I am a volunteer at the local Sea Cadets (who use the local waterways as well as coastal areas for their boating activities). The Sea Cadets joined forces with the Marine Conservation Society to set a Scrap Plastic challenge in order to raise funds, but as importantly to raise awareness of our plastic usage and simple steps we can all take to reduce our plastic waste. I took the challenge and kept a blog of my experience. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you!
DAY 1: RETHINK THAT DRINK!
No more fizzy and bottled drinks that come in a plastic bottle —Apparently most fizzy drinks bottles are non-recyclable and the bottle lids are top of the list of the worst plastic offenders. Carry your own drink bottle around with you. No coffee cups to go — Coffee cups (not just lids) are made from the same plastic used in plastic bottles. So, the Coke I buy to go with my Bacardi – I will have to buy cans in future!
I take my own hot drinks to things like football in a purple stainless-steel thermos mug. I drink Pukka mint tea bags which claims that there is no plastic used in their manufacture. Well done them!
I drink my water at work from a bottle. We were all given one to drink from to try and reduce our plastic cup usage. I also drink loose leaf tea from a glass flask that I bought when I was in China. I don’t buy a coffee on the way to work.
All the family have our own refillable bottles which we take out with us. We have just got to try and remember them every time!
My only concern is the plastic bottle my milk comes in – so I have contacted Cotteswold Dairy about starting to have glass bottled milk (and other food) delivered to my door.
Conclusion – not had to change too much today but the challenge has made me rethink my milk.
DAY 2: A CRISP GOODBYE!
No crisps in plastic packets — Although the inside of the packet is shiny and looks like foil, it is in fact a metallized plastic film. This type of material can’t be recycled. Crisp packets have been found to be undamaged 33 years later!
This one is an easier one for me as I don’t often have crisps anyway. I’ve researched a bit and found that there is no alternative but to avoid crisps. There are no manufacturers of crisps currently that use biodegradable packaging although Walkers say they are trying to roll out new packaging by 2025. So not long to wait then! There are some ideas on Vicky Myers Creations’s website for things to make from used crisp packets. Not sure about the dress that is on there!!
Did you know? 66% of cadets said Sea Cadets improved their attendance and engagement at school?
DAY 3: THE FINAL STRAW!
No plastic straws — Statistics show that 8.5 billion straws are thrown away every year. These not only cause damage to the environment but can be extremely harmful to animals. So, I had a slush puppie with a straw on Saturday, but I will refuse all straws in the future.
I will have to rethink Harry’s lunches next year as he often had cartons of innocent smoothie with a straw and apple juice with a straw. Planning to get some Popsicle moulds to make our own smoothies at weekends for the week and he’ll have to take juice in a cup which I am planning to get delivered with my milk in glass bottles. That’ll be 10 less straws in landfill a week!
There are reports that you should not drink straight from a can of fizzy drink and suggest that you should use a straw. This is because tins can be infected from mice urine that has dried, the mice urine containing Leptospirosis. It is highly recommended to rinse the tops carefully on all drinks cans before drinking it. Cans are usually stored in a warehouse and delivered direct to retail stores without cleaning.
A study shows that the top of all beverage cans are more contaminated than public toilets (full of germs and bacteria.) So, clean it thoroughly before putting it to your mouth in order to avoid contamination. As I will be using cans instead of bottles for my coke from now on, I won’t use a straw, I will wash my tins before use! Eew!!
DAY 4: YO-GHURT TO GIVE IT UP!
No yoghurt containers — buy a yoghurt in one large container and use smaller containers to eat your yoghurt from. Did you know that when you recycle, if your item isn’t clean – it won’t be recycled. Yoghurt pots are often not recycled because they are never washed out properly!
Every weekday Harry has a yoghurt tube in his lunch. Realizing that this can’t even be recycled has convinced me to change to buy a large tub of yoghurt and decant into a pot for him come the new school year. He is also rather partial to yoghurt drinks, but I think he can be persuaded to make himself smoothies instead. Let’s hope the novelty doesn’t wear off.
Often I take a break from the office at lunchtime and walk to the retail park and get myself a meal deal from one of the shops around the corner. Often in that deal I will choose myself a nice yoghurt. Today I ventured to the furthest shop, Morrisons. Finding a completely plastic free lunch was a challenge. They eventually found me a paper bag I could put a pastie in, instead of their normal bags with plastic windows. I asked in the vegetable area whether the rumours were true that they are doing paper bags for vegetables now. Apparently, they have the paper bags ready but are waiting until they have used up the plastic bags. They also offer a service where you can take in your own containers and the butcher will put your meat from the counter into your container instead of a plastic bag. This weekend I am going to have to break with tradition and try my food shopping in Morrisions rather than online with Sainsbury’s. I can’t quite work out how I can online shop with my own containers!
Did you know: Globally, only 18% of all plastic is recycled?
Thanks to those of you that have already sponsored me. There’s still time, just visit my justgiving page.
DAY 5: THAT’S A WRAP!
No sweets and chocolates that are wrapped in plastic — just like crisps – some chocolate bars and sweet wrappers can’t be recycled. Your teeth will thank you too!
On day 1 I was offered a sweet at work and realized that I was unwrapping a chocolate eclair in a plastic wrapper. My last plastic wrapped sweet. I was dreading this day as I thought I was going to have to give up sweets and chocolate completely, but in a moment of inspiration I popped to Sweet Street in Great Malvern, thinking I will find a cardboard box of poppets. I didn’t, but I did find pick and mix in paper bags and started loading up a bag like a child! Also, I found a couple of other products in cardboard which, when shaken, were clearly lacking in plastic. Result! The shop keeper made my day when he pointed out the irony that I was paying him with plastic!! I then popped along to another shop and picked up my Smarties and Toblerone. Conclusion – you don’t have to give up plastic to eat sweets and chocolate! I’ll be enjoying this challenge for a while!
Did you know that 4.21 million hours a year are committed by Sea Cadets’ amazing 9,000 volunteers. I have recently volunteered as a civilian instructor for Marine Engineering. So far, I think I have given about 4 of those hours!
DAY 6: PACK IT IN!
No plastic bags — bringing reusable shopping bags when you shop makes a huge difference. Not only do you save money, but you’re reducing the amount of plastic being produced. The average time that a plastic bag is used for is just… 15 minutes!
Today was an easy one for me. I bought my first bag that folded down into its own pocket over 10 years ago. Today I dug out all my bags to find that I have accumulated 20 of them! If I do end up in a shop without a bag, if it won’t fit in my handbag, I end up buying another. I am not only too tight to pay 5p for a plastic bag, I also do not like seeing the pictures of birds and animals stuck in them. See the photo of the swan. They are so carelessly discarded. If everyone could just do one thing and stop using single use plastic bags, we would all make such a difference. I took advantage of the lovely sunshine today and washed them all. That’s one thing to bear in mind, they do need washing from time to time!
Did you know that 40% of plastic bags are used just once?
Of every £1 raised by #ScrapPlastic 10p will be raised for the Marine Conservation Society, the UK Charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.
DAY 7: TAKE THE TIME TO DINE!
Create a plastic free meal — Can you make a meal without using any plastic? This means that none of your food can be bought in plastic, or even come wrapped in plastic. You’ll see how dependent we are on unnecessary plastic!
This was a tough one and I didn’t really fully succeed. I had thought the challenge was a day of plastic free meals, so here’s how I got on. Breakfast was Weetabix with milk and sugar. Outer carton cardboard, inner lining paper, which I think is recyclable, but the packaging did not tell me. The milk was, I am afraid, in a plastic carton. I plan to order my milk in bottles after our Summer break. The sugar comes in paper. For lunch I cheated and bought a pastie in town. It came in paper, result! Dinner was Chicken, bought at the butchers, put into my own (plastic) container, peppers bought at the greengrocers (loose) and rice (Uncle Ben’s is in cardboard, but they have a level indicator window which is plastic. I have never used the level indicator, I use a cup) The seasoning had a plastic lid, but is reused and refilled, I got caught out when I went to use the olive oil to realize it was in a plastic bottle. The shops were shut, and I had to cook dinner! Dessert was a fruit smoothie popsicle that I had made earlier. Strawberry, banana and apple juice smoothie frozen in my new purchase of silicone popsicle moulds. They were lovely in this heat! I also recommend Robinsons Pressed Pear and Elderflower Cordial. Very refreshing and comes in a glass bottle, as does wine! When at the greengrocers I also bought salad but was disappointed to find that the cucumber was in plastic, as was the lettuce. Tomorrow’s dinner was also sorted. Pork and leek sausages from the butchers, New potatoes from the greengrocers and a tin of baked beans. Meat and vegetables were not a big problem if you plan ahead but pasta, cheese and sauces are virtually impossible to avoid plastic.
Last year Sea Cadets delivered 446,629 cadet boating hours, an average of 32 hours boating per cadet. Please don’t forget my justgiving page.
DAY 8: MAKE IT LAST!
Store your food in glass or metal containers — Instead of plastic, choose metal or glass food storage. Glass Mason jars are great for storing items like beans, grains and nuts. You could even recycle your own plastic to store your food.
Well, today’s challenge does not make that much sense to me. Having lived in my own home over 25 years, I have many glass jars, tins and Tupperware boxes in my cupboards, and I am not going to go out and buy glass ones and throw perfectly good ones in the bin! I did look at what was available though and I quite liked the ones in the photo, although the lids are plastic, so only half good. They would look rather nice in my cupboard! The only thing I can do is recommend to those setting up home soon, like my daughter, that they might want to consider glass over plastic. However, after so many years of service from my plastic containers, this to me does not seem the most urgent plastic use to address. It is single use and careless disposal that has got to stop!
Did you know Sea Cadets play an active part in the community: building interaction, undertaking social action projects to help the disadvantaged and playing key roles in local events.
DAY 9: CRUNCH LUNCH!
Pack your lunch without using plastic — To have a plastic-free lunch, you’ve got to have the right gear. Invest in some long-lasting lunch box items. Glass jars, wooden boxes or lunch boxes made out of biodegradable material. Everything counts and will make a difference whether you realize it or not.
Another difficult day. Firstly, I have plenty of plastic tubs that I can take my own lunch in to work and just like yesterday I am not going to go out and buy a new metal lunchbox, lovely as they are, when I have a perfectly good one (pictured). Yes, if I ever decide the ones I have need replacing, I will happily buy a metal one, just not today!
I actually often go out and buy my lunch. I have found I can get a lovely lunch cheaper than I usually get round at the retail park by going to the ‘Filling Station’. In addition to bacon, sausage, egg etc. they also do lovely healthier chicken, tuna, cheese or ham with salad baguettes, rolls or sandwiches and rather conveniently wrap them in foil and a paper bag. I forgot to photograph the roll I had so you’ve just got a photo of a paper bag and foil as evidence. While the sun is shining it makes a lovely walk and short break out of the office.
Did you know, last year £249,000 was given to 1,330 cadets in bursaries to ensure all young people have the chance to experience the water.
DAY 10: BRUSH IT OFF!
Change that plastic toothbrush — For under £5 you can switch your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable one that will have a massive impact on our environment. 12 billion toothbrushes are thrown away every year, and they’re looked over when being recycled. Make a difference and get one that will biodegrade!
Well today I think I can redeem myself for such poor efforts for the last two days. I had never thought about all those toothbrushes laying around in landfill until this challenge and I had never even heard of a bamboo toothbrush. Who knew?! So, not only did I pop to Boots and buy myself one, I also bought some powdered toothpaste in a glass jar. It unfortunately had a plastic lid, but I know I will find a use for the jar when its finished. It’s a weird paste. Grey. I feel like I’ve time warped to medieval times and you really don’t want to look in the mirror at your grey teeth while you are brushing, but I actually think it’s doing a good job. Also, I got some sample toothpaste and mouthwash tablets from Lush. I recommend the Creme de Menthe. I haven’t got a clue what good it’s doing but it tastes nice! And finally, I bought some silk floss in a lovely little glass jar (on-line) so I have gone far beyond the challenge and feeling quite good about myself. Next time I might try the fully biodegradable brushes. The one I bought has recyclable bristles which you need to pull out with pliers.
Did you know that plastic toothbrushes take around 75 years to decompose? As I am nearing the end of my challenge, can I take the opportunity to remind you about my fundraising page. Thanks to those that have already visited.
DAY 11: I’LL HAVE A BAR OF THAT!
Use a soap bar — Not only is a bar of soap cheaper, it’s plastic free! If you love your plastic shower gel dispenser too much and prefer it to a bar of soap you can refill it instead. Do your part and change the small things in your household.
Another satisfying day. I nearly bought a soap on a rope for the shower but settled on a bar of Marble Hill Health Scrub bar and got a wooden stand for it to sit on. I also bought a pack of Dettol bars for the bathroom sinks. Yet again I have gone above and beyond the challenge set because I discovered that you can buy solid shampoo and conditioner in Lush and get lovely little tins for them to go in. I love it and as someone pointed out, useful for taking in hand luggage when you are not checking a bag in. I also discovered solid sunscreen which I felt compelled to try. I asked about the plastic wrapping and they said it is biodegradable. I suppose if all plastic wrapping like that goes to landfill at least the biodegradable stuff will break down. Why isn’t it all biodegradable though?! And, how long does it take to break down? Anyway, just proved that you don’t need lots of single use plastic in the bathroom. Another day when it was fairly easy to rise to the challenge and I am converted.
Did you know Sea Cadets play an active part in the community: building interaction, undertaking social action projects to help the disadvantaged and playing key roles in local events?
DAY 12: ERASE IT!
Buy recyclable stationery — Pens are a big contributor to plastic pollution as they can’t be recycled and end up in our waterways. Not only that, the ink harms water ecosystems. Although you might not be able to do this immediately, use pens and other plastic stationery for as long as you can, then look to replace with plastic-free alternatives or go back to the classic fountain pen!
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love my pens, so what better excuse to buy myself a new one. I looked and looked but could not find a pen that did not have plastic in it. There were some partial paper ones and some recycled ones, but they all actually have plastic. Best bet was a fountain pen with refillable cartridge. Fortunately, my son Harry came home from an evening kayaking on the river with the cadets earlier in the week and proudly produced a swan’s feather. Well, out came the knife and I made a quill. The perfect, plastic free pen! I am afraid I did not take it to work today because I was unable to write in letters smaller than 10 mm high or more than two letters without having to re-dip in the ink. How did Shakespeare do it?!
Did you know there were 18,667 boating qualifications awarded to cadets in the last boating season?
DAY 13: JOIN THE FIGHT!
Pick up 13 pieces of rubbish in your local waterway — Grab your friends and family, head down to your local waterway, and pick up 13 pieces of rubbish each. Make a day out of it, engage with your local community – enjoy!
Every year 100,000 marine animals die in our oceans due to plastic. Already one million seabirds have lost their lives to plastic by either ingesting it or being tangled up. Although you might not see the difference you’ve made – one less plastic bag, and one less plastic toothbrush helps sustain our water.
I popped down to Worcester and took a walk from the town out to the bridge at Lower Wick and back along the other side of the River. I didn’t know what to expect. I picked up way more than 13 pieces of plastic which included 2 bottles, 4 lollipop sticks, 3 cable ties, a couple of ice cream tub scoops, a couple of cigarette filter wrappers and straw wrappers, a broken plastic fork, a nappy bag (empty), a big black meat container and a Durex wrapper (yes I had gloves on). Also, I picked up several pieces of foil and a can. I was surprised though how clean the riverside actually was. I just had one small bag for a 2-mile walk. In contemplating on my walk, I wondered what would happen if everyone carried a bag and picked up rubbish when they were out for a walk. I decided it would just be better if no-one dropped any rubbish in the first place. It’s not hard!
Well that’s my challenge complete. I will be making a few changes and adjustments to reduce my plastic use. If you want to make a donation, then please do it soon. Thank you so much to those that have already.
Just to finish off, take a look at this video which I saw this morning:
As it says, we are not going to eliminate plastic, it has its uses. But, I certainly learned in this challenge that there were a few simple things I could do to reduce my plastic use. Every little has got to help.
Disclaimer: neither of the products in the blog are endorsed by Malvern Panalytical, nor is the Just Giving page.