Why I’m not going to buy any plastic next week

Next week is Zero Plastic week, from June 10-16, did you know that? The challenge is to not buy any new plastic for a whole week. You can use existing plastic that you already have, you just can’t buy new plastic. Sounds easy? It might be harder than you think.

But first, why I’m joining in. I could write a whole blog post about the evils of plastic, but instead I’ve just picked one thing to show you. A few months back, I saw this video and was really upset by it. If you’ve never seen it, please watch it, it’s 3mins 55secs long…

It’s pretty hard to watch that video and not feel like you personally want to do something about it. So when I heard about Zero Plastic week, that video was one of the reasons I decided to take up the challenge.

Even if you don’t want to join in yourself, you can at least do this – the next time you go to the supermarket, just have a look around and ask yourself how many things could you actually buy there if you were avoiding plastic.

I’ve deliberately not stocked up on things before the week starts, so that I can fully embrace the challenge. I’ve been thinking through what I’ll be able to buy…

– Milk could be tricky, it generally comes in plastic containers. Even the Tetra Packs have thin layers of plastic in them. It is still possible to find milk in glass bottles, but probably not from the supermarket. When the milk I have runs out, I may have to resort to the tub of powdered milk that is lurking in the back of my cupboard (yuck!), or just manage without for the rest of the week.

– Fresh meat, fish and cheese can be a problem. The ready packaged versions are in plastic, and even if you go to the counter, they wrap it in plastic. Maybe I could take my own containers along and ask them to put it in them instead?

– Fruit and vegetables are easy enough. There are plenty of loose options, and again, I’d need to bring my own bags to put it in rather than the ones they provide. Or I could visit street markets, or small greengrocers shops which still use paper bags.

– Canned goods are ok, but I wouldn’t want the majority of my food to come out of a can, so canned goods will just be a small contribution to the week.

– Things that come in glass jars are mostly out because they tend to have plastic lids. Even the metal lids have a plastic coating inside.

– A lot of frozen goods have cardboard packages on the outside, but they usually have plastic film inside.

– Supermarket bread is usually in plastic, but they do generally have loose loaves too, or I can go to bakeries that put them in paper bags. Or I can bake my own.

– We eat quite a bit of pasta. The only way I can think of that I’ll be able to buy pasta this week is if I find a shop that sells bulk food in bins that you scoop from, then I could bring my own bags to put it in. Places like that do that exist, but they’re pretty rare.

– On the plus side, flour, sugar, butter and eggs can all be easily bought in non-plastic packaging, so I can make cake. I can also buy wine (as long as it has a real cork in it and not a plastic cork, nor a metal screw top because they are usually lined with plastic). So I could live on cake and wine all week! Hmm, maybe not, especially considering I have children to feed too. But I do think eggs might feature in our meals quite a bit this week.

– Cleaning products and toiletries are a real challenge, but there are solutions, they just need a bit of research and thinking. But seriously, what will I do if I run out of toilet tissue?! Apparently you can buy a box of toilet tissue rolls without plastic packaging from Amazon, but I’ve probably left it too late now for next week.

One thing I must definitely remember is to take bags with me when I go shopping, otherwise I might have a problem actually taking the food I buy away with me.

It’s just one week, but I think the idea is to make us realise how much plastic we buy, and to think about ways we could cut back on our use, even after the week is done. There’s a lady in California called Beth Terry who has been attempting to live without buying any new plastic since 2007, her website has loads of information about how she does that, it’s really worth a look – plasticfreeguide.com

Would you be up for a challenge like this?

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35 responses to “Why I’m not going to buy any plastic next week

  1. it is amazing how much of our world is made up of plastic–and a bit scary–good luck in your quest–I do not think I am going to give it up but I am going to become more aware

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  2. I don’t have studies to back me up, but I suspect if we really evaluated the impacts of everything that goes into the manufacture of plastics (from petroleum extraction to all the unpronounceable chemicals), we would find the root cause (or major contributing element) of many of today’s diseases and afflictions.

    It’s hard to get away from plastic, but we could all do something to reduce its use.

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    • Yes, I avoided making any bold claims in my post about the possible effects on health of plastic because I didn’t have the time to do proper research to separate out fact from hype. I don’t know if you’ve heard about people who remove packaging from items they are buying in the supermarket, and leave the packaging there and just take the items – they say that if enough people did that, then the supermarkets would get the message that people don’t want all that packaging, and might start to look to reduce it. I’ve not been brave enough to do that myself!

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  3. Although i do pay quite a bit of attention to avoiding plastic packaging it’s v useful to have a refresher as outlined by you in this post. I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that jars and screw top wine bottles have plastic – I just choose not to think about it I guess (like most people and climate change…). I buy most of our fruit and veg from a local organic super ethical provider (we walk/cycle to pick it up!) and some of their products come in plastic (eg, chard, spinach, salad) – they say it has a staggering effect on increasing the shelf life of green leaf veges. I know I often spinkle a bit of water on tired salad and give it a shake in a plastic bag to revive it. Please don’t think this is a defence of plastic bags, as it’s not meant to be. Nicola

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    • Hi Nicola, nice to see you! Sorry I haven’t been over to your blog for a while, although I do always read your posts, I just haven’t commented for a while! Yes, I don’t think about it enough really, that’s why I wanted to do this challenge, to force me to think about it more. I have an organic veg box delivered, mostly it’s all just loose in the box which is great, but as you say, a few of the leafy products come in plastic. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but I have some of those green (as in green coloured) plastic bags that you can store produce in in the fridge, and they claim to prolong the life of it, but the main point of them is that they are reusable, you just wash them. I’ve had a set of about 10 of them for over a year and I wash and reuse them all the time and they haven’t deteriorated at all! I hope I don’t suddenly find out that they’re leaching chemicals into my produce or something! That’s another problem isn’t it, you can sometimes solve one issue and inadvertently create another!

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  4. How far do you go? If your fruit has been transported in plastic, is that out?

    The no plastic challenge sounds very difficult! Let us know how you do 🙂

    I’d like to try a similar challenge where I only buy things that have been made or grown within a 50 mile radius.

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    • For this challenge, it’s just about not buying anything that has plastic in it. Not bringing any new plastic into your life. It’s just a small manageable challenge that is part of the big picture. And hopefully it can lead to longer term habit changing!

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  5. My first thought was about the abundant use of plastic … well, that’s your point … but then you wrote about some of my thoughts! Yippee … we’re on the same page. Good luck!

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  6. I had always known about the plastic on the six pack of cans being harmful but never did I realize how much other products could be. Your link was full of good ideas. Fortunately there are stores around here that do try to use plastics in small quantities. And, we actually have places where you can get your meat wrapped in paper. The same is true for toilet tissue.

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  7. This is not going to be easy.. everything comes in plastic these days.. either direct or lined… we certainly cannot get milk in a glass bottle, hell to stay away from plastic we can’t even use canned food as the tins are plastic lined to stop rusting… we would have to starve…

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  8. Great post and a great challenge. Just reading through your list and thinking about what we buy each week I would struggle with most things. I have cereal and soya milk for breakfast. The cereal comes in a cardboard box, but the innards are plastic wrapped. My soya milk is tetrapak but the carton contains plastics. My bread, butter, prepacked salads, processed meats, yoghurty type products, the list never ends.

    It does annoy me that supermarkets continue to produce goods with non-recyclable plastics. They should do more and whilst it’s still the responsibility of the consumer to recycle it, we do a good job in our house. Food for thought. Or should that be, plastic wrapping-free food for thought. 🙂

    Goo luck with it.

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  9. (Vanessa, please understand I say the following without an malice toward you)

    How ignorantly and arrogantly noble to TRY to reduce plastic use to save a few thousand animals from being – sob, sob – harmed/killed.

    Yes it’s a tragedy, but so is it a tragedy for people to think they can do good to “save/make aware/raise people’s environmental consciousness for a week.

    It’s not a week that will do it. Oh it’ll give the warm fuzzies, and a righteous thumping of the chest but the vast majority will go back to their real world of plastic.

    Watch George Carlin on plastic and the world and learn the truth about all this awareness.

    To save those animal then people need to get off their backside and take to the streets and take action, not safely send out blog/email/signing online petitions from their computer. And commiserate with each other.

    If really serious about the plastic issue then really do something not just play the conscious appeasement game. Get rid of your mobile phones/plastic shoes/plastic cars etc., etc.

    Plastic ain’t going away and neither is the Irresponsible use of plastic.

    Videos that show the suffering of poor animals due to “whatever” mean only something as long as people take it serious and really act. The only ones being responsible about saving the animals are the filmmakers. “TRYING” to reduce your plastic use is crap. Unless you’re willing to totally commit to saving those animals it’s all a big joke and the plastic producers know it and are laughing at you.

    You want to really save someone?

    Look at the harm/killing of millions of children from war/poverty/abuse.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=war+and+children&oq=war+and+children&gs_l=youtube.3..0.71549.75204.0.76848.16.9.0.7.7.0.230.1347.1j6j2.9.0…0.0…1ac.1.11.youtube.vBRPe53c6Nk

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=child+poverty+education&oq=child+poverty+education&gs_l=youtube.3…62974.73189.0.74258.23.19.0.4.4.0.239.1765.8j10j1.19.0…0.0…1ac.1.11.youtube.9jTEpsW4sDY

    Maybe, just maybe, one of those kids might have grown up to solve the “plastic problem”.

    But that’s all too global, and plastic is safer.

    “Geee how can I do anything about harm/killing/abuse to children? Oh, I know, we can get everyone to take a week off from abusing/harming/killing children.” Yes that will make people more aware for a week (and maybe 24 hours after the week is over).

    Yes the needless death of some poor animal is a tragedy, and which is the greater tragedy the needless lost of a child’s life or that animal?

    No one will argue against saving children and the real tragedy is most people will not really do anything but shed a tear and pass on the recent tear jerking video.

    Again, I do not mean this as a personal attack on you Vanessa, your intentions are good, and misguided. I know how you feel about children.

    Please if you’re serious about saving whatever, make it your life not another cause célèbre.

    If anyone wants to know what “I” am doing about harm to children watch the newspapers and TV and remember the words Pedo Pete.

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  10. Lots of the stores here still bag groceries in plastic bags but you are charged for them. Walmart doesn’t. I bring reusable bags wherever I shop.
    I went back to my old hometown a couple of years ago and was taken of a tour of the dump where the bears rummage for food and the ravens wait for their turn at the feast. I have never seen so many plastic bags in my life. This is a town of only 900+ people now. I was shocked. I asked why no-body seems to re-cycle. The answer was that they don’t. Period.
    Wonderful challenge but a difficult one. If enough people participated maybe a change can be made, even a small one. Baby steps. Several times over the years, we had the opportunity to choose between paper bags or plastic when shopping. I don’t understand why paper bagging failed. Plastic manufacturers will not go away. Not yet.

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    • Yes, our supermarkets tend to give the thin plastic bags away for free, and then charge for the thicker ones, but they usually call the thicker ones ‘Bag for Life’ which means that once you’ve bought it, when it wears out you can take it back to the store and they replace it with a new one – I’m not sure how often people do that though, I never think to, I also keep forgetting to take bags with me to the store! Hopefully if I get in the habit of doing it this week, I’ll keep the habit!

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  11. Our milkman will still deliver milk in glass bottles I think. I will have to check now….

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  12. That’s sobering, Vanessa. Thanks for putting in a few good ideas to start, too.

    I often find myself looking around our local cooperative, and, even there, there’s so much plastic. We’re encouraged to bring our own grocery bags (I’ve got several), but then there’s all the little things you mention, like plastic lids and containers…and the meat/fish counter! Perhaps I’ll concentrate on what I’ve already got in the cupboard, and make a lot of vegetarian meals, where I can bag my supplies in my mesh tote.

    Let us know how it works out for you!

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    • I discovered recently, when I was speaking about doing this zero plastic week, that some people actually prefer their produce wrapped in plastic because they feel like it’s cleaner! They don’t like things out of people’s gardens or farmers markets or other places where there might be a bit of mud on them, or they might be a bit misshapen, they like them shiny and uniform and wrapped in plastic. I was really surprised!

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  13. That really does sound like a huge challenge. I was thinking about it, and I’m not sure if I could do it. We try not to buy toys and things made out of plastic, but at the grocery store is the toughest place to not buy plastic. Good luck! Will look forward to your end-of-week post.

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    • Yep, the general grocery stores are not conducive to avoiding plastic! You kind of have to go to farmer’s markets and smaller shops and hunt around a bit. Not easy. Not sure if I’m going to do an end-of-week post yet, but I’ll update at some point anyway!

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      • If you live in a smaller American town like I do, avoiding grocery stores becomes even tougher. And in our cold climate, we only have farmer’s markets a couple of months out of the year!

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  14. OMG. Plastic is everywhere. I was just trying to cut down because of chemicals leaking into food from plastic…but it’s HARD…Bring back brown paper bags. Did they ever harm anything?

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  15. I couldn’t watch the video, I started getting too upset just seeing that opening image. But I am very much interested in trying a zero-plastic challenge. I hate that so many things are packaged in plastic—and so much of it is SO unnecessary. I generally try to buy things packaged in paper, cardboard or metal or glass, with as little extra packaging as possible, but they make it awfully difficult. Especially as you point out, because metal containers are lined with plastic. Fortunately, I have a grocery store where fresh meat, etc is packaged in paper rather than plastic. And I hate the plastic thingies that keep 6-packs of soda in place. I try to cut those up so that animals don’t accidentally get choked with them or lodged in their throats, the poor things. So what I’ll try to do is bring my canvas bag with me every day, and buy as much non-plastic packaged stuff as is humanly possible. Hopefully that will make SOME difference and it will get me into better habits. Thanks for posting about this important subject, Vanessa!

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    • Thank you. It really is amazing how much plastic is around us when you look. I just wanted to raise a bit of awareness, amongst myself as much as anything! Sounds like you’re pretty on board already with your canvas bag ‘n all!

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