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Trying to go plastic-free - with Hayley Pearce

In Plastic not Fantastic, Hayley - from BBC Three’s The Call Centre - road-tests a range of different products and routines to try to find realistic - and affordable - ways to live more sustainably. Here she shares the highs and lows of her plastic-free journey.

Before I started this series, if I’m really honest, I’d never given much thought at all to the amount of plastics we use everyday. I mean I was aware about trying not to buy plastic water bottles or using recyclable coffee cups, and I knew straws weren’t great for the enviro, but I hadn’t really given my make-up or beauty stuff a second thought.

I was totally shocked that most of the make-up I own already contains some form or other of plastic

Although I try to make an effort to recycle at home, and have two bins in my kitchen, I don’t keep a separate recycling bin in my bathroom, and so there’s probably way more stuff I could be recycling from my day to day beauty products that I have probably thrown in the non-recycling bin until recently!

I LOVE nice packaging, and I LOVE buying new beauty and make-up products. But it wasn’t until I met Natalie Fee and Mel Jenkinson that I properly became aware of how much plastic there is not just in the packaging that my make-up comes in, but IN the actual make-up itself!!

I’ve never ever looked at ingredients on make-up, and I was totally shocked that most of the make-up I own already contains some form or other of plastic. And now I know about it – I can’t stop myself looking at labels when I’m out shopping or when I’m going through my mates’ make-up bags! How did we not know this!!??

I find it really shocking how much stuff there is in each product – everything from my foundation, to my highlighters and eye shadows, lipsticks and mascaras. I mean like, EVERYTHING. How do we not get taught about this stuff? It’s so weird how some products grab all the limelight, and yet loads of the stuff we’re actually putting on our skin every day is filled with plastic. I try to eat quite healthily, and go to the gym when I can, but when you look at all the stuff in make-up it does make you think 'well that surely can’t be good for me?’

When I met Natalie, and saw how tiny her make-up bag was in comparison to my mini make-up suitcase (!!!) I realised that actually I buy soooooo much stuff – most of which I never really use. It made me think, what do I actually need every day? I’m a total make-up hoarder, and love buying stuff when I’m out and about. It wasn’t until she asked if I’d ever washed out a mascara tube or a lipstick once I was done with it that I realised I had just chucked them in the bin without giving it a second thought. And I know loads of us do the same – I’m not alone.

Once you see thousands of used wipes up close, you honestly can’t help but think differently about using them

And as for face wipes – I mean that was the thing I was probably most shocked about. I had no idea there was plastic in them, and hadn’t given it a thought when I flushed them down the toilet. Going to Wessex Water, and seeing how many wipes they’ve collected just in that one location was shocking. Once you see thousands of used wipes up close, you honestly can’t help but think differently about using them.

We never really get to see the damage of our actions, and I felt really ashamed that day, as I knew I had been flushing my wipes down the loo. But unless we are told, then it’s really difficult to keep up and find out what you should and shouldn’t do. If products were labeled more clearly, it would be so much easier to do the right thing, and dispose of things properly, or make active informed choices about using less of these kinds of products.

Hayley at the Wessex Water Sewage Treatment Works

Most of the time, I know that I buy stuff as a result of convenience – I mean we all lead busy lives, we work loads, and so you do end up buying stuff on the move, often without really thinking about it. But I’ve tried to be a bit more on it when it comes to thinking before I buy products now. I’ve done as Mel suggested, and not bought new make-up when I don’t need it, and have instead tried to use stuff up first, and be a bit more mindful, thinking do I really need another lipstick, or can I dig out one I haven’t worn in a while and use that instead? So if nothing else I’ve saved a bit of cash, as well as not added to the plastic problem!

The next time you order a take-away, why not get them to collect your old tubs as well?

But to be honest I do think that some of the brands we buy could make more of an effort to reduce how much plastic they put in their products. I mean every woman needs to use some sort of menstrual product, but a lot of the manufacturers don’t make it clear there is plastic in their products! And again it wouldn’t hurt them to put a little symbol on their boxes to remind us all we shouldn’t flush them down the toilet. Simple stuff like that would take minimal effort, but would have a massive impact if they all did it.

If businesses like pubs were made to collect their fag butts separately, recycling companies could collect more, which would save them ending up in the oceans and instead they could be recycled into something useful. The same goes for pizza delivery companies – if they just put a sheet of greaseproof paper in to save the grease going on to the boxes, we could be more efficient at recycling. That said, we could still do more ourselves by checking online take-away apps, to see if they offer a service to collect your used plastic tubs. A few of them do, and so the next time you order a take-away, why not get them to collect your old tubs as well.

My New Plastic Free Beauty Habits

  • I love using my washable make-up remover pad. This has been life changing for me, and I will defo save money over the year as I don’t need to buy make-up remover, cotton wool pads or face wipes!!! I’ve learnt it’s best to buy two or three, so that I’ve got time to wash them in between uses – which helps if you wear lots of foundation or are a bit lazy on the old washing front!

  • I’ve stopped flushing tampon down the toilet and now I put them in the bin!! I would consider giving the menstrual cup a go again as a few of my mates use them now. It does take a bit of time to get used to putting it in and out, but again, it would save me money as well as reduce my plastic footprint. Never say never!

  • I definitely don’t flush face wipes down the toilet now! I honestly had no idea how damaging they were, and there is no excuse not to now that I know what happens to them.

  • I will have another go at making my own beauty products – there are loads of recipes online, and if you chip in with your mates to buy the products initially, you can share the costs and it wasn’t difficult.

  • Next time I go to a festival, I will have a look at buying a plastic free toothbrush that I can re-use rather than just ditch straight away!

Hayley's Plastic Free #Rules