Did you know a plastic bottle can take around 500 years to break down? Used once for minutes then thrown away to exist somewhere on our planet for so many years?
The world is waking up to the plastic problem we humans have created. Microplastics can be created as plastic starts to break down and degrade, and find their way into our environment. They are in our seas and have even recently been found in the placentas of newborn babies.
But there are now so many fantastic easy swaps, which avoid single-use plastic and provide a better alternative for the planet. You can use your spending power to encourage bigger firms to change to more environmentally-friendly options.
In this blog, we have a look at some of the items you might not think of as containing plastic, and, once you know, you can't forget. Sorry about that, but don't worry - we'll suggest some alternatives for you!
1. Chewing gum
Yes, you have likely been chewing on plastic. Lovely. Modern chewing gum has a gum base, which is usually essentially plastic. Swallow that glob of gum and it's coming out in exactly the same way at the other end, but who know what it's leaving behind in you?
A fantastic and reasonably priced alternative is available from Chewsy, a plant-based, plastic-free gum, which is 100% compostable, natural and vegan.
2. Sticky tape
Think of all that tape you use for gifts or other uses around the home. Not only is it often packaged in single-use plastic, but the product itself is plastic and will be around for years to come.
Why not simply avoid tape in your wrapping by using string, ribbons or lovely fabric to wrap gifts? There are loads of inspirational ideas on Pinterest. Or use an eco-friendly paper tape, which is made from renewable kraft paper and can be recycled with paper.
In the UK we print over 11 billion receipts a year and 9.9 billion of these go unused. Think of the trees cut down to produce that, as well as the carbon emissions in producing and transporting it and you can start to see the environmental impact. But 'paper' receipts from shops often contain plastic and/or chemicals, which means the receipts aren't recyclable. Have you also noticed how often they are excessively long with too much information?
A big step forward would be to avoid receipts for all those small items as much as possible, and consider electronic receipts for those bigger items if you're comfortable to do that.
Plasters are often individually wrapped in plastic-coated paper and may contain plastic themselves, as well as be contained in plastic packaging.
Avoid all of that and the chemicals involved too with Organii Patches - plastic-free, made with natural materials and free from chemicals.
5. 'Paper' coffee cups
Paper coffee cups are a misnomer - although they appear to be made from paper (and are often marketed in that way), they usually contain a plastic lining inside the cup to make them waterproof.
Save money and help the environment by taking your own reusable cup into coffee shops. There are so many options from bamboo and corn cups to insulated cups and bottles to keep your chosen drink warm for hours.
6. Tea bags
This is another item where it is not just the packaging that contains plastic - the tea bags themselves often contain a sealing plastic to keep the bags together in use. They are not compostable and will be around for years to come.
Look out for bags that don't contain plastic or simply ditch the bag altogether. Tea leaves are readily available in supermarkets and refill stores and can be used directly in a tea straining pot or by using a reusable teabag or tea basket. Make tea drinking a pleasure again!
7. Dental floss
Dental floss often contains teflon and nylon to give it the strength it needs. Not only does that not break down, it often makes its into the environment, where birds and marine animals can get tangled in it.
Eco-friendly floss alternatives are made from biodegradable and natural materials, and of course packaged plastic-free.
8. Period products
Some disposable menstrual pads are made up of up to 90% plastic, and it has been quoted that a pack of pads is equivalent to 4 plastic bags. The average person uses around 10,000 period products in a lifetime. That's a whole lot of plastic!
There are now so many fantastic reusable options available. This is one switch that many people wish they had done earlier.
From reusable pads, to menstrual cups (which simply gather the menstrual fluid rather than soak it up) and period pants you won't look back! These eco-friendly period products are all also less toxic for closeness to your bits.
Pop over to The Green Turtle (www.thegreenturtle.co.uk) and explore lots of other environmentally friendly options to inspire you!
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Let us know your favourite plastic-free swaps!