If you want to cut down on your plastics but feel a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start then the Lent Plastic Challenge is for you.
We host a group on Facebook, tips on Twitter and Instagram. Each week there is a different theme and items to focus on, so you can build up each week and get support and advise from the community.
From 6th March to 18th April have a go at reducing a few or as many single-use plastic items as you can.
Doing a 40-day challenge is less daunting than thinking it is forever. Plus afterwards we hope you will have found some lifestyle changes that work for you and some fire in your belly to challenge the producers making all these materials that are difficult to recycle and are polluting our rivers and seas.
A symptom of our time-poor convenience-driven lifestyles is disposable packaging as we treat ourselves to pre-packed meals, Amazon deliveries and takeaways. So it is no co-incidence that when you look in the recycling bins on bin day they are overflowing and “single-use” was named the Collins word of 2018.
If like me, you have consciously tried reducing your packaging footprint, you soon realise that is necessary to go back to basics and find time. Time to go shopping in the greengrocers and the local zero-waste scoop shops. Time to prepare food from scratch, and time to cook. And if you want a fresh salad, you need time for gardening. Although, modern devices like blenders and slow cookers do provide some shortcuts.
The original marketing campaign for plastic, was emancipation for women from the kitchen sink, with the development of throwaway plates. And when you look at all the benefits of plastic, from microwavable meals, light-weight food protection and pre-portioned meal boxes it seems it has liberated everyone from the kitchen.
But surely if we can recycle then there is no problem? Well yes, if everything got turned back into more of the same then it wouldn’t be such a problem because there wouldn’t be a demand for more raw materials (think of all the trees being cut down for cardboard packaging) or materials being shipped around the world looking for a disposal route.
When we look at what recycling means, aluminium is infinitely recyclable with most cans containing 68% recycled content; although the strip mining of aluminium bauxite is highly destructive and polluting. Clear glass contains on average 30% recycled content whilst green contains 68%, whilst again the production is very energy intensive.
In contrast, plastic polymers have been deliberately made hard to recycle to prevent a secondary market. This means they are often ‘downcycled’ into other products like piping and furniture. PET and HDPE are the easiest plastics to recycle back into bottles and this practice is starting to increase with Fairy and Ecover producing 100% recycled bottles in 2018. But due to the cheap price of virgin plastics the demand hasn’t been present from producers for recycled content or for producers to take responsibility for the materials that they put on our shelves after use.
This leaves councils and recyclers with materials that they need to find a home for, which is where the international commodity market comes into play and ‘recycling’ is sold around the world for ‘processing’. It can end up in countries that have significantly weaker environmental controls on burning and dumping waste. It is no coincidence, that the rivers that dump the most plastic pollution into the oceans are places like China where historically western countries sent their low-grade plastic recycling to. And since China banned plastic imports, UK recycling has been found dumped in illegal plants in Malaysia.
Finally; as our oceans are nearly at suffocation, legislation and initiatives are being put in place to reconsider the pitfalls of our single-use culture. The UK Government has 30% recycled content targets for packaging producers in its new Waste and Resources Strategy. And more excitingly, international schemes are being developed to make reuse more viable with delivery services like ‘Loop’ trialling reusable packaging with mainstream brands like Pantene and Hagan Daaz; and RePack, providing reusable bags for online retailers. There are also a number of reusable coffee cup and box schemes being trialled with multiple venues participating, on high streets around the world. These schemes are all part of the move to a more ‘circular economy’; meaning that materials stay in use for longer, either through reuse, repair or recycling.
So could ‘reuse’, or ‘circular economy’ stem the tide of single-use? Could they even be the words of 2019? Through my own work with reuse schemes, the issues of time-poor lifestyles and convenience is a constant focal point for usurping single-use. It also remains to be seen how producers respond to changes in legislation and the requirements for responsible production and eco-design, without finding short-cuts. As well as if the UK Government will actually ban some ‘single-use’ items such as cutlery and straws or just consult on these issues.
If you want to find out more about these issues: where are recycling really goes, what the circular economy alternatives are and how you can reduce packaging from your own business or lifestyle then join me for the Tipping Point: where does our waste go? On 21st March, at the White Rabbit in Clifton, Bristol.
Why is recycling and particularly plastic recycling so complicated? Is waste to energy a better solution to landfill? Why aren’t producers responsible for the packaging that ends up in our bin? What is the Government doing about it?
After the wonderful feedback and engagement we have had in previous years we will be facilitating another Lent Plastic Challenge from Wednesday 1st March to Sunday 15th April.
The challenge is a positive one, choose one or two items to find alternatives to each week. And you are not alone. There is a supportive Facebook community and each week we provide a tip sheet with inspiration, discounts and offers. You can also follow on Twitter and Instagram too. Use the #lentplasticchallenge and #plasticchallenge.
In the last few weeks there have been some exciting developments with the UN launching their plastics campaign and countries pledging to tackle their impacts, so what a great time to really create a public shift in the perception of plastics.
It’s that time again, Summer festivals and holidays and as we get ready for Glastonbury and a summer of excursions we thought we would share some of our tips which reduce the packaging waste as well as lightening your heavy load ( more room for fancydress).
Take a large empty water canister, camel packs and smaller metal bottles to fill up from taps- this is much lighter and more environmentally friendly than la pack of 2 litre plastic bottles of water.
Decant spirits into metal re-usable bottles rather than plastic bottles.
Take re-usable cups for beer and coffee- take these to vendors for drinks.
Reboot provide a handy carry strap for cans and bottles made from recycled wellie boots.
Fruit tea bags, lemons or cucumber steeped in cold water for 2-3 hours make a refreshing drink rather than cartoons of juice that are heavy to carry.
Take protein powder and a shake cup rather than cartoons or bottles of protein drinks,these weigh loads less.
Pack food-stuffs in re-usable cloth bags or reusable metal containers (like tiffin boxes) . Avoid bringing plastic carrier bags on site, these blow around in the breeze and can end up in the countryside and the waterways.
Energy food and instant snacks are important. Could you make your own energy balls or snacks to bring along? Here are some quick and easy recipes ideas.
Chocolate from Green & Blacks, Lindt, Divine and Lidl all come in paper and foil.
Buy loose fresh fruit and vegetables rather than bagged items. Fresh produce does not fair well sweating in a plastic bag inside a tent.
Mooncups and other menstrual cups are great for periods as you don’t have to carry lots of pads and tampons with you and they only need changing every 8-12 hours.
Divide up your waste as you would at home separating recycling, compost and landfill.
Always put items in the correct bin- did you know that a whole consignment of recycled items can be chucked in landfill if they are deemed contaminated with food waste or mixed with the wrong items?
Refuse straws from bars (maybe bring your own metal straw).
Rather than getting a new single-use plastic glass, reuse the one you have as much as possible.
If you have a re-usable plastic pint glass, take this to the bar.
Avoid dropping plastic cups on the floor, once broken they are difficult to pick up and could endanger the innocent animals who live on the land.
Take your tent, chairs, fancy dress and wellies home with you. Contrary to rumours, they don’t go to refugee camps. Instead they are an ecological disaster, and cost the festival thousands to remove. This means a festival ticket will increase in future years, as costs for landfill rise.
During the Lent Plastic Challenge, there were items that were really hard to source from local shops and online eco stores, particularly make-up and toothpaste.
So we really were made up to discover the independent producers making small batches of products, with natural ingredients on Etsy.
Hello Twink Beauty‘s original, vintage style “cake mascara” which comes pressed in a rectangular metal tin.
Just add a drop of water and rub the applicator in it. You need to apply a couple of coats but it is amazingly waterproof (tested at a wedding where there were lots of tears), whilst coming off really easily at the end of the day. Of course the applicator is still plastic but this can at least be reused. The mascara is available in a great range of colours including black.
Even natural toothpastes come in those non-recyclable tubes. So, we have got quite into making our own toothpaste with coconut oil and baking soda But we are aware that for some people this could be a step too far. Hoorah for Georganics who are making organic toothpaste in London and selling in glass jars. The benefit of the glass tub is that you just dip the toothbrush in which uses much less than squeezing out of a tube that is not even recyclable.
Georganics list all of their organic ingredients and their origin- and unlike mainstream toothpaste these are actually pronounceable!
Animal & Vegan Friendly
The fact that these products are made with simple ingredients also means these products are vegan-friendly, as they are not tested on animals.
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During the Lent Plastic Challenge, we got asked some great questions by followers, which we posed to Melinda Watson, of RAW foundation who fervently believes in realising another world without toxic plastics.
Follow the blog as we disclose her answers, which will provide you with inspiration to make educated decisions about the materials you use and take action in your local town (we are now involved in a local project in Bristol with Melinda).
“How can we reduce using plastics- at source? “
Melinda: Yes at source! And what is the source? Our capitalist economies and throwaway cultures, in which products and objects are constantly modified, made to break (planned obsolescence) and where cost and convenience is of primary concern.
“So as a consumer how could I address this?”
Get informed and stay informed about the serious issues to do with plastics.
Be the change on a personal level e.g. refuse single-use plastic bottled water and plastic bags and opt for toxic-free, long lasting sustainable alternatives.
Buy local, unpackaged goods or plastic-free products and support plastic-free stores.
Spread the word – talk about what you are doing and why!
Lobby local, national and international stores or companies to adopt principles such as ‘recyclability by design, cradle to cradle. Surfers Against Sewage have a great ‘Return to Offender‘ campaign for marine litter.
Before you chuck something away, see if it can be fixed. Look out for your own local repair cafe.
Instead of buying new items – look at second-hand, borrowing or sharing items.
Start your own plastic-free campaign in your school, college, university or office- ban plastic water bottles, takeaway boxes and coffee cups.
A couple of years I discovered wild garlic pesto and I am hooked! As soon as I see the shoots coming up in late March, I make a weekly batch exploring different combinations of nuts and seeds to compliment the fresh, pungent flavour.
Where I currently live, we have it in the garden so it is easy to collect a bunch, but that kind of does take part of the fun of preparing this dish. One of the added pleasures of making wild garlic pesto is escaping to a wood for a walk, or finding it on a river bank and picking it in it’s natural habitat. Perhaps it is linked to our natural hunter gatherer spirit!
If you have not discovered wild garlic or made the pesto yet then this post is for you. This recipe makes a delicious pesto, that is dairy free, cost-effective and full of health and well-being properties… read on to find out more:
The Recipe for the most Nurturing Wild Garlic Pesto of all
Find a friend, partner or family member to join you for an hour or so
Get on some wellies, walking boots and pack a reusable tote bag in your pocket
Head to a woodland, river or a hedgerow
Sniff the air for a light garlic smell and look out for the green leaves and later in the season white flowers
Pick a bag full of leaves- make sure you leave some for other people and the plant to recover
Enjoy your walk
On your way home grab some optional extras: If you are dairy free include capers, and maybe lemon
When you return home, give the leaves a good wash
Pull out the food processor or blender
Find some nuts or seeds- we recommend, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts or cashews. Why not trial some different batches with each- the fun is in putting your own spin on it.
Make sure you have a good quality light oil – rapeseed is my current favourite as olive oil can often be bitter and overpowering
If you are using a blender chop the leaves in advance
Put in the nuts to blitz up then add in the leaves gradually and drizzle in the oil as it is spinning to mix to a smooth paste. Also add in the extras- I just include capers and occasionally lemon, other people put in Parmesan
Turn blender up high to get everything into a smooth paste
Put into a reused jam jar and store for up to a week
Prepare a fresh salad, with fresh bread or raw vegetable pasta and serve. It works well as a replacement to basil pesto with pasta etc
Sit down and enjoy the fruits of your hunting and gathering!
1 large bunch of wild garlic, washed
1/2 cup of seeds or nuts
2 tbsp of capers and a drop of brine
150mls light oil (rapeseed is good)
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
Salt and pepper (optional)
Interested in more inspiration like this?
Is this the kind of thing you want to do more and make more of? Then join the Less Waste More Living Facebook Community
Every time I undertake the Lent Plastic Challenge, I find that the new recipes and products I discover, far outweigh the the things I go without. Often being ‘busy’ (our favourite word in this modern world), means I forget about the joy found being creativity in the kitchen. But, as the ‘busy’ doesn’t show signs of abating the creativity needs to be quick, easy and …. low packaging. So here are just some of the alternatives I have discovered over the last few weeks:
Home-made flatbread pizza – choosing a yeast- free dough took minutes to make and I froze half the dough for mid-week meals.
Roasted carrot curry sauce- A great friend gave me this recipe. Simply roast carrots with spices and blend to a puree
Sweet potato or aubergine chips – Hemp flour, ground almonds, or leftover breadcrumbs are great for a crispy coating
Mint avocado ice-cream – a creamy dream
Coffee grind exfoliating scrub – mixing ‘used’ coffee grinds with coconut oil is a great wake-up experience.
These are just some of the recipes we have been sharing with those who joined the Lent Plastic Challenge, and due to their popularity we are bringing it all together in one place a ‘Low Waste More Living‘cook book.
The book will include:
How to shop to avoid & minimise packaging
How to transform fruit & veg (they easiest non-packaged items) into delicious naughty treats.
How to prepare fresh food quickly & easily so you can enjoy healthy, convenient food and have time to enjoy living!