Why I’m not plastic free

I think about my trash more than any 28 year old probably should…  And then I share these weird and wonderful thoughts here.  😀

So I started thinking about what were ‘repeat’ offender in my trash and what changes I could be making, or need to plan to make.  And then there are plastic items that I won’t replace, as I already have them, but am mindful of.  Here’s what I have

Things I could improve/substitute

  • razors: when the disposable type run out (and I do use them for many many more times than usual), I’ll look for a metal handled replacement.  Even something that you only change the blades in would be an improvement
  • floss: silk thread is the best alternative, so I need to purchase some soon.  See, it’ll either be unwrapped (and is that hygenic?) or it’ll be plastic wrapped.  you can’t win can you!  I’ll update you on this in coming weeks – I’ve only tried it once
  • toothbrushes: when my supply of plasticy French toothbrushes die, I will look into more natural alternatives, most likely bamboo.
  • cotton buds: The World Without Us was graphic enough to let me know those little plastic tubes are no good, so I’ll buy more from GoBamboo when I find a stockist in this city
  • tampons: for the few men, I won’t go into details, but I could do without individually wrapped items.
  • blister packs from tablets: not sure i”ll ever find a work around here!
  • bandaids: again, is there a recyclable/low waste option
  • straws: rarely I’ll buy a drink with one. I should ask for them without straws, or buy a metal or glass straw
  • cutlery: I have a bamboo set, perhaps they should be in the handbag at all times (given you saw what’s in my handbag)
  • sushi trays: I need to BYO my plate or similar I think…  Possible – yes? Probable – no!  Still, as I tick things off this list, it might seem easier.
  • dish sponges: I prefer sponges, and I know you can buy compostable ones from cellulose.  Surely there’s a supplier closer than this one in Canada?
  • sticky tape: there’s paper tape? I need to find out more and get me some!  Although it’s main use is gift wrapping which isn’t that often

Things I can’t seem to get around

  • jars: and the need to put a plastic seal around the rim.  Do they not trust the brilliance of the pop top seal?

Compromises I make

  • Yoghurt and sour cream pots: these come in reusable containers.  I know ideally food + plastic don’t work, but I’m just not at the ‘make my own’ stage.  And at least I pick the options where I have a container I can reuse over and over, rather than just recycling
  • Zip Lock bags: Firstly, i don’t buy them.  I buy frozen berries and the like, that come in them.  Then I reuse them.  It’s just so easy to buy bulk flours like this than with a huge (heavy) jar
  • Pump packs: Like liquid soaps, this is the easiest dispensing method.  I just buy them like this, and then refill when I need.  Of course the refills are usually also in a recyclable plastic bottle

Longer(-ish) lifespan plastics

  • Coat hangers: I could have decided to fill my closet with plastic.  I could have gone wood/metal and maybe that’s an option for the future.  But I like the consistency I have now.
  • Fan: It was a gift, I would have otherwise sourced a more metal based fan
  • TV/DVD/Radio: Can you buy these items non plastic? How would you make a remote control?  In the meantime, I’ll live with these luxuries
  • Blender/food processor/hand blender: I just can’t seem to find plastic free options, but two outta three were ‘freecycle’ finds rather than new purchases
  • Pantry storage containers: I make the (potentially faulty) assumption that i’m not heating the plastics I store flours and other bulk items in, therefore it’s ok?

Waste Wednesday weigh in(s)

Last week, I came in at 254g (compared to other weeks, this is about double, but there’s a reason).


Eww – look, a dead sponge, gnocchi packaging, butter wrappers, bandaids and tea bags

This week 113g (367-254g) <- man is plastic light though!

Gnocchi trays (more!), corn chips packet, lindt ball wrapper.  Healthy? nope

Gnocchi trays (more!), corn chips packet, lindt ball wrapper. Healthy? nope

So that big weight week?  Here’s why:

The tale of a broken candle holder.  (only the waxy glass pieces were trash, the rest I recycled)

The tale of a broken candle holder. (only the waxy glass pieces were trash, the rest I recycled)

All cause I moved the coffee table to clean – sigh!

Great plastic references:


24 thoughts on “Why I’m not plastic free

  1. I use a few Zip-Loc type bags for freezing things, and re-use them a few times.I still have tape, but I use gift bags more often (and my familly members re-gift them endlessly!) I buy a few things wrapped in plastic like frozen vegetables and cheese. The longer life things I just try to be mindful of. For example, I have one basement closet with a concrete floor and any cardboard, fabric or wicker in there gets mildewed, so I use plastic storage bins there. I think it’s great that you’re so conscientious!

    • Zip loc bags are so useful, I can’t see me totally going without them! I am so lucky to have no damp or other moisture problems in my apartment – it’s one things I struggled with when living in my parents old house. As to wrapped goods – I know a vegetarian who is trying to a month of no plastic and struggling to find tofu. For once, I didn’t have a ‘solution’ in mind!

  2. Plastic has been the hardest thing for me to eliminate. My seeing machine and fan along with my juicer are plastic. Fortunately I inherited my grandmothers blender which is glass and steel along with a few other items. Zip lock bags I quit using, but I do have one item that was given to me as a gift that uses plastic…my food saver machine. The bags are reusable so until it breaks or I stop receiving boxes of the bags for gifts its handy to freeze food in when I run short of containers. I tell myself its not that bad because all the food I store in them is locally grown. I know, it doesn’t really make it any better.

    • Plastic is so versatile – light, flexible, and evidently cheap enough for us to get it in single use forms. I think the more we use items (like plastic baggies) the better it has to be, than just ‘trashing’ them all. But having them indicates a demand to the suppliers :s And longer lasting items (like sewing machines and fans) are best to continue service, imo, than just switching them out for ‘better’ alternatives.

  3. I’ve never thought to weigh my plastic waste before. Interesting idea! It’s a good way of quantifying it.

    I know making yogurt may seem off-putting or potentially difficult, its really not. You don’t need a special yogurt maker or even a crock pot for that matter. I’ve made it before using a pot to initially heat the milk and (this is really sketching sounding) a covered bowl on my front porch. When you think about it, all those yogurt makers do is keep the milk warm while the culture grows. If the container you put the milk and starter yogurt in is covered, all you need to do is sit it in a warm place. It was really simple. You could refill your reusable yogurt containers that way 🙂

    • I realised I didn’t know if I was getting ‘better’ or ‘worse’ with waste, so once I saw other people weighing theirs, I got on the ‘crazy train’ (as my boyfriend thinks!)

      I’ve pretty much eliminated yoghurt because of the waste issue (and will only by the ‘reusable’ type which I don’t love the taste of). So I’ll definitely find a way to make it – maybe an oven might work, do you think?

  4. I’ve considered buying bamboo toothbrushes but haven’t yet – would love to exchange supplier lists if/when you source plastics-alternatives. I also bought Etiko shoes here in Oz to avoid the toxic soles on regular runners. And I found out from Frugal and Thriving that you can freeze in glass containers, so now I freeze in old jars like vegemite! (gap at top) It is an ongoing battle, though!

    • Bamboo toothbrushes – the supplier I thought might be good, another seller said they didn’t like the quality 😦 So when I find a good one, i’ll let you know too. Cotton buds are proving challenging despite knowing who makes them, finding where they are sold, not so easy. So I’ve ‘suggested’ them to the coop, and they are waiting to hear on prices. If the price is ok, they’ll also use them for toothbrushes, and I can buy through the coop, the cotton buds at a ‘bulk’ price!

      I’ve not heard of the shoes, but then again, they seem so ‘durable’ comparatively. I’ll look into them. Ah Frugal and thriving is certainly coming along in leaps and bounds! I’m always freezing my pyrex lunch containers with dinner leftovers, never thought it’d be an issue, how clueless am I! I now know it could have ended catastrophically!

  5. Some things for you to consider:
    Tampons – http://www.femmecup.com/
    Have a look at this. It took me a while to build up the courage to try it. Wish I had used it years ago.
    Sponges – I bought a couple of packets of face clothes from Big W, black, navy and dark brown. I use them for a day or two and then wash and reuse.

  6. I guess Tim and I started really getting away using single use plastic last month after we watched Bag it. We have started with single use plastic. His work supplies water in bottles. He has been drinking water from the tap instead in his glass from home. Me too! Although, I’ve been drinking a lot of tea at work.

    Like you, it’s crazy hard to not think about it, especially as I sit here reading book after book after book about it and watching movie after movie and really searching out resources about plastic.

    But, like you, I have a bit of a supply of tooth brushes and razors. I have enough razors to last me a couple years (maybe like 5 or more) and I’m not one that changes the blade all that often either. My husband has an electric razor, it’s plastic.

    Tim hated my dish sponges and he made me give them up a long time ago. I have dish rags and I found some with a scrub on them. There a couple years old now and the scrub is starting to disintegrate on some of them. I wash them with the other dish towels, hankies, and put a h2o2 solution in them and they come out great. Not smelly.

    I gave up straws. I want a glass one….

    • I still reuse my plastic water bottles – I have so many circulating in my home! I know it’s not perfect, but it’s better than tossing/recycling them, and it keeps me thinking when I’m out ‘oh but you have so many bottles at home, you should have brought one with you instead of buying another bottle of water’.

      Wow that is one mighty stash of razors! I’d say I had about 5 left, then the BF bought some disposables that didn’t work well for him, so those have ramped up my supply to 9 in the wings, one in service!

      Dish rags with scrub – please tell me more, I’m not sure what you mean?

      • The scrubbing dish rags are like these http://www.walmart.com/ip/Full-Circle-Tidy-Dish-Cloths-in-White-Set-of-4/16521101. The ones I got were on sale and far more in a pack but it appears they’re not available….figures. Of course they don’t tell us what the scrubbing materials are made of…probably plastic….lol.

        One of the reasons we gave up plastic bottles is that they are toxic. Very toxic. I believe it was the movie Plastic Planet that showed this town in Louisiana that is right next to the plastic factory and these people have so many health issues, they are unable to work.

        I had Thyroid cancer back in 1999 and I lived off plastic. Microwave dinners and water, soda….when I was growing up. And There’s all sorts of hormone disruptions in plastic bottles.

        Even, Bag It Covered the toxic nature of plastic. I think the one thing that really hit home for me was Mid Way Island with the birds bellies full with bottle caps and lighters.

        Sorry, don’t mean to dump on your plastic bottles, but your looking at a gal that went up the the drugstore to fight for a PVC free prescription vile for eye drops. PVC (#3) is very toxic and I can’t even fathom putting a medication in my eye that’s in one of the bottles now that I know that….

        Have you read Beth Terry’s Book, plastic free? I see you have a link to her site above.

        My husband is always saying we can have 2, 4 and 5 plastic. LOL.

        • Thanks for the dishcloth link, now I know what to look for in the land without Walmart (yet!).

          I totally appreciate your ‘dump’ – honestly. I think the key is a step at a time. I know one day the bottle will need to go… for sure! My aversion is partly that reusable bottle seem to ‘hold’ taste. That being said, I’m yet to use a stainless steel/aluminium bottle. To think, one year I missed out on that as a corporate gift (I got a football instead?!) Over time, I’ll need to get rid of the bad plastic bottles – it’s on my mind now, it’ll niggle and then I’ll change. And of course, report about it here!

          I’m reading *The World Without Us* and it’s also all about animals (mainly marine life) eating plastic. I’m waiting to get Beth Terry’s book from the library – just need to return a few (after I finish reading them) and start on hers. So sorry to hear you had cancer, that’s certainly a wake up call to what you’re doing in life and how it might affect your health!

  7. Mooncup all the way for me. Switched to using it after a few years of washable STs. Will never, ever go back to disposable stuff. I did a post about it recently, which includes a link to a long discussion on the topic (http://livingthesimplelifeiwant.blogspot.de/2013/04/mooncup.html). I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    As for dishcloths, I used to prefer using sponges but I hated how quickly they needed to be replaced and then saw photos of someone’s blog of the dishcloths they had knit themselves. I was interested and since I realised it would also be a great way to get practice of some basic stuff (like increasing), I made a whole pile of them. The first ones I gave to siblings as presents but a couple of years ago I made eight or nine for myself. I did a couple of different colours so I have a couple that I use as facecloths, a couple that I use for cleaning the bathroom and the majority are for use washing dishes. The colours help me not get them mixed up. I love that I can just wash them as needed. If you’re worried about smell you could always use a new one each day (they’re not so big they’d add an extra load of laundry) but the main thing is to make sure they’re handing up or laid out flat to dry – it’s scrunched up in a ball ones that’ll start to smell most likely.

    I’ve seen keyboards and mouse sets made of wood, so there are products out there that replace some of the more usual plastic casings of electronics with more sustainable products. Pricey though – it’s one of those issues where you get the feeling that it’s mostly for very rich people who think they can buy their way out of environmental catastrophe. I’d still buy them if I needed to replace something anyway and had the money spare.

    • I’m going to dodge the mooncup question after it made the bf (who reads my blog) a little squeamish. I was discussing the option with him, and am pretty impressed by all the positive feedback. I’ll definitely read your post too.

      I’m not surprised the key to fabric/yarn dishcloths is to hang them out – I’ll just need to be vigilant. When the stash of sponges I have disappears, I’ll trial a more sustainable option. When I first moved in, I used microfibre clothes, but got weary of wringing them out enough (sponges make that so easy), and they also started to smell ‘manky’ (does that make sense, I can’t recall if you’re up on aussie slang)

      Ooo I like the idea of a bamboo (I assume) keyboard, I’m going to look out for things like that. I’m probably on the border of ‘rich people’ who’d buy stuff like that :p (PS not at all offended, I just know I’m not entirely frugal at times!)

      • LOL he got squeamish? It’s your body – how would he even know (except maybe for certain advantages during certain times of the month)? Do read a bit more about it – I’ll admit that the first time I heard about it I actually thought it was a joke, being a total convert now I’m more likely to get annoyed at not knowing they existed for years.

        I’m Irish by the way, so manky is definitely a word that’s in my vocabulary 🙂

        • Ah Moonwaves, the Irish and English really get Aussie slang! I just thought with you living in Germany (right) that perhaps English might have been a second language – cause damn those Germans are fluent!

          I think the bf thinks when I say ‘cup’ I mean glass or something? He said something like ‘I’ll never look at a wine glass the same again’ o_O And ah… agreed, how would he know :p He doesn’t… I’m already trialing one (secret’s out now!)

  8. Meant to also mention that for gift-wrapping I switched a few years ago to mostly using tissue paper or fabric (mostly thin chiffony stuff) and ribbons. Depending on who it is, they’ll keep the wrapping to use again or give it straight back to me to use again. I really want to try Furoshiki too – one of those “when I get around to it” things.

    • I have reused tissue paper lately, from shoes and bags and companies that wrap it all up like that. I’ve not thought of using fabric, I might check out thrift stores for options. I keep seeing things on Furoshiki too, but yet to try it properly.

  9. Fantastic post Sarah, lots of good ideas here, and I really appreciated that Beth Terry link.
    I would like to get my hands on those bamboo cotton buds. Already bought a bamboo toothbrush, by an australian company (made in china). Will do a review soon when I have tried it.
    I use cotton dishcloths (from any Aussie supermarket), but go through three or four a day, then dry them on the side of my laundry sink, and every few days do a hot wash with all the dishcloths, tea towels and kitchen towels. That way dishcloths never smell, I know they haven’t been used for anything nasty (because I would have swapped it out), and being cotton, they can be chopped up and thrown in the compost when they get too old.
    Super impressed at your tiny rubbish weigh-in – but very funny about the candle holder. See, cleaning the house = bad for the environment. We really shouldn’t do it!

    • Oh Jo, that’s the second breakage in two weeks, I’m really not doing well. It’s a way to declutter things, that’s for sure.

      I wonder about my light weigh ins, I don’t have much of a bench mark for a one person household. And I don’t eat there every night (sometimes I’m out, sometimes I’m at the bfs) so not sure how that impacts it… Would love to see other people’s weigh ins!

      I’m finding it hard to get my hands on the bamboo cotton buds, but there are also bamboo ear spoons – something Asian cultures use I think? Looking forward to the toothbrush review, though I’m a little way away from needing to replenish stocks.

      And finally, thanks for the tips on the dish cloths. A change must be made with so many readers reporting back success and the ‘how to’ to make them work for me!


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