It’s the end of July, which means a lot of us have spent the month trying to reduce our plastic consumption. It is great to see all the changes being made, and we are inspired by the ways in which people are attempting to make their lives more zero waste. In this month’s blog, we at GreenSeas Trust would like to celebrate some of the plastic-free switches we are particularly excited about!
With the sun finally making an appearance, it is the perfect weather to kick back and enjoy an ice-cold brew. It is a common sight to see supermarket fridges stocked with packs of beer either wrapped in plastic packaging or with plastic 6 pack rings. I am sure we don’t need to tell you that these plastic rings can cause strangulation and entanglement risks for marine animals, so it is great to see certain companies offering plastic-free alternatives.
The obvious solution is to simply replace the plastic with cardboard. This is becoming more and more common, but there are a few novel solutions in the pipeline as well. Some companies are experimenting with six-pack rings that are made from natural materials like wheat and barley. This means that even if they aren’t properly disposed of in a composter, they will biodegrade in the water. Whilst they don’t provide any taste or nutritional value, they’re definitely better for any marine animals who may decide to take a closer look. Another solution being adopted is to get rid of the rings altogether. A special type of glue has been invented which is strong enough to hold the cans together yet will snap off to separate them when required. Whilst this dramatically reduces the amount of plastic in circulation, it is not without its faults, as the glue itself is not biodegradable.
Return of the Milkman
If alcoholic beverages are not for you, don’t fret- our good friend dairy is going back to basics as well. Back in the 1970’s most mornings would start with the hum of an electric milk float and a cheerful delivery of fresh milk.
Supermarkets took over the market though, and by 2020, only 5% of the UK’s milk was delivered by a milkman. Between the nations desire to make the switch from plastic, and COVID-19 confining a lot of people to their houses, there has been a definite resurgence in the ‘modern milkman’. And modern is the word – all orders are placed via an app, dietary replacements like oat or soy milk are possible, and some services also offer extras such as fresh fruit and veg. Not only is this a fantastic plastic replacement, but it also generates employment opportunities. That’s a win-win in our books!
We have previously discussed how fast fashion is detrimental to the environment (https://www.greenseas.org/blog/plastic-fashion-damaging-the-ocean/). It has been reported that the impacts of the fashion industry include consuming 79 trillion litres of water and producing 92 million tonnes of waste per year. So, what are the alternatives? There has been an increase recently in companies which rent clothes instead of selling them. This is a perfect solution when you need something special for an event, and don’t want to splash out on an outfit you are probably only going to wear once.
It is also great if you are someone who likes to change things up a lot; it means you’re not constantly buying and chucking clothes you’re no longer wearing. There are however some concerns that the CO2 emissions produced in shipping clothes to and from consumers could potentially be greater than those created by shipping garments to a traditional brick and mortar shop only once. The best bet is to look for a local renter, therefore cutting down those emissions drastically. Another option is the rise in popularity of vintage or second-hand clothes. Whilst charity shops have long had the reputation of only stocking things your nan would wear, things are changing. Vintage shops, buy and sell apps and ‘weigh and pay’ markets (where you buy your clothes based on their weight – like pick ‘n’ mix) are making reusable fashion…. well, fashionable! Saving money and the planet? Yes, please!
It may feel like one of the trickiest times to ditch the plastic is that time of the month. In the UK it is estimated that about 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day. Going plastic-free does not mean you need to sacrifice your personal hygiene, and there are plenty of options to choose from.
Moon Cups are a fab replacement for tampons. These have grown in popularity recently due to their environmental benefits and their cost-effectiveness. One moon cup can last years – think how many tampons that saves! Another option becoming more mainstream is period pants. Specifically designed to feel like normal underwear but function as a pad. There are different fits and sizes dependent on your flow, and after they go in the wash ready to be reused – the epitome of zero waste. The same goes for reusable pads – simply use, wash and reuse. If going completely zero waste on your period products seems a bit daunting at first, start small with applicator free tampons, or try organic tampons which are both better for the environment and your body.
We hope you have been inspired by some of these plastic-free options and can’t wait to try them out! You can check out our social media pages for more zero waste tips, and to share your experiences of plastic-free July.