Plastic-Free July in Croydon

A day of disposable plastic

Posted by Kake on 5 June 2014

I’ve talked to several people here in Croydon about the Plastic-Free July challenge now, and everyone’s been really supportive — thank you! A couple of people have mentioned that they’re not sure how much disposable plastic they use in a day, and I realised that I’m not entirely sure either. So, inspired by Westy Writes’ diary day, last weekend I decided to find out...

7:30am. Get up, start bath running, use loo, wash hands, take a couple of slices of bread out of the freezer to defrost. The loo rolls in my bathroom came wrapped in plastic. I use liquid handwash from Splosh, which comes as a concentrate to which I add water, but this still involves a plastic tray to hold the concentrate sachets and a plastic band around the cardboard outer packaging. The bread came from a supermarket delivery, and it’s wrapped in plastic — not to mention that the supermarket delivery came in mandatory plastic carrier bags.

7:50am. Have bath, wash hair, brush teeth. I use a solid shampoo bar bought with no packaging at all from the Lush shop on North End, but my shower gel is in a plastic bottle, my roll-on deodorant is also in a plastic bottle, and my toothpaste is in a plastic tube.

8:10am. Make breakfast: a cheese and tomato sandwich, and a pot of tea. As noted above, the bread was wrapped in plastic. I’m not entirely sure what the butter is wrapped in, but it seems to involve a plastic film. The cheese came from a farmer’s market, but is also wrapped in plastic. I have plenty of plastic-free ways to buy tomatoes in Croydon (Surrey Street market, the greengrocers on London Road), but these ones came from a supermarket delivery and were wrapped in plastic too. My teabags are in a “film” (plastic) bag in a cardboard box which was itself wrapped in more plastic. My soya milk is in a tetrapak (plastic layered with cardboard).

8:15am. Get dressed, eat breakfast, start writing down all the plastic I’ve used so far today. Despair slightly.

8:30am. Hang out laundry I did last night, then start work. (My washing powder came in a cardboard box with a plastic handle.) It’s Saturday, but I’m a freelance copyeditor so I don’t work normal office hours. All my work is done in Microsoft Word (and occasionally PowerPoint), which I’m fairly certain I bought as a digital download rather than a DVD in a plastic-wrapped plastic case.

10am. Take a break from work; wash up breakfast things and last night’s dinner things. I use washable cotton dishcloths, so no plastic there. The washing-up liquid is Ecover which I’ve bought in bulk and decanted a litre at a time into a plastic bottle I must have reused at least 10 or so times by now — but still, even bought in bulk, the washing-up liquid came in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box, with more plastic in the dispenser tap.

10:10am. Tie back my hair now it’s thoroughly dry, grab a drink, and get back to work. I bought this batch of hairbands last year from Ideal Beauty on London Road; I declined the offer of a carrier bag to take them home in, but they were attached together with a disposable plastic loop. I drink tap water throughout the day, rather than bottled water or soft drinks, so no disposable plastic required there.

10:30am. Partner gets up, has a bath, brushes and flosses teeth. This involves bubble bath from a plastic bottle, toothpaste from the same plastic tube I used, and dental floss from a non-refillable plastic dispenser.

11:30am. Another quick break from work, and an opportunity to bring in the post from the front door. Today’s post consists of a bank statement in an envelope with a plastic film address window, and a copy of the CAMRA What’s Brewing newsletter in a plastic wrapper. The plastic wrapper goes into our landfill bin, which is lined with a plastic bin liner.

12pm. Head out to a local cafe for lunch with partner. I have a mushroom omelette with chips and peas, and a cup of tea. The milk that goes into my tea comes from a plastic bottle, and although I don’t see the packaging of the chips and peas, they almost certainly come from plastic bags. The eggs and mushrooms may well have come in plastic packaging too, and the cooking oil almost certainly came in a plastic bottle.

12:45pm. Back home to get on with more work, while partner takes some broken glass to the Wandle Park recycling bins and then goes food shopping. The broken glass is in a plastic carrier bag for transport; this later goes in the bin rather than being reused or taken to the supermarket for recycling, because of the risk of contamination with glass shards.

2pm. Partner returns from shopping. He’d taken a reusable plastic “bag for life” with him, but also picked up a disposable plastic carrier bag at the butcher’s — and after unpacking the shopping he decided that the reusable plastic bag had in fact come to the end of its life (after approximately 6 months of using it an average of 3 times a week, i.e. around 80 times), so that went in the plastic bag recycling. The vegetables came from Surrey Street market, with no additional packaging at all, but the meat from Tuckers Meat Market was all wrapped in plastic; the gammon steaks were pre-packed, and the minted lamb chops were put into a plastic bag by the butcher. He also bought a sliced loaf and a baguette from Morrisons, both of which came in plastic wrappers.

3:30pm. Another break from work. I bring in the laundry I hung out earlier, put away the washing up from earlier, and water some of the plants in the garden.

4pm. Finish work, have a snack, do the next batch of data entry for a voluntary project I’m working on. My snack is a kiwi fruit, which came in a plastic mesh bag. One of the flyers in the pile of stuff I collected during the survey I’m doing data entry for is made from plastic-coated cardboard. The pencil refills for the propelling pencil I’m using to check things off my survey sheets came in a plastic box, and the printer paper that the sheets are printed on came in a plastic wrapper.

5:15pm. Finish data entry, do a bit of work on sorting out my photo backlog. My photography is all digital, and my camera has a rechargeable battery, so at least for this activity I haven’t used any disposable plastic!

6pm. Dinner time. Partner has made lamb chops, polenta, and spring greens. The lamb chops came in a plastic bag, as noted above, and the cornmeal for the polenta also came in a plastic bag. The Maggi cube that he put in the polenta came in a plastic packet and an individual plastic wrapper. I have a glass of red wine; the bottle is glass with a metal lid, but it was from a supermarket delivery that came in mandatory plastic carrier bags.

7:15pm. Wash up, then spend the rest of the evening relaxing by catching up on the internet and chatting to partner.

9pm. Partner makes his packed lunch for tomorrow’s cricket match. As noted above, the baguette came in a plastic bag. Inside it he puts margarine from a plastic tub, corned beef slices from a plastic packet, and mustard from a jar with a plastic lid. He uses a reusable sandwich wrapper instead of cling film to wrap it up.

That’s an awful lot of plastic. So during the rest of June, I’m going to see what alternatives I can find to help me cut it down, ready for the start of the challenge on 1 July. Please let me know if you have any thoughts!

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