Plastic Free Week 4: Bin, Clean & Flush

Household products were the theme of the final week of the challenge. These  were a lot harder to get at the same price as their plastic-covered counterparts. Overall, I saved money (in the longterm) on only two days of the full week which is very disappointing.

The highlight of the week was finding plastic-free toilet roll that was available in Ireland for a similar price to Lidl own-brand. This took over a month to find but in the end I resorted to emailing a number of companies. Wipeout, a distributor based in Dublin, took up the challenge and created a plastic-free product (details on Day 7 below). Here’s a summary of the week:

Day 1) Shower Scrubbers

Lots of brushes, scrubs, sponges & puffs for the bath & shower are made of plastic.

PLASTIC FREE? There are lots of cotton, hemp & natural sponge options in the shops & online. You just need to look a little harder & often spend more.

COST: Shower puffs are €2-5 in Boots. I got a natural sponge last time I was in Spain for €7.50 but in Boots they can be up to €15.

CAVEAT: Some ‘eco’ products I found looked like they weren’t made of plastic, but the label said polyester or plastic so double check!

Day 2) Washing Cloths, Scrubbers & Brushes

This is something that I didn’t really think of as plastic until I started this challenge. But when I examined them, all the sponges & cloths that I had were made of either plastic or polyester… Cleaning isn’t a new phenomenon so surely there’s a better option?

PLASTIC FREE: There are a variety of options from cotton cloths to loofah or coconut scrubbers. I opted for a wooden handled brush that has natural fibers. For scrubbers, I picked up two made from recycled foam (from mattresses) and recycled plastic (from bottles). Though this wasn’t plastic free, I think it’s a better option… but next time I’m going to try out the natural scrubbers.

COST: In Small Changes, Drumcondra, the brush cost €2.50 & recycled scrubbers were €2.40 (pair). A plastic brush in Tesco costs €0.75 & a pair of scrubbers (scourers) is €1.49.

AVAILABILITY: There aren’t many plastic-free options in big supermarkets but local shops or health food stores often stock them.

CLOTHS: Once my polyester cloths are used up, I intend to buy some cotton cloths that I can throw in the washing machine. This should not only reduce my plastic consumption but also save money as they will last longer.

Day 3) Laundry & Cleaning Products

Almost all cleaning products are in plastic bottles… and make up a big chunk of plastic waste in our houses. Since most are liquids, could there be a plastic-free alternative?

RESULT: There are a few different options…

DETERGENT: Small Changes stock Sonett & The Hopsack, Rathmines, have Lilly’s detergent that you can refill in store. Minimal Waste Grocery is another option and deliver refills within 20km of Rathmines. Another option is powder, but check for plastic linings. CAVEAT: Unsure if any refilll stations outside Dublin. OPTION: Soap nuts! I haven’t tried these… have you?

SOFTENER: I picked up some Lilly’s Softener in my local shop but not sure where I can refill it yet… Lilly’s Eco Clean have a trade counter in Park West Industrial Estate which is open to customers… so maybe there? OPTION: There are 5L refills online of Lilly’s & Ecover.

WASHING UP LIQUID: My usual washing-up liquid doesn’t last long so that’s a lot of plastic wasted. When it runs out I’m opting for the Lilly’s version as Small Changes give an 80c discount for refilling the original bottle. OPTION: Washing up soap bar! Have you used one?

COSTS (see breakdown): These options are more expensive than Lidl products. Saying that, once I’ve used my current stash, I’m changing to refills… not only to save plastic, but also because they’re better for the environment as contain less harsh chemicals. The washing-up liquid will cost similar as it’s concentrated so should last longer.

Day 4) Soap & Shower Gel

The soaps & shower gels I usually use (Lidl – Cien & Dove) all come in plastic – either bottles or in the case of the soap bar… a card box covered in a (pointless) plastic film.

PLASTIC FREE? Loose soap bars are the best solution I could find.

COST: The loose bars I found cost more. Dove bars are €0.73/100g. Cheapest plastic-free option was an Oliva bar (€1.51/100g) in Holland & Barrett. I bought a Palm Free Irish Soap bar for €3 (€3.26/100g as was 92g). Available in Small Changes & Minimal Waste Grocery.

LIQUID OPTION (Dublin): Another option is to refill soap dispensers with soap. Minimal Waste Grocery does this for the Dublin area. They fill your container with soap for €1.85/100ml… though this is much dearer than my usual Lidl soap (€0.18/100ml). Soap bars are the way to go!

Day 5) Bin Bags

Up to the start of this challenge I used plastic bin bags in all but one of the bins in my house. Is this really necessary?

THE SEARCH: I looked online for ideas… The first alternative I tried was compostable bags… but these bins were destined for landfill, not composters so I wasn’t sure if they’d break down. Next… I tried a paper bag I had in the house… but since that’s recyclable it seemed an awful shame to put it in the black bin. This ruled out newspaper too.

SOLUTION: After reading about what happens to the rubbish in my black wheelie bin once it’s collected (cut to bits & sorted by machines)… I wondered why was I putting it so neatly in bags at all! I decided to try putting no bags of any kind in the bins. Yes… I’ll need to clean my kitchen & bathroom bin every so often… but it’s worth it for the huge volume of plastic I’m saving.

CAVEAT: This is working really well for me as I’ve a brown bin for all my food waste but for parts of Ireland that don’t have this service… the kitchen bin would need more cleaning.

BONUS: Money saved as bin bags no longer required! Also, my bins are less smelly as I can empty them anytime (no need to wait for full bags).

Day 6: Make-Up Pads

We’re almost at the end of the month-long challenge, so I’m going back to how it all began… with Cien (Lidl) make-up pads. I presumed they were cotton but when I checked the label about a month ago, I discovered they were 40% polyester.

SOLUTION: I couldn’t get disposable cotton make-up pads without plastic wrap… so I opted for reusable cotton make-up pads (even better!).

COST: I brought from Minimal Waste Grocery: 3 (green) pads for €5 & Little Green Shop: 10 large (white) pads for €10 (the larger pads come in a polyester net unfortunately!)

OPTION: These make-up pads can all be thrown in the wash… but so can an old-school facecloth. I got a 100% cotton one in Boots for €3. If you want to stick with disposable pads, make sure to check they’re 100% cotton.

Day 7) Toilet roll

Toilet roll is normally covered in non-recyclable plastic wrap. I set myself the task to find a similar product that was plastic free & didn’t cost loads. This was a tough one, mainly because I buy the cheapest Lidl toilet roll…

SEARCH: I tried shops first & bought Ecoleaf paper (in compostable wrap) in my local shop but it cost too much when I did the numbers. I didn’t have success online either in terms of price. There were options like ‘Who Gives A Crap’ but they were expensive & based in UK.

IRELAND: As a last resort and after weeks of searching, I emailed five Irish toilet paper manufacturers and distributors. Most said they didn’t have any options but a Dublin-based company, Wipeout, were extremely helpful & created a plastic-free product (especially for us!) that suited in terms of price. I didn’t expect that result… but there you go!

COST: See detailed price comparison between Lidl, Ecoleaf & Wipeout (see breakdown).

Delivery costs (€10) add to the cost of Wipeout but these are reduced if you order multiple boxes or there’s an option of free collection if you’re based in South Dublin (Product: Eco-Fresh Plastic-Free Toilet Rolls). Even with delivery of just one box, they’re cheaper than Ecoleaf (per 100 sheets or 10 metres).

IDEA: It would be brilliant if shops had loose or paper-wrapped toilet paper! If you’ve found any other alternatives, I’d love to hear them!

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.