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One week in

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 8 Aug 08, 11:46 AM GMT

So ends the first week of "no new plastic". We haven't run out of things to eat, I have remembered my lunch each day and the kitchen bin hasn't turned into a stinking mess, yet.

However, I am aware that the transition has been eased by the fact that we did still have a fair bit of food from before 1 August. Ditto toiletries.

Things may start to get a bit tricky next week as these run out (toilet paper is a particular worry).

And let's not forget that I did fall off the plastic-free wagon several times this week:

  • 1 paper cup with polystyrene outer
  • 1 balloon stick
  • 1 lid to paper cup of tea bought on train as the man in the buffet car would not let me go without in case I spilt it on another passenger
  • 1 small bottle of apple juice for my son as I couldn't find glass and had forgotten to bring extra with me
  • 4 beer widgets (the device that gives canned bitter its head on pouring). widget203.jpgI am annoyed with myself about this, as I had carefully removed the cans from the four-pack "yoke" that held them together before purchase. It was only later that I realised that the widget in the cans was bound to be plastic - a quick attack with a tin opener confirmed my suspicions (pictured)
  • 19 "eco-disposable" nappies. Major addition to the plastic pile although they contain mainly "bio-plastic" rather than the oil-based stuff. I really didn't get my nappy-washing schedule right this week

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Sounds like you're doing really well, even with the mini slip ups!! Just wanted to say keep it up, I think what you're doing is great! Also - if you get stuck for washing powder that's totally plastic free, try charlies soap at www.charliessoap.com they export to the uk and have a small company that sell it here, its cheap and 100% eco friendly! sounds like fantastic stuff to me! p.s....you could always brew your own beer...??

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a great start, for saying that it's been a week and you jumped in cold. Some people throw out more than that in one day!

    Now you've (hopefully) got yourself sorted with reusable nappies, there shouldn't be as many more disposables for the rest of the month. Similarly, if you supply yourself with a reusable sports bottle (even the metal ones have plastic lids, but you aren't going to be throwing it away .....) you won't have the issues with containers; though I must say you've done remarkably well there anyway.

    As for a way to get around the beer widgets issue ..... try drinking Real Ale from recyclable glass bottles!

    Keep it up, and don't get discouraged. Where there is a will, there is a way.

  • Comment number 3.

    Chris, Well done so far. Your lack of a perfect result is not news to a Zero Waste enthusiast. Our world is plastic enclosed. Doing without is a frequent choice. Biscuits, a trivial example, cannot be had without plastic wrapping. I chose to bake.
    Your mention of a wooden toothbrush is a rare example of success. It would be nice if a toothpaste example was also available.

  • Comment number 4.

    Re topilet paper - do it the old fashioned way and make your own by cutting up the newspapers into squares!

    Simple and of course you have something to be reading while you're in there ;0)

  • Comment number 5.

    In several Europian countries they sell toilet paper wrapped in paper NOT PLASTIC, however it's mostly a single roll not 10 in "jumbo" pack. Anyway I'm sure that if you search, you'll find it here in UK as well.

    And for toiletries, detergents etc.... There are some retail shops where you walk in with your canister and they fill it with fairy, shampoo etc.....

    You just need to find it ;)

  • Comment number 6.

    If you can't find toilet rolls wrapped in paper (there is at least one brand supplied that way, but it's rather expensive) you could always do what I used to do when I couldn't afford toilet paper ..... do "big business" at work!

  • Comment number 7.

    Wooden toothbrushes, wooden toothpaste (!), business at work to save buying plastics..........if we regress any further we'll be back in the Stone Age.
    Come on people..........

  • Comment number 8.

    Surely removing the plastic from the beer cans before you buy them is cheating? The plastic still goes straight in the bin - just not your bin!

    But still really well done, and an interesting blog.

  • Comment number 9.

    #7Elpachio

    That comment is ridiculous, Elpachio. Toothpaste can only be purchase in a plastic tube which ends up in landfill. What we need is a medium which is recyclable, eg glass, metal. It may be more expensive but sustainability will be achieved. Otherwise, we will send these empty tubes to landfill from now until the end of time.
    It is not funny, but tragic, this love of plastic, with waste.

  • Comment number 10.

    A world without plastic

    Wake up in the morning when the sunlight naturally wakes me up, to avoid using a plastic arm clock..........rush up and clean my teeth with baking soda and water (and my finger) to save using plastic toothbrush, have a bath to avoid using plastic shower head......having to keep the taps running to avoid using the rubber plug and keep enough water in the vessel...........grab a banana and go to work, do my business in the office cubicle before going to my desk, where my computer has been replaced by pad, paper, pencil and no phone (it's plastic), boss sacks me for being late after I slept in and didn't get in early enough.
    Go home...............................have lunch, and throw all waste food out of the window for the foxes because I cannot use a plastic bin liner in my plastic bin.

    A life without plastic.

  • Comment number 11.

    #9 - that's not correct, jonhcrf.

    If you can produce toothpaste in a plastic tube which is recyclable, it is no worse than producing it in a glass or metal container. It's not the material but the capture efficiency and treatment route that is the issue here.

    Besides, you can also buy dental care products in glass packaging. Do a google, and the first thing you find is 'Uncle Harry's All Natural Toothpaste'. $6 a 2oz jar and made in the states, so we need a UK manufacturer to follow suit. But it is possible to get this product packaged in glass. [There may well be UK producers too - I haven't checked.]

  • Comment number 12.

    If enough people start leaving unwanted plastic packaging behind in shops, then they will do something about it. Don't forget, businesses have legal obligations to recycle as much of their waste as possible, with penalties for failing to do so (which is why they try to foist it off onto the householder whenever they can).

    Within a few years, it may well become economically viable to start mining landfill sites to recover recyclable metal and plastics .....

  • Comment number 13.

    As for toiletries, theres a loverly store called Lush which sells handmade fresh cosmetics. These include soaps, shampoos and face wash in the form of bars. They come with either no packaging, or they come wrapped in paper.

    And the products are gorgeus, aswell as good for the environment!

    www.lush.co.uk

  • Comment number 14.

    #10Elpachio,

    Plastic is useful if it is sustainable. Otherwise, it goes to landfill. I have reduced my waste by 99% by taking personal responsibility for it.

    Food waste is a problem, as well. But let us not overlook the plastic waste problem.
    Anaerobic digestion of food waste is the best solution for that problem. For landfill bound plastic the best solution is to stop using it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am shocked at the size of the beer widget.

    How do they work then?

    I think I had better go out a buy a few cans - just for experimental purposes, you understand!

    What is all the fuss about? When I was a boy, everything was wrapped in paper or foil (toothpaste, for example, came in squeezy metal foil containers). When oil gets scarce, we will simply have to go back to a similar approach. Why worry until then?

    I'll be damned if I will use newspapers as toilet tissue, however (the one exception being, perhaps, a newspaper article with a picture of Gordon Brown - I could see that as being quite satisfying. I feel another experiment coming on).

  • Comment number 16.

    If you remember John, toothpaste could be purchased in the past in metal tubes.......these have been slowly fazed out by plastics laminate tubes (side seam) and seamless plastics tubes which has enhanced the quality of them, and the printing no end, i.e. improved shelf presence.

    They can be made faster and because toothpaste is a commodity product it keeps the producer costs down and leads to cheaper products for us, the consumer. So unfortunately, plastics often means that the consumer saves money, so it's a bit of a double-edged sword.

    And the tubes can be recycled, if the infrastructure is in place.

  • Comment number 17.

    ajs-dy - As it happens, I'm organising a conference on landfill mining (in London, in October 2008) - plastic sent to landfill now (and potentially all of it ever sent to landfill) will eventually be dug up and re-used, either as a raw material for new plastic, or as a fuel. It is just too valuable to waste.

  • Comment number 18.

    Remvoing the plastic from the beers can in the supermarket is NOT cutting down on plastics is it? It just means the supermarket have to clean it up after.

    Plastic is our friend. The solution is not to avoid using it but to make sure we recycle it properly.

    Going without plastic is impossible. It is used in everything we do.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm a bit perplexed by this whole thing - there's nothing intrinsically more recyclable about metal or glass than thermoplastics (ie most everyday plastic objects) - though this isn't true of thermosets (things like 13 amp plugs).

    And since there's no way of telling whether a vastly greater amount of energy has gone into (and carbon come out of) producing, say, a metal can than the plastic widget inside it, how can you say "metal can good, plastic widget bad"? And that's not to mention the type of machinery used to produce it, the carbon footprint of the factory's owners and employees, the means of transport from empty pack to finished product in shop....

    I also hate to tell you, but some card packaging gets its gloss surface by having a very thin film of plastic applied to it, while drinks cans also have a layer of plastic film on the inside to aid air-tightness!

    I know this exercise is done with the best of intentions, but it seems ridiculously simplistic and - sorry to say - rather naive.

  • Comment number 20.

    I was speaking to a key player in the plastics recycling industry in Europe, an organisation of members from throughout the value chain, recently. He told me during our conversation that incineration is clean, safe, harmless, and the perfect way of recapturing valuable energy from the packaging and using it for power.

    However, when it came down to it he didn't want me to publish him being "for" incinerators because of public perception being so bad. So, it's a mixed message, because I have visited incinerators around the world and they are superb facilities and extremely viable routes for waste, but we don't use them, and the public hates them.......why? The media.

  • Comment number 21.

    #11AdeJones

    You misquote my reference. I did not discount recyclable plastic, just did not give it as an example. Landfill bound plastic waste is my concern. If we all stop using it, the problem will cease.
    A toothpaste alternative would be greatly appreciated.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm fascinated by this blog, and I admire you for even trying it. Plastic is by far the largest component of my waste, despite me taking milk deliveries in glass bottles, and having a veg/fruit box delivered. I'm really trying to cut down, but don't have the problems of kids for a start, so it is slightly easier.

    One tip - why not buy beer in bottles, rather than cans - surely just not taking the plastic 'yoke' off before you buy doesn't count, as you are still buying something which relies on plastic; same goes for train-tea (although I never realised that's why they sell them with the cap), it takes planning, but take a flask with you instead of buying - cheaper and better for the planet?!

    Will be following the next few weeks with interest!

  • Comment number 24.

    #12 - ajs_dy

    "Don't forget, businesses have legal obligations to recycle as much of their waste as possible, with penalties for failing to do so (which is why they try to foist it off onto the householder whenever they can)."

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Businesses have a legal obligation to PAY for the recycling of the materials they use to an equivalent tonnage. If a supermarket sells products in 100 tonnes of plastic, then they pay their portion of the obligation toward that 100 tonnes of plastic. For retailers this portion is 39% and the manufacturers, fillers, etc. of the packaging all pay a percentage. If you leave your packaging at the supermarket, not only are your goods more likely to become damaged, but all the supermarket will do is put this with the rest of their waste, to be landfilled or recycled. It just means you don't have to deal with it.

    I'm not against this approach, I believe supermarkets do have a huge obligation towards their customers to educate them on the role of packaging and how it can be reused or recycled. I do have an issue with the 'let them deal with it' attitude purported by many consumers who are probably choosy about which items they leave the packaging at the supermarket for.

    Packaging has hugely important functions and it's not the average consumers responsibility to know them all, but an embargo on plastic is ridiculous. More facts and figures from other commenters are coming to light, like plastics using only 2% of global oil per year, as opposed to fuel for our cars. How many people drive to the supermarket, then decide they will object to a piece of plastic packaging?

  • Comment number 25.

    I buy great toothpaste from Tom's of Maine that comes in metal tubes - they even do children's paste... the tubes may have a plastic cap, though, now that I think about it... maybe try old-fashioned tooth powder? Great for removing tooth stains.

  • Comment number 26.

    jhspjhsp wrote:

    In fact, when I move house, I'm going to replace all my wires with some 1940's stock I've found. A few house fires is really the kind of sacrifice we as a nation will have to make to rid ourselves of plastic.


    I'm sorry but that's among the most ridiculous things I've ever heard in my life.

  • Comment number 27.

    Well done Chris, that really is excellent for your first week. Many of these things take time, and its good to bear in mind how much plastic you would have accumulated in a week before you set yourself this challenge.

    You can buy 2 Andrex rolls at an extortionate price that is wrapped in paper.

    Or the polythene that regular toilet rolls come in can be recycled - many supermarkets that take carrier bags for recycling will take this (as well as the plastic wrap that magazine subscriptions come in).

    you could use izall medicated :D

    Have a great weekend, relax and celebrate your successes.

  • Comment number 28.

    Petrol-powered lawnmowers really are no worse than electric ones.

    You're simply cutting out all the losses in the generator, distribution network and motor, and transferring kinetic energy from the engine directly to the blade.

    Except, of course, you get to *see* the exhaust; as opposed to it coming from the power station where it is Some Other Fool's Problem.

  • Comment number 29.

    "I'm sorry but that's among the most ridiculous things I've ever heard in my life."

    It was meant to be! Perhaps I should have put a smiley at the end. My point is that it is silly to live without plastic. It's a fantastic wonderful material, that makes our lives better in countless ways. Yes, it is probably overused and misused. No, that is not a reason to live without it.

    My fear is that gimmicky experiments such as this only act to demonise technologies that people don't understand. "Radiation is evil! Must not use it!" "Plastic is evil! Must not use it!"

    If Chris had *actually* tried living without plastic, it would have been impossible, but would have shown where plastic is valuable, and where it is not. Instead, he pretends to show that plastic is unnecessary by living without some rather unimportant plastic items (like bin liners), while still relying heavily on it for many vital things (like insulating all his electrics).

    But silly me, I shouldn't expect journalists to care about science, when they can impress the crowd with exciting stories of plastic cup lids and how they nearly didn't use them.

  • Comment number 30.

    Lol, true true

  • Comment number 31.

    Surely buying beer, but removing the plastic in the supermarket still counts?? Whoever comes across the empty binding on the shelf will simply throw it in the bin, contributing to land fill waste anyway?

    You're doing well so far though, especially without bin liners :-/

  • Comment number 32.

    Serves you right for buying canned beer. Buy bottle-conditioned ales: support local producers and enjoy a far superior product!

  • Comment number 33.

    #29,30

    Christine has my full support. As a Zero Waste enthusiast, I applaud her publicising the issue and educating the public about the landfill problem which you want to trivialise.
    I avoid landfill plastic by finding useful alternatives. It is important to show the public at large that there are good alternatives, eg wooden toothbrushes.

  • Comment number 34.

    I hope those wooden toothbrushes are from sustainable tree plantations!

  • Comment number 35.

    Never mind widgets, the bigger issue is that if you were doing this for more than 1 month how would you go about "no new plastic" when you needed to replace your laptop/TV/light switches/birth control method etc. etc.




    The thing that always amuses me with these stunts (this must be the 3rd BBC "eco" one in a year) is the complete lack of joined up thinking.

    Take scrapping a perfectly serviceable car and replacing it with a more "economical" one - the embedded cost (manufacturing and getting all the material) of the new car is likely to mean that you'll never actually beat running the older car for longer.

  • Comment number 36.

    #35MightyFop,

    We are talking about sustainablity with regard to waste. Sustainability should apply to every activity, including manufacture.

  • Comment number 37.

    Chris

    I am sure that most people reading about your experiment understand that you are not suggesting that stopping unnecessary consumption and disposal of plastic are the solution to all the world's problems. It is quite clear in your blog that you are an intellectual who understands green and environmental issues.

    I am reading with interest how you are getting on, and think you are doing a great job in highlighting how unnecessarily
    wasteful our society is.

    As for the people commenting who have nothing better to do than show the world how proud they are to be wasteful, it shows how ignorant they are.

  • Comment number 38.

    #35 johnhcrf

    No you're talking "trendibility".

    Sustainability is a different kettle of fish entirely, and one which is largely mutually exclusive to a Western way of life.

    Take the UKs supposed CO2 reductions.... we haven't reduced ANY (they have grown with our economy), we've just shipped them to China and decided not to count them.




    How for example can you sustainably manufacture a car? Or a computer for that matter? We can't even really sustainably supply wood or grain at any real level (there's embedded cost in planting, growing, harvesting and transporting - and that's before you get to processing and usage).

    We could live "sustainably" but it would be nothing like a 21st century Western lifestyle - for a start we'd need to get rid of at least 3 billion of the people currently on this planet, never mind the extra 3 billion about to arrive in the next 50 year.

  • Comment number 39.

    I thought of this the other day. Has anyone seen toothbrushes that aren't made of plastic, both the handle and bristles.?

  • Comment number 40.

    #27 the originalmrsgreen

    "Andrex rolls at an extortionate price that is wrapped in paper"

    I really wouldn't. Andrex are owned by Kimberly Clark and they quite happily decimate ancient Canadian boreal forests in order to make product which then gets flushed down the loo, never to be seen again.

    I'd buy a bulk load of recycled toilet roll and chalk the plastic up to experience, should I be following this ridiculous no plastic plan, which I'm not. But I do buy recycled toilet paper and use it sparingly.

    Btw, toilet paper is in plastic to avoid moisture ingress during transportation. No point in soggy loo roll is there - just another example of how this blog is ignoring the functions of packaging just to prove something. I've read the original article several times, I'm still not sure what the point is.

    "I am reading with interest how you are getting on, and think you are doing a great job in highlighting how unnecessarily
    wasteful our society is."

    Er... nope. Wasteful would be putting toilet roll in paper packaging then putting up with increased wastage levels through moisture damage.

  • Comment number 41.

    #40 jo_mojobanana

    Er... nope.

    "Wasteful would be putting toilet roll in paper packaging then putting up with increased wastage levels through moisture damage"

    You choose to ignore that the entire population managed with paper packed toilet rolls all through the 70s and 80s. And personally I don't remember a single occasion where I threw away and wasted any toilet roll due to moisture ingress.

  • Comment number 42.

    Plastic wrapping on loo rolls annoys me too ! Can't the point of it myself - years ago it was in a paper wrapper.

    The only one I can think of is Izal squares - I think they come in little cardboard boxes (bit hard though !)

  • Comment number 43.

    "You choose to ignore that the entire population managed with paper packed toilet rolls all through the 70s and 80s."

    Two points, well maybe three.

    Paper is heavier and thicker and paper production is much more energy intensive than you might think. Just because you can recycle it, doesn't mean it's a better option.

    I suspect in the 70s and 80s the toilet paper brands weren't all owned by 5 major global players. The supply chain now is much longer. Anyone know where Andrex is manufactured? And it's more than likely the paper wrap is treated in order to prevent moisture ingress.

    If everyone manufactures toilet roll into plastic film then I suspect the reason is cost. Would you like to pay even more for your toilet roll for the privelege of having it wrapped in paper? Virgin paper from endangered forests? Destroying biodiversity and carbon sinks?

    The answers to every problem are complex, that's why nobody's got the answer and why nobody knows what a sustainable society looks like. Yes, plastic comes from oil and will end up in landfill, but it takes up less space and remains inert. Paper destroys forests, takes huge amounts of energy and water to manufacture and is heavier to transport. The issues are complex. I think this no-plastic exercise fails to accommodate that fact.

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree that there are circumstances in which plastic is valuable and useful (especially the plastic that goes to make wind turbines that is unlikely to end up as landfill), but I still think the experiment is valid - it means Chris (and her readers) really has to think about what plastic is necessary and what can be done in other ways. Chris may decide that it's worth keeping some plastic in her life when the month is over, but that's a valid result of the experiment: the discovery that some plastic is necessary/useful and some is not.

    On the issue of toothpaste, it may be possible to get ayurvedic tooth powder in a glass jar, but whether your kids will like it is another matter!

  • Comment number 45.

    Many of the comments on this board are missing the point of what Chris is trying to do.

    Chris did not say she wanted to reduce her carbon footprint, she did not say she wanted to reduce her food and grocery miles and she did not say she wanted to create a sustainable society.

    Her experiment is simply to "see if it's possible to give up plastic for a month. By "give up" I mean not buying anything containing plastic or wrapped in plastic."

  • Comment number 46.

    #44

    "it means Chris (and her readers) really has to think about what plastic is necessary and what can be done in other ways"

    This is what I'm trying to take from this exercise, particulary on the nappy front. When I read the headline my heart sank as I thought it was yet another attack on packaging, but her comments on nappies, takeaway cups, etc. are extremely useful. How many people buy a coffee 'on-the-go' every day and fail to think about the impacts of that paper cup. That perhaps using a reusable take-about mug would be a better approach. Or perhaps getting into the office earlier and making a cup of coffee from a kettle and using a real mug?! We are slaves to our lifestyles.

    The bit I object to are the comments that decry packaging as purely 'waste'. Yes, I work in packaging so I have an interest, but there seems to be a consensus from some people that packaging is inherently wasteful and it's not. In fact it prevents more waste than it causes. When global food costs are rising and food shortages increase, packaging is essential.

    Yes, there are cases of over-packaging: I see Chris hasn't yet tried to buy a toy for her child that isn't encased in enough cardboard, plastic and wire ties to kill several burly marine animals, but I'm sure this is a subject she will broach.

    Food packaging, on the whole, is robust enough to get it through the supply chain and no more. And I suspect that comment is enough to anger many... I await the hate.

  • Comment number 47.

    #46

    moj0_, Do you see the benefit of using recyclable plastic which does not end up in landfill? That would be the packaging industry taking responsibility for their waste.

  • Comment number 48.

    #47 - johnhcrf

    Plastics are recyclable. The facilities to do so and consistent collection schemes are lacking. Some containers are also not labelled which is an issue.

    Let me just get this straight. I am not in favour of landfill. Anything that can be done to avoid it I am in favour of. It is disposing of valuable materials that can be reused, many times in some cases.

    Your attitude seems to be to focus only on eliminating landfill to reach zero waste, without considering the impacts that your actions have in other areas.

    Wooden toothbrushes: are they from sustainable forests? How much water is used in their manufacture? Where are they transported from? What preservatives are required for the wood? What packaging is used.

    Plastic does not equal landfill. I will repeat this until you get bored. Plastic does not equal landfill. It is an incredibly valuable material.

    And the packaging industry do take responsibility for their material in the form of Packaging Recovery Notes under the Producer Responsibility (packaging waste) Regulations. Something else you might want to educate yourself on.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am following this with great interest.

    A large problem with plastic is that ends up as litter. It doesn't bio-degrade, it just breaks up into smaller and smaller bits with a large proportion ending up in the sea where it does vast damage to animals and ecosystems. Sea animals eat these small bits of plastic but it has no nutritional value so can lead to starvation.

    Plastic is very cheap, light and versatile making it a great material for lots of purposes. Our world would be a very different place without it but a lot more care has be taken about where it ends up. As can be seen from this blog it can be very difficult to get by without it. It is made from oil which is a non-renewable resource so we need to start putting a greater value on plastic and not treat it so much as a "one time use" disposable material.

    Good luck with the coming weeks!

  • Comment number 50.

    i think removing the "yoke" from your bevvies at the store is within the rules, either, regardless of the widgets. if it has plastic on the packaging you should be avoiding buying it AT ALL, no?
    at my co op we have toilet paper sold in single rolls, wrapped in recycled paper. is this an option for you anywhere?

  • Comment number 51.

    oops, i meant i DON'T think removing the "yoke", etc. etc.

  • Comment number 52.

    #48
    moj0_,
    I do not use unrecyclable plastic packaging. When you employ full recycling facilities that could change. It is up to you.

  • Comment number 53.

    So it's ok to consume as long as there's a way to get rid of the waste? Just keep consuming, but it's ok, because we can recycle the waste. Well that's ok then...

    The recycling can only take place when there's an end use for the material. Otherwise you end up with barrel-loads of material you've recycled for no purpose, expending energy and resources in the process. If all you care about is whether something's recyclable or not, and then one day it all is, we're going to end up with too much material in the marketplace and no reuse for it.

    Your approach is laughable. My approach is to think carefully about purchases, about the actual product that's being bought. Is it really necessary? Can I live without it? Will this product enhance my ability to reduce energy consumption, resource consumption? Is the product durable or have replaceable spare parts meaning I need not replace the entire thing? Will the product remain fresh until it's all used?

    You're trying to paint me as a self-interested, plastic loving scourge of the environment. I can tell you, you couldn't be further from the truth. I object to the amount of 'stuff' in the world, to food waste, to unnecessary suffering and I do everything in my power to not be part of these activities. all you care about is landfill and there is a BIGGER picture you're being very ignorant about.

    You can witter on about landfill if you would like, I'm fed up of repeating myself and will not respond to your comments any further.

  • Comment number 54.

    #53,

    To say that landfill is my only concern is laughable. It is my main concern as it is a huge problem. Food waste is a problem. This can be addressed by Anaerobic Digestion, as already indicated. Plastic waste is another problem. I have decided to do my bit to end this particular phenomenon.
    Hopefully , other concerned individuals will do their bit too, including packaging people.

  • Comment number 55.

    "but a few house fires is really the kind of sacrifice we as a nation will have to make to rid ourselves of plastic."

    Are you people for real? You want to get rid of plastic, possibly one of the most beneficial inventions of the 20th century, to go back to some sort of pre 1945 type existance where you wash your clothes on a steel drum and walk everywhere in your jute shoes? What are you trying to achieve here? Even if you you all give up using plastic there will still be 60m other people in the country using it - even if everyone in the UK gave up using plastic there wld still be 500+ people in Europe using it and so on. The examples given are all just brilliant in there falability - a coal stove will put out massively more polution than a regularly serviced gas combi boiler; taking the plastic off something in the shop doesnt achieve anything - its already been manufacteured and the resource used.

    The person who gives the example of getting rid of a plastic lawnmower to buy a metal petrol one is outstanding - so you've added another perfectly working lawnmower to the landfill just because of yr prejustice against plastic? Good effort!

    A classic example is the government encouraging people to get rid of their old, alledgedly polluting cars and buy new clean cars - they forget that 90% of the pollution caused by a car occurs in the manufacteuring process so even if you bought it and never drove it 90% of the 'damage' wld have been done.

    90% of fridges/ freezers sent to the dump are fully functional - they have been chucked out just because they look a little shabby and they don't fit in with someones remodelled kitchen - this is what you eco-nazi's are up against - people will only consider adopting 'eco-friendly' options if it has NO impact on their livestyle.

    Presumably you all have computers made from twigs and leaves - or are they plastic just like mine? Thought so!

    And anyway you are flogging a dead horse - for all intents and purposes any Government in a Western Capital nation is 'controlled' (lobbied?) by the Big multinational companies so you are all wasting your breathe - nothing will change as long as big business exists - and Communism around the World has already been tried and failed.

    Anyway got to go now - need to book my second long haul holiday flight of the year - let me know how you get on living in yr 'living museum'!

  • Comment number 56.

    johnhcfr
    If you are so keen on anaerobic digestion of waste food why not incineration of plastics.
    have you not heard, it's the same thing environmentally. Both produce CO2 as the end product.
    By the way so does composting, it just does it a bit more slowly.

    Have you heard of the environmental hierarchy
    REDUCE
    REUSE
    RECYCLE
    Start by reducing, including the food you buy and then throw away.
    Then reuse, the bag, the container, buy long lasting durable products......
    Finally recycle; recycling is the the last resort as it takes energy to do it. Sometimes it is more economical (in energy as well as money) to incinerate for energy recovery

  • Comment number 57.

    "HannaH_S_1 wrote:

    Her experiment is simply to "see if it's possible to give up plastic for a month. By "give up" I mean not buying anything containing plastic or wrapped in plastic.""


    Well give up NEW plastic for 1 month anyway (which is a much, much, much easier task and a different thing really).

    But, yes of course it is possible.

    It's quite possible to give up food for a month..... but there's maybe not a lot of point to doing it.

  • Comment number 58.

    Re Number 4:
    Don't Do It!

    My flatmate and I decided to use newspaper when we were students. It resulted in having to call the council one very rainy Winter night to unblock the drains. One of the unblockers complained that some idiot had been wiping their **** with newspaper and it had blocked all the drains. We, naturally, blamed it on the strange woman upstairs.

  • Comment number 59.

    #56 JoeThePack

    Incineration is not the public's preference. Would you like an incinerator near you? My idea is for plastic packaging to be recyclable. What is wrong with that? It will cost but there will be a landfill cost saving.
    Food waste is mentioned by pro waste plastic people to shift the blame away from plastic waste. As I have said elsewhere food waste can be anaerobically digested.
    Food waste occurs also due to bogof practices, involving plastic wrapping surprise, surprise.
    You did not mention plastic waste to landfill.That does not conform to the RRR system.

  • Comment number 60.

    In my opinion if you wanted to really avoid plastic, you would have used one of your t-shirts or a towel and used pins to make an adhoc nappy for you child, then stayed up late that evening to clean all nappies. They would have been dry by morning. That would have made a better story too.

    You also didn't have to buy the balloon on a stick, it would have been a very teachable moment to your son. Saving the environment over an impulse to buy something, that would just be put in the trash later, which is how the world is in this mess. Acting on impulses for an item that won't be kept for very long.

    You could have refused the cup of tea, and also the paper cup.

    But good effort for trying, I can't say I have seen anyone else do it. I bet next week you will have it down packed.

    Rotten luck on the beer cans, but at least you tried:)

  • Comment number 61.

    I have an interesting one - when typing the blog, you use a computer. All the computers I have used in this world all have plastic coverings.

    I bet somewhere you can buy a metal computer, keyboard and mouse

  • Comment number 62.

    If you need toilet paper, go to your work, shopping centre etc and help yourselves to one of those industrial sized rolls. They are normally loose as 1. Cleaners cannot be bothered putting the rolls on 2. Ordered rolls that don't fit the holders just to save a few quid and 3. Cleaners don't have any keys for the holders.

    You don't have to get a full one as it looks dodgy. But half of one is great and can slip it into one of your cloth bags!

    I have done this.

  • Comment number 63.

    pinkfloydareace, you may have got into the habit of throwing away your computer keyboard and mouse after typing just one blog post, but I believe Chris Jeavans is still using the same ones as she already had when she started the experiment.

  • Comment number 64.

    "pinkfloydareace wrote:

    I have an interesting one - when typing the blog, you use a computer. All the computers I have used in this world all have plastic coverings.

    I bet somewhere you can buy a metal computer, keyboard and mouse"


    You probably can, but not using plasitic inside a PC (or mouse or keyboard) is an altogether different thing.

    Of course this is only about NEW plastic, so unless all her PCs physically breakdown this month it's unlikely to be an issue (although interestingly even getting software without plastic somewhere would be impossible).

  • Comment number 65.

    Can you please tell us how much you're getting paid for these vacuous and meretricious pieces for the BBC?

    I only ask because I'd like to know how much of my licence fee you're getting.

  • Comment number 66.

    Dear Chris

    I can tell you that many of us reading your daily blog are much more guilty than you for our "plastic crimes" should I say, living a life without plastic is really a very hard undertaking these modern days.

    I see you doing very well in view of the rest of us. Keep up the job, It's great!!!!!

    You've got no idea how the American deal with the great amount of plastic they get every day. For those who have a green attitude it is very hard in the big cities to deal with living a free plastic life. I've been doing my best but plastic is everywhere and very few people care about it. I see this every time I go to the supermarket here in Miami, almost nobody uses the fine recyclable bags they sell for just 99c, in 60 days I haven't seen anyone except me using them.

    That really shows that they haven't grasped these values yet!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    Elpachio wrote - 'I was speaking to a key player in the plastics recycling industry in Europe, an organisation of members from throughout the value chain, recently. He told me during our conversation that incineration is clean, safe, harmless, and the perfect way of recapturing valuable energy from the packaging and using it for power.

    However, when it came down to it he didn't want me to publish him being "for" incinerators because of public perception being so bad. So, it's a mixed message, because I have visited incinerators around the world and they are superb facilities and extremely viable routes for waste, but we don't use them, and the public hates them.......why? The media.'

    I don't have a problem with incineration, provided it is optimised. I prefer gasification as a technology, as it is more modular and scalable though. I do have a problem with the incineration of plastics however.

    If you do the maths, you'll see why.
    To make raw PET takes 84MJ/kg.
    It contains 71MJ/kg of energy.
    Standard electricity-only incinerator plant operates at around 20% net efficiency. So you only get about 71*0.2 = 14MJ/kg back from burning plastic.
    To recycle that same PET? Takes about 0.5MJ/kg.

    It's over 3 orders of magnitude more efficient to recycle that plastic than it is to burn it. If you incinerate it, that's a waste opportunity for this waste stream.

    Energy from waste has a role to play, but should be used for those waste streams for which it is better suited - wood, degraded paper/card etc. [Some plastic will inevitably end up in this mix, but it should be designed out as much as possible.]

    Also, if you are going to burn it, you can improve efficiencies four-fold by using the heat directly rather than producing electricity.

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 - hubertgrove - if you don't like it then go and bother someone else. This is a place for positive discussion, not tedious whingeing.

  • Comment number 69.

    #56 - joethepack - you're making the mistake here of believing that the waste hierarchy is always correct. It isn't - emerging research across the EU demonstrates that the most appropriate hierarchy differs by waste stream. I've demonstrated in #67 above why recycling plastic is a lot better than incinerating it. It's all down to the carbon balances. The carbon balance of burning plastic is far higher than that of recycling it. Therefore, we should recycle it.

    Wood, on the other hand, is nearly carbon neutral to burn when you look at a whole-lifecycle assessment - and all the recycling routes (bar reclamation of top-quality waste wood for reuse as whole or reworked timber) have a worse carbon footprint. So it is better to burn it in an optimised plant.

    You refer to AD and composting - you are correct when you state that composting of food waste produces CO2. It does, but a lot less in proportion than landfill (due to fugitive emissions from landfill) and a lot more than AD (due to the energy generation opportunities that come with AD.)

    So it's all a matter of correct selection of process by waste stream. For plastic, the correct selection is to reduce, reuse - then recycle as much as you can. It is arguable that incineration of this stream may even be worse than landfill given the inert nature of most plastics in landfill (and looking at the carbon sequestration arguments.)

  • Comment number 70.

    #55 - Speedbird wrote 'A classic example is the government encouraging people to get rid of their old, alledgedly polluting cars and buy new clean cars - they forget that 90% of the pollution caused by a car occurs in the manufacteuring process so even if you bought it and never drove it 90% of the 'damage' wld have been done.'

    Actually, the real figures are around 10% manufacturing, 20% fuel supply and delivery, and 70% use of vehicle. So I make that 90% the other way round when you gross up fuel supply and delivery and use.

    Google for a report called 'Automaker
    Carbon Burdens in California' which undertakes an LCA of a typical vehicle. Our figures may be more generous due to our better vehicle mileages - but usage costs outweigh manufacturing costs still.

  • Comment number 71.

    AdeJones, I feel your pain.

    In my city a few years ago there were plans to build a gasifying energy-from-waste plant. However, the locals -- whipped up into a hate frenzy by a chapter of a campaign group which more properly ought to be called Enemies of the Human Race -- heard the word "incinerator", mistook the plant for a smelly garden bonfire and, despite sound scientific evidence, ended up blocking it. One of the objections that they cited was that recycling more waste would encourage people to throw more away! Another was that the plant would generate CO2 (but most of it would be from recent carbon, i.e. organic matter; and anyway, barring any increase in demand for electricity, any CO2 produced by *this* plant would be *instead of* the same amount from another power plant, not as well as). They demonstrated a complete ignorance of all branches of science, even going so far as to refute the First Law of Thermodynamics in print (I wish I'd kept a copy of that newspaper now .....)

    Oh, they also cited air quality issues (from carbon dioxide and steam). If you knew the part of town where they planned to build the plant, everybody who lived there smoked at least 20 a day -- but that's verging dangerously onto ad-hom territory, so it would not be proper to rely on such an argument.

    Since the plant didn't require rigorous segregation (all non-combustibles would eventually be recovered for recycling and in a better state than ballast recovered from a simple incinerator), building it would have meant that even when the lazy, selfish scum thought it was OK to stick everything in one bin, it would at least have kept their metal and glass out of landfill and recycled. And there's not a lot else you can do with festering disposable nappies anyway (barring not making the evil things in the first place).

    This has meant that valuable metals, plastic and glass are still going to landfill; and organic waste is decomposing to methane, some ten times more damaging than the equivalent CO2 and H2O from its combustion. And Natural Gas -- a fuel too useful to waste on electricity generation -- is being burned in power stations.

    Of course it would have been better to build it as a CHP system, delivering heat to nearby homes or industry; frankly, an engine would be better defined as "a heating appliance that produces some kinetic energy as a by-product". But that would have required some serious joined-up thinking, and it seems that nobody in a position of power is capable of thinking about anything beyond their next pay cheque.

  • Comment number 72.

    I am a hude fan of what your doing and am even trying it myself.
    Also in terms of finding toilet roll sold in no plastic, I have come across 3 shops, just little corner shops that sell them as singles, just as they are, just try little family run corner shops it might be a common theme!

    However these may have come in the normal packets and just been separated by the shop.

    Also you could try cleaning supplies as I know the places I work have refills for the toilets that come in paper packets.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 73.

    With the toilet paper, there is one on the market that I'm sure is wrapped in paper. Izal medicated.

  • Comment number 74.

    #71 - ajs_dy wrote 'Of course it would have been better to build it as a CHP system, delivering heat to nearby homes or industry; frankly, an engine would be better defined as "a heating appliance that produces some kinetic energy as a by-product". But that would have required some serious joined-up thinking, and it seems that nobody in a position of power is capable of thinking about anything beyond their next pay cheque.'

    Actually, heat-only is better for mass-burn, as to get usable CHP, you end up using a very inefficient turbine, and your electricity generation levels drop to about 9%. Gasification is better for CHP, but can be equally well adapated to heat-only.

    I don't agree about those in a 'position of power', btw. There's a lot of activity behind the scenes to raise the bar when it comes to efficiencies of EfW plant - after all, it's all about minimising your carbon footprint, and government across the EU is waking up to the fact that mass burn incineration for electricity only isn't a good place to start. We are now seeing CHP mass burn (and heat-only) developed in this country - check out the Cyclerval plant in Lincolnshire (CHP) and the Lerwick plant in Shetland (heat-only).

  • Comment number 75.

    #65 - Hubertgrove- I think this one of the most acceptable thing to put my licence fee toward, its very informative, useful and promotes something that everyone should at least take note of if not try for themselves. I would happily pay more for good informative and helpful services such as this rather than the mundane quiz show or old film know one has ever heard of.

  • Comment number 76.

    jo_mojobanana raises a rare point about the real sustainabilty issue.

    Is our planetary ecosystem collapsing because we are using a miniscule land area for waste burial? No

    Are conditions on earth poised to become unsuitable for the majority of lifeforms because we make plastic from a non-renewable resource? No

    So given that we may now only have 100 months left to avoid run-away climate change, is the plastic debate just a huge distraction from the most pressing action needed, namely energy descent?

    Perhaps the guilt surrounding plastic and the throwaway-society is an early stage in a green awakening. But we desperately need some clarity of thought to be able to identify what the real problem is. Redirecting all that crude oil away from plastic manufacture towards combustion engines is the last thing we need!

  • Comment number 77.

    #76100months

    Waste is a problem which faces us every day of the week. Which is probably why people like me take an interest.
    8 1/3 years down the line, there will have been plenty of changes. Hopefully, by then our full UK renewable potential will be reached.

  • Comment number 78.

    Some pound shops or cheapo stores you can buy say 4 loose rolls for £1. Then take them home in your cloth bags.

    The most hypocritical thing I have seen recently in shops are cloth bags sold in plastic bags!!!!

    What do you do with meat as its either sold in those foam trays wrapped in cringflim/shrink wrap. Then if you buy your meat from a butcher, it's always a plastic bag! Years ago, was meat wrapped in waxed paper?

  • Comment number 79.

    #78pinkfloydareace

    The answer to meat/fish purchases is freezer containers. No packaging is necessary. These containers are plastic but long-lasting.

  • Comment number 80.

    No-one seems to have thought of the obvious answer to toilet roll... using cloth wipes for everyone :-) If Chris is washing nappies and possibly reusable san-pro, what do a few more bits of cloth in the machine matter?

  • Comment number 81.

    Hello Chris,

    It's been a tough week for me. I fell off the no-plastic wagon much more than you did. Bravo to you.

    Last week I noted after a trip to local supermarket (here in Switzerland) that my new awareness was that toilet paper was only sold in plastic. It's a minimum of 6 rolls in a pack. I spent a good amount of time, calls and petrol this week trying to find rolls wrapped in paper. No luck - and driving around defeats the purpose of avoiding plastic. So today was 'must buy' toilet paper, and my concession was to purchase 'recycled' toilet paper, a pack of 12 bundled in plastic. I was amazed that the 'recycled' paper is only 80 centimes less than the 12-pack, 'soft-and-pretty' rolls and 'fancied-up' in plastic wrap, with a colour designand nice handle. What-- to compensate for paper being recycled...or maybe not? Onward week 2.

  • Comment number 82.

    I agree about the beer widget; the brewers of a well-known 'Australian' lager (that Australians wouldn't actually touch with a bargepole, but there you go) are crowing about their new 'in-can Scuba' which supposedly gives the beer a draught-style head when decanted into a glass. Now provided I get a full measure I've never been particularly bothered by a huge head on my pint, less so if I'm supping it from a can in the garden, and my first thought on seeing the advertisements was what problems these 'widgets' would cause the recycling plants. Could it be that councils will eventually stop accepting certain brands of beer cans due to these unwanted plastic 'accessories'?

  • Comment number 83.

    Perhaps somebody with actual experience in the metals recycling industry (as opposed to just heating metal to melting point then casting objects in sand moulds) can comment better, but my first guess would be that the presence of a plastic widget in an aluminium beer can wouldn't be a major issue for the recycling companies.

    Cans would have to crushed and shredded before being melted down (this increases the surface area and thus helps them melt faster, saving some energy. There is a point of diminishing return where you have expended more energy cutting up the can than you will save due to it melting faster). Even if the plastic widgets are not removed at this stage (not hard to do with just a water bath, as most thermoplastics are less dense than water and so will float), then they will burn up at a lower temperature than aluminium melts. And since that energy is being liberated right in the furnace, it's actually (1) saving a small amount of fuel and (2) using up oxygen and so helping prevent oxidation of the molten product.

  • Comment number 84.

    If you want toiletries, you might want to give Lush a try. They make a good few soaps and shampoos that are either packaged in paper or not packaged at all! They do avoid plastic whenever they can, so they might be worth a look.

  • Comment number 85.

    Re #12 - I didn't know that businesses were legally obligated to recycle as much as possible. This is good news! It answered my question on a previous blog entry. Thanks. :)

  • Comment number 86.

    #85 - they aren't really. Businesses over a certain turnover have certain obligations under something called the Packaging (Producer Responsibility) Regulations to ensure that they meet certain targets in relation to their packaging obligations - but this doesn't catch many SME businesses.

    There is nothing to stop your local greengrocer, for example, for sending all their waste veg to landfill if they use a third party trade collection, as commercial waste is outside the local authority restrictions as regards Landfill Allowances. In essence, this is what often happens - in a co-mingled collection too - making segregation much more difficult from these businesses.

    However, more than half the waste in the industrial stream is generated by companies large enough to fall under the terms of the Packaging Regs, and as often as not under the terms of another set of regs known as the Env Permitting Regs - these do have some legal requirements in terms of waste minimisation/recycling etc, albeit at an aspirational level.

  • Comment number 87.

    #86 - This isn't a criticism of the Comm/Industrial sector, btw - as this sector generally delivers greater recycling than the domestic waste sector. It's just that this is skewed by the larger companies.

 

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