Throughout July I tried really hard to give up single use plastic, but it wasn’t easy as so many things contain plastic. Although I struggled, it was great to know that I wasn’t doing it alone and I was really inspired by other UK bloggers going plastic free too. Polythene Pam is one of those bloggers, but she isn’t just giving up plastic for July – it is an all year round kind of thing for her! I asked Polythene Pam if she would answer a few questions for me about her (mostly) plastic free life and she gave me these great answers!
1. Why do you boycott plastic and what inspired you to blog about it?
One day a plastic bag got tangled in the tree outside my house. Months later it was still there. Next year when the leaves fell there it was! Looking ragged and tatty and even more unpleasant. Which made me wonder. Then I realized that plastic rubbish, unlike an apple core say, doesn’t biodegrade. I know it seems obvious now but I had never even considered it before.
Plastic of course lasts for decades if not for ever! And yet we are using it to make one-use, throwaway and trashy, short-life items resulting in huge amounts of everlasting rubbish. Every piece of plastic trash has to be collected and specially disposed of. Which is expensive and only partially effective. Some ends up as litter. And because it doesn’t rot, once it is out there it is out for ever. Not suprisingly plastic litter is increasing exponentially with dreadful consequences. Not only does it look ugly, it is damaging the environment, polluting the sea, choking up rivers, littering up beaches and worse of all maiming and killing animals.
Surely this is a foolish misuse of plastic? Which brought it right back to me. While I might not be mindlessly scattering plastic litter I was certainly misusing plastic. I too was a part of the problem.
I got to thinking how much plastic rubbish we, my husband and I, were responsible for. In fact we monitored it – you can see how much plastic went into our bin in a week HERE. It was shocking. So much so we decided to cut plastic from our lives.
We started the blog to map our progress. On it we list the plastic free alternatives we have sourced to help others do the same.
2. What types of plastic do you boycott and why don’t you avoid it all?
We boycott non-biodegradable plastics used to make throwaway and semi-disposable items. This includes
- Plastic wrapping, bags, packaging and bottles
- Trashy items that have a limited lifespan
- Plastic items for which there is a viable natural alternative including synthetic fibers, fabrics and leathers.
- Any other plastic that irritates me.
That said, I don’t dislike all plastic, I dislike the misuse of plastic.
Strong, durable, light weight, long-lasting and cheap, plastics are integral to the development and production of products that have changed the world for the better. Furthermore to replace all plastic products with” natural” alternatives would place a huge strain on the environment. Rather than boycotting all plastics we should be discussing:
- How to produce greener plastics in a manner less damaging to the environment,
- What we choose to use plastic for
- How we harvest and reuse all the components, including plastic, at the end of a product’s life.
So I still use a wide range of durable plastics when I think they are the best option. But they have to last a very long time and I have strict guidelines for how I use them.
3. Which plastic have you found really easy to cut out of your life?
Plastic bags because it really isn’t hard to take your own bags with you to the shops and it makes an immediate impact. And plastic milk bottles. I love having a milk man. When I found out that plastic leaches unpleasant chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the product, giving up other plastic wrapped food suddenly became so much easier.
4. Which plastic has been harder to leave behind?
Crisps. Who can be bothered making them? But I do so love them. For most other things I have sourced an alternative. You can see our huge list of plastic free products, life style tips and recipes here http://plasticisrubbish.com/a-z-plastic-free/
5. What impact has going plastic free had on you and the way you live your life? (e.g. big/ small/ positive / negative/ easy/ hard work?)
It has had a huge impact in unexpected ways but all good. I doubt I would have blogged if it hadn’t been for the project which means I would never have created a website. I might not have joined Twitter even.
I have learnt some interesting new skills. I can now make suntan lotion, lip balm and toothpaste which has been fun. It has made me cook stuff I would never have considered before like sweet mincemeat and chutney.
I have learnt a whole load about plastic, which has been fascinating. Given how much a part of our lives it now is we really know very little about it.
I buy seasonal food (far less likely to be plastic wrapped), which means cutting down on air miles. I have fun finding out farm shops and seeking out markets. I enjoy a slower more local way of shopping which feels better.
And of course I got to go to the Observer Ethical Awards and be in the same room as Colin Firth! What’s not to love?
6. What advice would you give to someone starting out on a plastic free journey?
I started by cutting one plastic wrapped product a month which gave me time to source an alternative and made the task infinitely less daunting. It also gave others in the house time to adapt. In fact I often cut more than one because it turned out to be quite easy.
Don’t be overwhelmed. When you realize just how much plastic is out there you can easily break down and weep. But instead of counting the plastic you still use, look at what you have cut.
Enjoy finding alternatives – picking your own strawberries is a great day out. For sure I can only eat lettuce in Summer when I have grown it myself but when I do get it, it is a real treat – and home grown does taste better. Homemade face cream is really pleasant to use, is infinitely cheaper and makes a great gift.
I could go on but I am beginning to sound like a plastic obsessed Pollyanna!
7. For the more advanced plastic refusers, you have highlighted on your blog that there is lots of sneaky plastic in packaging that many wouldn’t even know was there. Would you be happy to share your sneaky plastic list here?
But of course
Cans of soda and other drinks – the cans are plastic lined
Tetra Paks contain plastic
Disposable paper cups are plastic lined
Glass bottles and jars with plastic lined metal lids
Tin cans of food- they are nearly all plastic lined
Plastic coated paper and foil- a tricky one often hard to spot.
The plastic bag in the cardboard box -squeeze and listen for the rustle.
Teabags (Packaging aside), the bag itself contains plastic
Stickers on fruit grrrrr.
Tampons and sanitary towels (packaging aside) are made from mostly plastic.
Plastic in toothpaste – packed in plastic, contain plastic – yes some toothpaste have plastic beads added for colour
Plastic beads can be found in exfoliating creams and washes. Not just excess packaging but micro-pollution as well!
8. You recently set up www.plasticfree.co.uk – can you tell us a bit more about this site and what your plans for it are?
Plastic Free UK is a UK BASED directory of groups, people, organizations, businesses and anyone else interested in tackling the consequent problems of our misuse of plastic.
Yes I know I already blog, at some considerable length about this very problem but that’s just it. My blog, my rules – that’s how it should be. But my rules of course aren’t the only ones. For example – recycling! In the plastic free world there are those who think it is practically green washing, an excuse to consume yet more plastic. Then there are others who promote it as the answer. I want a forum on which to post both arguments undiluted by my own opinions.
Also, chatty as I am, I cant say everything that needs saying on the subject. Nor do I know it all. No, really, I don’t. There are others out there – experts in their field who I would love to feature.
As the number of plastic related projects and plastic free products increase I do not have the time to review them all, the directory is a place where people can present their own work.
As well as supporting and promoting projects, the aim is show others that there is a market for plastic free products and services and a growing concern about the problems of plastic abuse.
So blog for me, directory for everyone else: What they do in their words. And hopefully a resource for anyone who wants to know who is who and what is what in this plastically challenged world.
9. In an ideal world with unlimited time and resources what would you do next?
I’m guessing you want a plastic related answer to this not just a long list of yacht based fantasies? I would love to get a big tractor with a large trailer and trundle round the UK organizing plastic pick ups with community groups. To be run in conjunction with educational workshops explaining the dangers plastic presents to the environment.
Who are we?
We blog as Polythene Pam and Village Boy. We live oop north in Huddersfield in a small industrial town. We often shop at supermarkets, eat meat, drink alcohol, munch cheese and scoff down cake. Giving up is not in our nature – we want to do everything – just without creating a huge pile of non-biodegradable, possibly carcinogenic, lethal rubbish that future generations will have to clean up.
We don’t have pets or kids. We travel a lot (plastic-free of course), and much of the blog has been written while sweating our faces off in some backwater with limited internet access. Please make allowances.
To find out more about Polythene Pam and Village Boy and their plastic free journey visit www.plasticisrubbish.com