course of the year by switching to a sturdy water bottle and sparkling water maker, our household will save 156 plastic bottles from the recycling bin!

COST: With a high once-off cost of €109 (Klean Kanteen bottle: €19, Sodastream sparkling water maker: €90), I won’t save any money in the first year. In the second year, savings will start to roll in with almost €70 of savings (Sodastream gas refills in Argos cost €18 per 60L). If I wasn’t so addicted to sparkling water, these savings would add up even more. For those that asked, sparkling water tastes the same (to me).

Day 2) Feminine Hygiene Products

Another item that was pretty easy to eliminate was plastic packaging in feminine hygiene products. Conventional pads & tampons have plastic linings and applications so is it possible to go plastic free? The best option for the environment are reusable products. The most common are the Mooncup (made of silicon) and washable sanitary pads (which have a plastic lining). To ease myself into plastic-free living, I’ve opted for something in the middle! I moved from the regular period products (Always) to the ‘plastic free’ product Natracare.

COSTS: Not much difference compared to branded product e.g. Always. Natracare pads were €3.25 in Nourish. Increase in cost compared to own-brand products. Also, not available in many supermarkets.

COMPOSTABLE? Not allowed in Greyhound’s brown bin even though they are compostable (I checked!). StopWaste.ie also says not to compost sanitary towels in home compost piles.

Day 3) Toothbrush

Instead of the normal plastic brush, I opted for the cheapest alternative to fully plastic that I could find – a bamboo handle and nylon (plastic) bristles.

COST: A lot more expensive than my usual own-brand toothbrush which costs 75c. The Environmental Toothbrush cost €4.75 in Nourish but are €1 cheaper online from . An Irish company, VirtueBrush also makes them for €4.95. They don’t seem to be available in supermarket chains as yet.

VERDICT: I’m glad there’s an alternative but it’s disappointing that it costs A LOT more.

PLASTIC FREE OPTION: This is possible (for a price) but not in Ireland. You can ship toothbrushes from US that are made of bamboo and pig’s hair (not suitable for vegetarians obviously).

Day 4) Clothes Pegs

This is an easy one… next time you buy pegs, reach for the wooden ones. As an added bonus it saves money.

COST: Wooden pegs were 50c cheaper in Woodies.

PLASTIC FREE? Unfortunately, all the wooden clothes pegs I could find were wrapped in plastic packaging. There are bamboo pegs available online that come in a cardboard box but I couldn’t find an Irish site that stocked them.

TIP: To make both wooden (and plastic) pegs last longer, I store them in an old biscuit tin when they’re not in use. This stops the wood going green or black and marking the cloths (I have eight year old wooden pegs that look like new).

Day 5) Ice-cream

I was on holidays for the August bank holiday… so my diet consisted of mainly ice-cream. Almost all commercial big-brand ice-cream come in some sort of plastic, either a plastic tub or cardboard lined with plastic. To cut down on my hols, I opted for 99s (in cones, not tubs) instead of pre-packaged ice-cream.

COST: Usually cheaper (depending on the shop)

PLASTIC FREE? No… I don’t know what the ice cream mix or cones were packaged in & they wore plastic gloves when making the 99s. The local shop had a dedicated ice-cream counter which meant less glove changes… so overall, I think less plastic was used.

Day 6) Beach Toys

Most kids toys these days are made of plastic, including the classic beach bucket & spade. It’s possible to get similar tools from garden shops (if you’re organized!)

COST: €6 euro for set below or €9 for plastic-free option.

PLASTIC FREE? You can get a metal kids bucket (€3) & metal with wooden handle kids fork/spade/hoe set (€6) in Woodies.

PROBLEM: I only realised that we had no bucket & spade when we arrived at the beach with my nephew in tow, so unfortunately our options were plastic or tears (no alternative available in the local shop).

FAILED: Due to disorganization!!

Day 7) Clothes

This is a tough one so I decided to do an experiment… my husband and I picked out clothes that felt and looked like natural fibers (cotton, silk, linen etc).

RESULT: 50% of the clothes had a plastic-based fiber (these include polyester, elastane, nylon, Lycra and more..!) In fact, two cotton-feeling tracksuits were made of 45% and 20% polyester, in spite of looking almost identical.

COST: Cotton t-shirts are a similar price to those with added plastic fabrics like polyester or elastane in some shops, but it was impossible to find 100% cotton clothes in some sports shops we were in today. My husband bought an organic cotton t-shirt but it was twice the price of one that was 14% polyester in a different shop.

OTHER OPTIONS: Some of the clothes I bought were made of viscose which is a synthetic fiber made of cellulose or wood chips. However, this fabric also has environmental problems as its manufacture involves a lot of chemicals which if untreated causes pollution.

THOUGHTS: I found this tough and was disappointed to find out some items I thought were cotton, had some polyester… I definitely need to check labels before buying clothes going forward!

 

Science Calling Plastic Free Challenge

Bought in plastic packaging… for the last time!

Every day during the month of August, I’m going to tackle a plastic item in my home and try to eliminate it from my life (and bin). For bonus points, I’m going to do this without spending any extra money. For transparency, I’m excluding all prescribed medication and skincare from this challenge. Why is this related to science? Check out my first post on the challenge to find out!

You can follow my daily challenges on Twitter and Instagram (on that point… Science Calling is joining Instagram for the first time… hope to see you there!). There will also be a weekly post updating you about my successes (and failures).

Join in by taging me on social media, using #SCPlasticFree, and most importantly, reducing your own plastic consumption. If you have any tips to help me on my journey, please get in touch or comment below.