Plastic Free July Challenge: How did it go for me?

So the Plastic Free July challenge is nearly at an end. I was planning to make a vlog about it but unfortunately, I was too busy to do one. But I managed to write down all my notes, thoughts and practices during this month and post them all together here in this blog.

I heard about Plastic Free July a month ago from a Facebook group I’m in about Zero Waste Lifestyle. It caught my attention and thought I can elaborate more on the subject.

I have heard about the concept of reducing waste and refusing plastic the first time when I watched Ahmad Alshuqairi’s show that broadcasted a couple of years ago. He met with Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, and showed us how she made drastic changes to her lifestyle and was able to produce only one jar of waste that she couldn’t Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, or Rot.

I admired this lifestyle a lot and I wished that the whole world can adapt it to make our planet cleaner and eliminate plastic usage for good. Blue Planet II is a great show to see how marine life is affected by the plastic waste we are producing. It is strange how this lifestyle was actually the norm around 100 years ago before plastic was invented. You may ask anyone in the elderly community about the way people shopped, the natural ways they preserved food,  the limitation of clothes, and the contentment of a simple way of life.

In Nottingham, there are attempts to bring back the old way of shopping goods, which is buying in bulk and using environment-friendly packaging. One example is Sarah Maloy’s Nottingham Zero Waste Collective pop up shop whom I interviewed in my guest blog this July.  Another example is the Dash Vegan shop on Triumph Road. They offer packaging-free products and alternatives.

This July, I made a pledge to myself to try to reduce, or even better refuse, 3 plastic items to come into my home. Looking how this summer is so hot due to climate change, and how much plastic there is in our oceans, I can do little changes at first, and gradually be plastic free as much as I can. But before I tell you what they are, it’s worth mentioning that there are 3 plastic/non-biodegradable things that I stopped or even don’t purchase at all due to cultural practice.

Here are 3 plastic items I don’t use:

One: Kitchen/Bathroom Cleaning Wipes

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For cleaning my home, I always use cleaning cloths and sponges. Cleaning cloths could be either old vests or T-Shirts made into rags or old towels. I use the normal yellow sponges you get from the shops, but once I am done with them, I am going to buy the reusable ones. I use also black and white newspapers sometimes to polish glass (Good way to reuse them!). Soapy water and other cleaning products are what use with the cleaning cloths and sponges. I never was convinced with the single-use cleaning cloths you use for bathrooms or kitchens. I admit I use hand wipes when I am outdoors, but I am willing to use reusable ones when my current ones run out. One thing that I never do, is throwing wipes in the toilet. Never ever!

Two: Plastic Water Bottles

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I never had a problem with drinking tap water. Where I live, we are blessed with good quality water. When I am out for a walk, I have my water bottle filled from home. I reuse a large glass bottle I have and fill it when we as a family go out. A great benefit of glass is that it keeps water cold. When we are at restaurants, we also order tap water.

Three: Plastic Straws

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After watching a video where a Marine Biologist extracts a plastic straw out of a turtle’s nostril, I vowed never to buy single-use plastic straws again. What’s wrong with drinking from the glass/cup immediately? I don’t need them. One of my daughters insisted that she needs a straw to drink her milk (7-year-olds “rolling eyes”), so she uses now a reusable straw and cleans it after every use. The pain that turtle went through just isn’t worth it.

Here are 3 items I pledged to try to reduce or refuse For Plastic Free July: 

One: Shampoo Bottles

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I am not a shampoo/beauty products hoarder in the first place. I buy one bottle of shampoo/conditioner/shower gel when I need them and I don’t buy others until they are finished. Same with soap. But you can’t help knowing that these bottles and packaging materials are sometimes not recyclable, and they will most likely end up in land fields or in the sea.

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In terms of soap bars, I collected soap scraps I have at home and made them into new bars. Sucess!

I researched for Shampoo/Conditioner alternatives, and found a couple of options:

  • Buying original Aleppo soap (made from olive oil and lye) which you can use not only for your hair but for your body as well. Most of these soaps come in environment-friendly packaging.
  • Buying Shampoo/Conditioner Soap Bars which lathers on wet hair and is mostly made out of natural ingredients. They are normally sold to you in paper bags.
  • Taking a clean empty jar or bottle with you to a Zero Waste Shop, fill it with shampoo/conditioner there and buy by weight.
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I did all three of the above as a matter of fact. The Shampoo Bars were good for me but difficult for my children as they found it very fiddly to use. So, liquid shampoo and soap for my kids are more practical for them.

But they do not come cheap. A 55g shampoo bar costs around £6 comparing to a £3-4 250 ml bottle of shampoo. It is advertised that they last around 3 months. Well, I will do the math in 3 months time!

There is another option as well, which I haven’t experimented with yet but will do when my shampoo finishes, which is buying liquid castile soap in bulk and customising it as you like with essential oils. You can use it for your hair, body, hands and even as dishwashing soap. Will give it a go soon!

Two: Cling Film

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I was worried about this one, but with a quick check in my kitchen cupboards, I was able to:

  • Use my glass Tupperware
  • Put plates over bowls
  • Use parchment/baking paper to wrap sandwiches, fruit and veggies.
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I don’t know if parchment/baking paper is the best way to store food in the fridge, but I think it works for me. Unlike kitchen rolls, they don’t absorb moisture. So all my fruit and vegs are staying fresh for a long period! That’s a win-win!

Three: Fruit and Veg Packaging

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This is probably what I am finding the most difficult to tackle, as I normally shop at supermarkets where packaging fruit and veg in plastic bags, wrapping or boxes are very common. Even though there is loose fresh produce without packaging, but it is doesn’t apply to all.  I depend on frozen fruit and veg a lot, which obviously is in plastic packaging as well.  

To try to buy my fruit and veg with no plastic, I had to go to either a Farm Market or small deli shops. This led me to make several shopping trips to different destinations. I am still on the hunt for shops or supermarkets in Nottingham where I can do all my shopping in one place! Just like the one Bea goes to:

It was a busy and exciting Plastic Free July for me! I have still a lot of research and findings to do, but I think I’m on a good start. This is not the end of course! I will keep on looking for plastic-free alternatives that suit my family and I and smarter ways to sustain the only planet we live on.

At the same time, I think as a concerned community in Nottingham, we need to see how we can arrange to get a Zero Waste shop. There is a lady in Leicester who did it:

 

Did you take the Plastic Free July challenge? What swaps did you do? Let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy your summer!

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