A businesswoman from Lancashire is taking on an epic month long eco challenge after coming face-to-face with her household’s single use plastic usage.
One a quest to raise awareness about the sheer volume of plastic Bristish households get through every day, Joanne Machlachlan, who runs an e-commerce business called The Eco Friendly Living Co, collected and photographed all of the single use plastic that she and her husband threw away in just one week to showcase the true extent of consumption.
The haul totalled 74 separate plastic items, including 11 squash, fizzy drinks and milk bottles, 31 fresh and frozen food cartons or plastic wrappers, four wrappers from bread, crumpets and baked goods, nine crisp and chocolate packets, three yoghurt pots, two condiment bottles, three bin liners, two wrappers from kitchen and toilet roll as well as packaging from clothes and parcel deliveries.
Shocked at what she saw, Joanne is now taking on a ‘Plastic Free July’ challenge in which she is aiming to completely eradicate single use plastic from her home by switching to more eco-friendly alternatives for a whole month.
Speaking about the initiative, she said: “I really was really taken back at the pile of plastic rubbish that we collected in just one week, but it was a really eye opening process and something that I would encourage others to do. I don’t think you can truly appreciate just how much plastic you consume until it is all laid out in front of you.
“As a green business owner I have been cutting down on the amount of plastic in my home over the past few months and our bathroom is now about 95% plastic free – but this exercise really made me see that there was clearly a lot more work to done! It’s also important not to forget that this was just a snapshot of the rubbish that we threw away – our fridge and cupboards still contained plastic packaging on items that were still in use – like make up, cleaning products and food items.
“It is clear from the plastic that we collected that the kitchen is the place that generates a huge amount of plastic waste – nearly all supermarket food comes in some kind of plastic packaging, which often can’t easily be recycled. This is an area that I am paying close attention to this month. I have already swopped plastic milk cartons for glass bottle deliveries, have started to source my fruit and veg from a local greengrocer and have visited a refill shop to stock up on store cupboard staples. I’ve even had to forgo my beloved Vimto squash – and replaced it with an alternative that comes in a glass bottle!
“Plastic Free July is a great initiative as it really helps people zone in on their plastic usage – the campaign encourages people to cut out plastic for a month, a week or in just one area of their lives (like takeaway coffee cups). I am using it to see how realistic it is going to be for me to live plastic-free long term – is there anything that I can’t live without? Are there areas of the home where plastic free options just aren’t available? And, what is my local area lacking when it comes to shopping more sustainably?
“At the beginning of lockdown, a lot of people were making greener choices and as a whole the environment was showing small signs of recovery due to reduction in emissions. Unfortunately, as the country has started to open up again, there has been a big onus on takeaway business models and use of disposable items to reduce the risk of infection – not to mention the throwaway masks and PPE that businesses like hairdressers are being urged to use. All of which will contribute to the plastics crisis.
“Of course, everyone has to start somewhere. My advice to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed at starting a plastic free journey is to take it one step at a time. Focus on one room in the house first and look at how you can make that plastic free – there are lots of easy swaps for the bathroom, for example, like soap and shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes and eco-friendly dental care, and even toilet paper that comes in recyclable packaging.
“We all have a vital role to play in this fight to save our planet for generations to come and I’m proud to be doing my bit to help change some longstanding habits for the better. I’d encourage anyone to find out more about Plastic Free July and to get involved!”
Here Joanne shares some more top tips for going Plastic Free:
- Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once! If you’re close to finishing your shampoo bottle then start looking at plastic-free alternatives before it’s time to buy another. Some every day essentials may catch you out if you don’t think ahead, such as bin bags, sandwich wraps and even dog poo bags, so swap to compostable options over plastic as soon as you can.
- Get together a plastic free on the go kit for your car or handbag. This could include a reusable travel mug, bamboo cutlery/crockery or cotton carrier bags.
Make sure you’re organised for your lunches too. Food on the go is a huge culprit of using single use plastic packaging so try to be organised when it comes to remembering your lunches for work or going out for the day.
- Your food shopping might be one of the toughest problems to crack especially if you currently shop in supermarkets. Instead have a look at local farm shops/delis/butchers you can use. They are more likely to use plastic free packaging but if not you can also have conversations with them in advance to see whether you could bring your own storage containers to put produce in.
- As the popularity of refill shops continue to rise, we’ve seen a huge increase in new refill stores opening across the UK. Do your research on your local area, and if you can find one then make the most of it! Refill shops also tend to sell things like washing detergent & cleaning products.
- A really easy food & drink swap is to have your milk delivered in glass bottles as opposed to buying your milk in plastic bottles from the supermarkets.
- If you are a sucker for that weekend takeaway, start having a think on how they are packaged and if they are really that eco-friendly. Our local Indian now send their food out in cardboard packaging and uses boxes to deliver them rather than plastic bags. However, our Chinese sends their food out in plastic containers so that will be a no-go takeaway for me from now on.
For more on how Joanne is taking on Plastic Free July or to find some inspiration for eco-friendly living swaps, visit www.theecofriendlylivingco.co.uk/