My town has signed up to the Plastic Free Communities initiative run by Surfers Against Sewage, aimed at reducing single-use plastic in our local community. This is something that I am very passionate about, so I offered to join the committee. And I thought I’d use this post to brainstorm some ideas to suggest.
Plastic free gardening
Our group has already identified that we could speak to garden centres and nurseries regarding recycling flower pots, sale of non-plastic insulation and bulk soil and compost. I’ve just discovered only this week that we have a Gardener’s Association locally, so I haven’t been to see if they already do any of these, but I certainly plan to join. Also we could make a list of local stables / farms offering plastic-free manure.
For those of you who haven’t heard of ecobricks, they are plastic bottles that you fill with small pieces of clean dry plastic in order to make a building block. I have made a few myself, but although there are plenty of community projects collecting them across the country, we have nothing locally. I have a local school in mind who may be interested, although I do know that they won’t wish to promote needless purchases of plastic bottles.
It is great that the library take old pens, but the product that I am accumulating which I don’t know what to do with, is old Pritt-sticks. My children are asked to take these to school and they go through a tube so quickly, sticking worksheets etc into their books. Surely there must be a more eco-friendly solution. And don’t get me onto the topic of sticky-back plastic. Some teachers, but luckily not so many, still ask the children to cover their exercise books with this. How about wrapping paper instead?
Most of us end up with packaging that we don’t need. I’m using pieces of bubble wrap to insulate my greenhouse and I have given some of the large paper bags that milk&more deliver, to a local shop to use as bin liners. But I came across a scheme called Packshare which originated in Cornwall, whose aim is for you to find local businesses who can reuse your packaging. They are hoping to get a good presence nationwide, but when I keyed in my postcode, the nearest businesses are about 20 miles away. It would be great to promote this to local businesses. Hopefully it can take off to the same extent as the water bottle refill scheme.
One day when I had popped into our local supermarket, I observed one of the staff wrapping an empty pallet trolley with a huge roll of plastic like clingfilm, going round and round with layers of single-use plastic. Why? And talking of supermarkets, some have collection points for plastic bags. Perhaps we could ask ours to consider doing this or even organise a mass unwrap event.
Not everybody unfortunately, but it is now much more widespread that people will bring their own shopping bags. However not many also carry their own produce bags and boxes. Some of the local shops are more on board than others at reducing plastic, but I have a few ideas in this area. Sewing or crochet skills could be taught to disabled with learning difficulties to make cloth, net and mesh produce and shopping bags, which can be sold through their own shop and other local shops. Of course, this doesn’t have to be limited to bags, they could also learn to make things to replace other single-use products like scrubbies and pads.
Notices to be displayed in local shops saying that you are welcome to bring your own boxes. And where they do wrap in paper like at the butchers, I scratch my head sometimes as to whether it is purely paper or a plastic backed paper. How should I dispose of it? With food waste? Or can it be washed and then go in recycling or torn up for home composting? Again notices would help.
I find that large plastic ice cream boxes are ideal for reuse. We are lucky to have a local dairy farm who make their own ice cream, which is sold locally in either individual or 500ml sizes, but apart from the plastic lids, they appear to be mixed material. However they do also make a 2l size in a plastic box, which they used to call family size on their website. When I contacted them last year, they said this was usually only sold to pubs but I did arrange an appointment to buy some directly from the dairy. Also someone mentioned at our last meeting, that the plastic lids can be returned to the dairy for reuse, but I can see no mention of this on their website. So definitely some scope for follow-ups here.
The hairdresser is traditionally not very sustainable. This is not just on the plastic front, but energy and water usage too. However some hairdressers are starting to address sustainability better. Perhaps we could promote this, starting by suggesting refill hair products for both the salon and to sell to customers.
Sadly it is many years ago since the local deli closed down, but I have discovered plastic-free butter elsewhere. Perhaps one of our local shops, maybe the butcher who sells a small selection of cheese, could be persuaded to stock this.
Balloons and Balloon Sticks
At the local Christmas shopping evening I saw kids with the estate agent branded balloons on balloon sticks, one of which blew away but luckily the dad caught it. Balloons can be lethal to wildlife. So we may wish to suggest that the estate agent reconsider their promotional material.
I have made the swap to toothpaste and mouthwash tablets and bamboo toothbrushes, as I am sure we have all heard that every toothbrush we have used will be around, long after we die. However TerraCycle do have a recycling scheme for toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, but none locally. I have tried to ask my dentist to enrol (in a nearby town) and she did promise to raise it with their head-office. But worth pursuing with other more local dental practices too. We do have a few of the other TerraCycle schemes locally, but this could be broadened further to encompass items like cleaning product packaging, biscuit and sweet wrappers
As always I’d love to hear your eco friendly suggestions and tips please.