I'm starting to miss plastic...

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 13 Aug 08, 02:29 PM GMT

Especially bin bags as the kitchen bin is starting to pong and I have a pang of dismay each time I open it and realise I can't just scrape what I like in there without wrapping it first.

The milk situation has also soured: the delivery didn't turn up this morning. It's not clear if this was a mistake at the depot or whether it has been nicked but so far it's looking like the former.

The last remaining pint from the previous delivery had been sloshed across the kitchen floor by the youngest member of the household who is used to plucking plastic bottles from the fridge with impunity.

So this morning I had to go and buy some more before any of us could have breakfast.

As I said in my previous post about milk, it is a close run thing as to whether glass or HDPE milk bottles have the greatest overall environmental impact.

But buying that bottle of milk this morning certainly breaks the terms of this experiment which is to attempt to live without buying new plastic for a month.

The aim of doing so is to look at the pros and cons of the way that we use and dispose of plastic.

I think I found another downside to going plastic-free this morning when I bought a loaf from the baker.

The woman offered to slice it, I accepted and then realised it would have to go in a paper bag, which I suspect will mean it goes stale more rapidly than in plastic (or an unsliced loaf in paper).

I have wrapped it in a reusable shopping bag to try to extend its lifespan.

And the cloth nappies which I put on the line to dry have been rained on twice today.

Yes, I am definitely missing plastic.


  • Comment number 1.

    Oh dear, we all have our bad days and I admire you for posting, with honesty, the way you are feeling about things.

    These things happen, they sure have to me, and they still do!

    I really think a bokashi would be the way for you to go - why is your bin smelling; what is in there that smells apart from food waste?

    Once you remove that from the equation there isn't anything - or am I missing something?

    I hope the milk issue gets resolved. One of the Asda branches are trialling cardboard 'bottles'.

    I guess it's time for you to sharpen your bread knife ;)

    Keep up the great work

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Chris,

    There are difficulties in transition when you reduce your plastic. Setbacks will occur as they have done with every Zero Waste enthusiast I know, including myself.

    Learn from the negative experiences and change your activities to suit. We all have compost bins, pets, bokashi bins to deal with food waste. They are absolutely necessary and help remove food from bin waste. Otherwise, you have to deal with the mess of food waste, using plastic bags etc.

    A month is a difficult challenge. Maybe you should take weekends off to recharge the batteries. If you do give up early the plastic lobby will be exultant.

  • Comment number 3.

    Bokashi bins, wormeries and compost bins are all fine for people with a garden, but what about those who live in flats?

    The food waste has to go into the bin and the bin is lined with a black plastic sack.

    Any suggestions johnhcrf?

  • Comment number 4.


    I am sorry about your difficult start today but please don't be discouraged. There are bound to be slips. You are doing a good thing and many of us are rooting for you.

    Is there anywhere indoors that you could hang the baby's diapers (nappies)? Years ago, I hung my laundry in the attic during bad weather. I am sure you will think of something.

    Keep trying!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Chris

    Having got back from my hols I've been busy catching up with your blog and you seem to be going great guns.

    Plastic is definitely one of those things that is hard to avoid and it will come down to avoiding the stuff that's easy and sticking with than where the alternatives are difficult to deal with.

    I agree with theoriginalmrsgreen, if you've got smelly food waste in a bin, then a Bokashi is a great way to go. I've been using mine for about 5 or 6 months now.

    Mind you, it is made from plastic but as long as you have no intention of bunging it in landfill you're alright.

    The only limitation to the Bokashi is that you would need to have a garden, compost bin, or wormery where you could get rid of the fermented food waste.

    Great work so far and I most definitely applaud your attempts. Trying to go completely plastic free is one heck of a challenge.

  • Comment number 6.

    Chris, get yourself a wooden clothes horse for your nappies and dry them indoors in your warmest, brightest room. Or use your airing cupboard, if you have one.

    As for the bread, we put ours in a cloth bag (*not* a polythene-lined one!), then in a wooden bread bin.

    There are always solutions.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 7.


    This is a major problem with waste. Unless you have the equipment or a pet your options are limited. What should happen is that council food waste collections should cover the whole country. There is a definite lack of organisation in recycling/waste issues.
    In the meantime bin waste is the only solution. It is impossible to make food without some waste, though the Government has other ideas?

  • Comment number 8.

    Further advice from Mrs T. who is now standing over my shoulder and taking an interest in your nappies:

    If you're going to dry them indoors, put white vinegar in the final rinse of your nappy wash (similar amount to a capful of softener), and give them a good shake when they come out of the machine to fluff them up. This will help prevent them going crusty and hard.

  • Comment number 9.

    #6 and #8Christownsend

    Good ideas. I also use cloth bags to keep many of my vegetables fresh and crisp. I don't know how they work but they do. I had not thought to try one for bread. I have been reusing plastic bags.

    I had forgotten about the vinegar rinse. It has been many years since I had diapers(nappies) to wash. It does work very and removes any soap residue.

    I am learning so much! My tanks to ALL who post here.

  • Comment number 10.

    Try cornstarch bags in your bin - Wilkinsons sell big bin and small bin size ot you can buy them on line. They will seep fluid if you leave them in for ages but they are good for reasonably dry waste.

    Lining the bin with newspaper works pretty well.

    Both of the above if you are paranoid

    To avoid milk problems powdered milk can be bought in boxes and longlife UHT (yucky) milk can be bought in paper cartons.

    My milk man can be erratic so I have ordered a couple of extra pints and frozen them - not in the glass bottles obviously - to cover shortfalls. I have also bought a yogurt maker to use up gluts.

  • Comment number 11.

    You're bound to have the odd setback, and it's still only week two.

    You really need enough terry nappies to be able to cope if a load gets rained on -- or to develop a sixth sense for when it's about to rain, so you can drag them in from the line in time to put them over the radiators!

    Or you could get a tumble drier, but they pull about 3kW on full power. I don't know if anyone makes a tumble drier with an adjustable thermostat and a moisture sensor, but those measures certainly seem as though they might cut down on energy consumption.

    I haven't bought store-bought bread anymore since I got my first breadmaker (now on my second). I keep my bread in a plastic box (which can be used and reused over and over again), but it always gets eaten before it goes stale -- even if the last slice is a bit hard, it can still be made into toast (gas-cooked and spread with real butter, mind; none of this artificial stuff). Keeping crumpets in the same box seems subjectively to improve the keeping quality of the bread a little, but I have few data points for the simple reason that the bread usually gets eaten well before it begins to harden.

    I'm still waiting for a supermarket to introduce bulk-dispensed milk. I think once one started, they all would. Fortunately, my doorstep delivery service is good.

    And I'm certainly interested in the idea of the Bokashi.

  • Comment number 12.


    I make most all my own bread, as well, but I do it the old fashioned way so I sometimes make more than we need to use right away. I have been skeptical of bread machines but maybe this would be something to try.

  • Comment number 13.

    Crumpets may have a higher moisture content due to the soda/baking powder rather than the yeast. Just a thought.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think this is evidence enough of how much we (and by we I mean most of us) depend on plastic, it is after all (as has been stated many times) a very versatile and important material. I think you posting, being so honest about how your finding this challenge helps demonstrate that while this is a fantastic way to raise awareness it is not necessary for combatting problems such as landfil space, instead what is important is recycling and cutting down on how many plastic products we use and cutting down (even more!) how much we waste, rather than cutting it out all together (which is really obviously quite a challenge and quite unnecessary in todays world).
    Instead we should be looking at the way we treat it rather than the actual product its self.
    Well done on getting this far (and by the way I dont use a bin bag in my kitchen bin I just have one of the ones with a good sealing lid (plastic obviously!) and wash it out very regularly...I also dont find it necessary to wrap things before I throw them away as this in my opinion defeats the object of cutting down on waste!

  • Comment number 15.


    You have made some very good statements.
    I think that in our modern society we cannot do away entirely with plastic but we can be mindful of how much we use and how we can recycle it.

    What Chris is doing is raising our awareness of how plastic is used excessively and of our failure to find better ways of recycling. She is also providing a forum for exchange of ideas in ways to be more conservative in our usage and a way to 'walk more gently' on our shared earth.

  • Comment number 16.

    You're carrying out a great experiment. Btw, the bread can be wrapped in a heavy towel as well to keep it fresh - a hint I heard from a friend who lived in France for a short while.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Chris,

    To say you miss plastic is understandable after all you are just learning about the alternatives. It takes time to formulate your ideas.
    My perspective, as a Zero Waste aspirant, is that my waste is 100% plastic, every other item has been dealt with. Now plastic waste needs attention.
    I feel that the plastic industry must take control of this never-ending accumulation by using sustainable practices where if you start off with 10 tons in circulation at the year end this 10 tons is still in use, minus a small percentage for wear and tear.

    In the current set-up the 10 tons goes to landfill, another 10 tons is used to replace this. In the following year 10 tons goes to landfill and 10 tons is made to replace it.
    This is the current state of things.

    Can anyone see any benefit in continuing with this nonsense?

  • Comment number 18.

    If you're worried about your loaf going stale because of a lack of 'placky' bags then why not freeze half a loaf when you buy it.

    I do and it saves on buying bread so often and then horror of touching that furry mould aaghhh!

  • Comment number 19.

    The points about necessity and recyling are well made IMO, and in particular the one about the lack of joined-up thinking by the authorities. Where I currently am we have three wheelies - one for "rubbish", one for garden waste, one for cans/glass/paper/cardboard, and they get used (by us at least) extensively. However this has only happened in the last 18 months - before that we had much smaller boxes, cardboard wouldn't be taken etc. A few times we took stuff like that to the local waste reception centre, but given it's 8 miles away you felt it was somehow hardly green to make a 15 mile round trip in the car....

    Local authorities vary - we're about to move to one where there are multiple bags and boxes again, and I suspect again they won't take cardboard.

    I acknowledge that this is only part of the problem (companies need to think about making packaging recylable, cut down where they can, and individuals need to put a bit of effort in to actually sort stuff etc) but if councils make it straightforward to do then it's a lot more likely to happen.

  • Comment number 20.

    hello chris,

    further to the bread situation:
    i always feeze my bread on day of purchase and then if i want a sandwich for incidence i take 2 slices and in ten mins on kitchen top it has defrosted.

    as for drying nappies indoors, u could use as mentioned previous a wooden clothes horse and dry in the brightest room of the house.

    keep up the great job your doing.


  • Comment number 21.

    If you have space in your freezer (or in an airtight container in the fridge) - place any 'smelly' food waste in a container and place in the dustbin the night before collection

  • Comment number 22.

    Our solution to our "green waste" bin stinking is to empty it more often! Well, what we actually do is... we have a small plastic container (it was an ice-cream tub; I'm sure non-plastic answers can be found to this, but it's what we had), we line this with newspaper. When it is full (doesn't take very long!) we tip it up onto another bit of newspaper - it falls out as a block surrounded by paper, and then we give it another layer. The container sits on the worktop so the smell from it isn't concentrated in the way it would be if it was sitting in a bin.

    The "parcel" then goes into our "green bin" (in Cambridgeshire it's actually green) where, yes, it stinks. But it stinks *outside* in the bin-cupboard and not in our kitchen. We're probably very lucky to have out fortnightly collections of green rubbish include all food waste, but you could just put it into the landfill bin if suitable recycling (or home-composting) isn't possible.

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry previous comment not written clearly - The waste should, of course, be placed in the container and kept in the freezer (preferably) or fridge until the night before the dustbin is collected when it can then be wrapped in paper and placed in your dustbin to await disposal - This is also useful in areas where dustbins are only collected fortnightly!

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Chris

    I think you're very brave to try to go a month without plastic.

    Just a tip on the bread front - either freeze half a loaf or keep the whole loaf in the fridge, I find it keeps ok.

  • Comment number 25.


  • Comment number 26.


    Good one, only thing is once you have used a wooden toothbrush for several days it becomes the norm. The big difference is that it is Zero Waste compared to plastic.

  • Comment number 27.

    i have been watching this blog with interest as i think this task it nigh on impossible and where do you stop. if your car got nicked (touch wood it doesnt) tomorrow and the insurance company gave you top dollar to purchase a shiny new one, do you think you could by a car that does not have some sort of plastic or another on it. mind you, you could always get a tax exempt 40yr old morris minor. ;-)

    the main thing that i agree wholeheartedly with is someone need to invent a 100% waste plastic to something useful machine, which i believe they are getting to, and perhaps the clever people should also change the way they use/make plastic to make it easier to recycle... and none of us would feel guilty yahaa

  • Comment number 28.


    I share your vision of an improved plastic waste situation. In the meantime however we should all do our bit to lessen the impact of plastic packaging waste. ZeroWastePackaging dictates that alternative no waste solutions should be sought.
    Chris has highlighted alternatives and more are sure to appear as the month progresses.

  • Comment number 29.

    We keep our bread in a bread bin which keeps it fresh for much longer.

  • Comment number 30.

    It helps to know that other people are also conscious of plastic waste. I try to avoid plastic. I used cloth shopping bags and I've never bought plastic wrap. I use wax paper to wrap things for freezing. But sometimes you can feel alone in that. I wince when they ask other people at the store if they want a (plastic) bag and they go "of course" with no apparent dislike of getting something that will be here for a thousand years.
    If many people try to avoid plastic, plastic-free options would become more available just as organic food is available now.
    Plastic is very useful. I ended up getting plastic spatulas, because they're thin and strong and they don't scrape non-stick pans.
    Maybe what will happen in the end is that plastic'll be made so it degrades in a shorter time. Probably that hasn't been done because there hasn't been a financial incentive. Not because it's difficult.
    While trying to avoid plastic completely would be more work than most people want to put into their lifestyle, your plastic-free month serves a useful purpose in illustrating how pervasive it is and getting people thinking about things they can do to use less plastic. You've started me thinking about it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Impressive challenge! From here, it looks like you’re doing amazingly well; the odd off-day only demonstrates your humanity.

    FWIW, frozen sliced bread can be toasted/broiled/grilled without thawing.

    Re: comment #3, on bokashi and flats—if you’re a container gardener, bokashi can be used (small quantities as slow-release fertilizer, or in-planter composting with largish volumes of soil); not sure what you’d do with it if you’re not into plants at all. Donate it to a community garden? Compost it and sell the results?

    It’s an interesting question...



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