MY plastic trash Plastic Free July

Doing this plastic free July while backpacking in S.E. Asia. I do have to apologise for the very tardy documentation. We are stuck on a fairly remote beach with very limited wifi. I know… nightmare! But we are spending the day in town so here is quick post.

Backpacking certainly makes some aspects PFJ easier. Eating for example. I dont have to worry about plastic packed food because I eat out most of the time. But those of you who know me will agree that I eat very plastic free when at home and will give me a pass on this one?

And of course travelling plastic free comes with its own challenges but we have done it before and know what to pack. You can see my plastic free pack here. Except, and I can hardly believe this, we left our water bottles at home. Actually, why am I acting so surprised? We are always leaving our water bottles places!

When Your Water Bottle Lets you Down

So when we got to Malaysia, Georgetown (the Pot Shop in the market), I bought this; a shiny stainless steel, wooden trim, in the style of Kleen Kanteen but a fraction of the price, water bottle. That came in a cardboard box. Woohoo with knobs on. Got home to find it wrapped in a plastic bag! 
But we used the bag for our rubbish and not the plastic lined bin in our hotel room so I guess you could say we saved on a plastic bag? actually we never use the plastic lined bins when back-packing. Because we don’t use plastic, we don’t make that much rubbish. Any we do create we release into the wild. By which I mean we put it into a communal bin.

Train Food Traumas

As the local train was 2 hours delayed so we went for lunch, in a cafe, where everything was served on china, with real cutlery and cups. A plastic free meal was safely negotiated. Feeling confident I ordered a cold coffee. I discussed at length about how I didn’t want a straw with a very sweet girl who spoke reasonable English and was full of enthusiastic agreements. So I went ahead and ordered an icy frappe choco caramel coffee. It came in a plastic cup with domed plastic lid and straw from the takeaway stall across the road. It was very tasty though.


When it finally arrived, the train was a lovely hodge podge of carriages of differing ages and styles. Some were ugly commuter rail cars with vinyl padded seats, others old-school timber lined carriages with hard wooden seats all painted bright ginger and looking like something from the Wild West. In the interests of going plastic free we chose them.

The train showed no interest in making up for lost time rather it dawdled along. It was a long journey, a very long journey and even the intense caffeine/ sugar rush of the capo frappe choco shake eventually wore off and was replaced by a hunger pangs. There was plenty of food for sale and the sellers were happy to mount the train and bring it to you direct.

Sadly Thai vendors have taken to wrapping their food in plastic. Everything but some lurid orange chicken legs in steel bowls came plastic bagged. We didn’t fancy the chicken. In the end I bought some sticky rice wrapped and cooked in deep green banana (?) leaves. When we came to unwrap them we found they had been tightly tied with red plastic string. They were like tiny little sweets. The leaf wrappers went out of the window where they would biodegrade back into the jungly earth if they were not wolfed up by strange hairy beasts first. The string of course had to be kept to be thrown away in a bin when we eventually got off the train, to be (hopefully), taken to landfill. The whole procedure revealing just how ridiculous and unnatural plastic packaging is.

Good Plastic Bad Plastic

Other plastic includes the stickers off our new (plastic) ninja snorkelling masks. Which may seem strange, hypocritical even. But I dont shun all plastic. I think it is a fantastic material with a role to play. I think that we are misusing it and abusing it. We dont need to make plastic stickers with it for instance. And please note the plastic lighter is harvested from the beach. I didn’t buy it I was gifted it by the sea.

Had To Be

Tin cans and bottles of beer – sorry I have lost count about 20 cans of beer (plastic lined) and 4 bottles of beer (metal caps are plastic lined) I would guess. It is hard to avoid this. If you want to visit a bar in the evening with friends you have to buy a drink.

I dont mind taking my own water to the table in a restaurant ( especially now I have super classy bottle), but I draw the line at drinking from my own bottle in a bar. Even if they didnt say anything, I’m absoltely sure that would think I was smuggling in my own booze and I couldn’t stand the shame.


2 straws obviously my mimes were not too good

Burning plastic in the home

Some feel my worrying about plastic in the home is taking it too far?  Disposables? Yes, they can see I might have a point. But nylon carpet, foam-filled pillows and  polyester drapes…. what could possibly go wrong?

Well good taste aside…. you know how we were talking about hydrocarbons containing a lot of energy? Well all that energy means they burn hot. And that plastic is made from hydrocarbons. You got it. Plastic is a fuel too. So much so  that it actually has a higher BTU than coal. Great for waste to energy incinerators not so good for house fires.

For generations, firefighters’ had, “on average, 17 minutes to get anyone inside out of the building before they succumbed to smoke inhalation.” Because of modern fast burning synthetic furnishings that time is down to 4 minutes. Natural fibres and fillings do not burn as fast.

You can find lots more scary stats here plus a spooky burning chair that shows just how quickly you can be overcome.

Please people make sure your smoke alarm is working and maybe pay a bit more for cotton curtains and a wool rug.

Found this very interesting table on fumes released by burning. Hers an example…

Upholstery • Nylon Polybrominated diphenyl ethers Hydrogen chloride Hydrochloric acid Hydrogen cyanide Dioxins Possible carcinogen; poison by ingestion. Highly corrosive irritant to eyes, skin and mucous membranes; mildly toxic by inhalation. Corrosive; mildly toxic by inhalation; when heated to decomposition emits toxic fumes of chlorides. Asphyxiant; deadly human and experimental poison by all routes. Carcinogen; a deadly experimental poison by ingestion, skin contact and intraperitoneal routes. Immobile in contaminated soil and may be retained for years. No Yes Yes Yes Yes

And this

Burning a small sample of a synthetic fibre yarn is a handy way of identifying the material. Hold the specimen in a clean flame. While the specimen is in the flame, observe its reaction and the nature of the smoke. Remove the specimen from the flame and observe its reaction and smoke. Then extinguish the flame by blowing. After the specimen has cooled, observe the residue.

And this on toxic fibres and fabrics


Tiffin Tin

There is some fantastic street food in China but they serve it in polystyrene (styrofoam) trays. So you will need to carry your own tiffin tin Dont worry if you forgot to pack one, the Chinese love tiffin tins. We got this beauty in a small supermarket. It has a screw on lid so is very secure and even a handle which made boiling water in our yurt easier. Rather it made making the tea with the boiling water so much easier.




This post is my contribution to Zero Waste Week (‪#ZerowasteWeek) the brainchild of Rae Straus (also featured in our P-f U.K. directory). Each day, for 7 days, we will feature a tip to help you eat, drink and – ermmm – excrete in the most sustainable and rubbish free- way, backpacking kind of way. Each post will appear up on our advent calender of trash free tips. See them there.



Fibres, Fabrics & Clothing – stats & info

Fibres are short fine hairs.
Fibres can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres.
Fibres can be twisted or spun into longer thread or yarn.
Threads can be woven or knitted into fabric.
The fabric often takes the name of the fibre such as cotton or wool.
It can also go under a trade name such as nylon.

Know Your Fibres

Fibres (and then yarns and ultimately fabrics) can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres.
Natural fibres
Are derived from plants like cotton or animals like wool and silk
Synthetic fibres
are man-made from chemicals many of which are petroleum derived.
Regenerated Fibres
The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into fibres.


Threads can be woven or knitted into fabric.
Blended Fabrics
Mixing synthetic and natural fibres such as poly cotton a mix of natural cotton and synthetic polyester.


Clothes are then made out of woven/knitted fabrics or knitted yarn.


Read more about fibres and fabrics HERE.

fibre pie chart


Fibre Production

2013 figures

Global 2013 fibre production estimated at 85.5 million tons

• Global 2013 synthetic fibre production estimated at 55.8 million tons (i.e. excluding cotton, cellulosics and wool)

Natural Fibres
Cotton 25 million tons
wool production is around 2.1 million tonnes.
Silk 150 000 tonnes in 2006
Linen 147 000 tonnes of flax fibre 2007,
Alpaca 6 500 tonnes
Cashmere” after scouring and dehairing 6 500 tonnes
Mohair is estimated at around 5 000 tonnes a year, down from a high of 25 000 tonnes in the 1990s,
Angora is estimated at 2 500 to 3 000 tonnes
2009 figures  only – google let me down!

Clothing Production

Clothes consumption has gone crazy. The introduction of cheap, synthetic fibres has meant that the price of new duds is dropping. This has had all kinds of consequences. here are some reports on the subject….

Cambridge University report issued 2006 titled Well Dressed? The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom
The followed statistics have been culled from the above report and have been lightly edited.
In 2000 the world’s consumers spent around US$1 trillion worldwide buying clothes. Around one third of sales were in Western Europe, one third in North America and one quarter in Asia.
Output from the sector is growing in volume, but prices are dropping, as is employment, as new technology and vertically integrated structures support improved productivity.
Growth in volumes is almost entirely associated with polyester – volumes of natural fibre production and use having remained approximately constant for several years.
3.25 million tonnes of clothing and textiles flow through the UK each year – approximately 55kg per person.
Approximately two thirds of the imports of fibres, yarns and fabrics to the UK are man-made.
Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person) of which one eighth is sent for re-use through charities and the rest is discarded.
UK consumption of clothing and textile products Total consumption: 2,156 thousand tonnes About 50% clothing and 50% textiles
The major products consumed were: 420 thousand tonnes of trousers, T-shirts and pullovers 530 thousand tonnes of carpets
From 2001 to 2005 spending on women’s clothing grew by 21% and that on men’s by 14%. During the same time – as the end of the quota arrangement approached in 2005 – prices actually dropped by 14%
Consumers in the UK spend about £780 per head per year, purchasing around 2.15 million tonnes (35kg per person) of which one eighth is sent for re-use through charities and the rest is discarded.

You can download a copy for free here

WRAP have also been researching.
WRAP’s ground breaking report provides the first big picture look at the financial and environmental impacts of clothing.
Key findings include:
the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year;
the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion;
extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints; and
an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

You can download valuing clothes report here

The Telegraph has something to say on the subject…
While every other waste streams going to landfill is reducing, the amount of textiles being buried in the ground has shot up by a third in recent years as people buy more cheap clothing than ever before as a result of the so-callled ‘Primark effect’.
Around 60 per cent of clothing sent for recycling is sold to other countries for re-use, mostly Africa and Eastern Europe, another 35 per cent is re-used as mattress stuffing or insulation and under five per cent is such low quality it is sent to landfill. Telegraph

Carbon footprint

O Ecotextiles

The estimated energy and water needed to produce that amount of fabric boggles the mind:

  • 1,074 billion kWh of electricity  or 132 million metric tons of coal and
  • between 6 – 9 trillion liters of water[3]

A study done by the Stockholm Environment Institute on behalf of the BioRegional Development Group  concludes that the energy used (and therefore the CO2 emitted) to create 1 ton of spun fiber is much higher for synthetics than for hemp or cotton:

KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber:
crop cultivation fiber production TOTAL
polyester USA 0.00 9.52 9.52
cotton, conventional, USA 4.20 1.70 5.90
hemp, conventional 1.90 2.15 4.05
cotton, organic, India 2.00 1.80 3.80
cotton, organic, USA 0.90 1.45 2.35

The table above only gives results for polyester; other synthetics have more of an impact:  acrylic is 30% more energy intensive in its production than polyester [7] and nylon is even higher than that.

Estimating the Carbon Footprint of Fabrics

today’s textile industry is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses on Earth, due to the huge size and scope of the industry as well as the many processes and products that go into the making of textiles and finished textile products. (See Vivek Dev, “Carbon Footprint of Textiles”, April 3, 2009,

Ethical Fashion Forum

The largest climate change impact from clothing is the energy wasted in washing, tumble-drying and ironing. In the lifespan of an average T-shirt 50% of the global climate change impact comes from the washing process after it has ben purchased. This impact can be reduced simply by lowering the washing temperature and eliminating tumble drying and ironing. (Allwood et al. 2006)

According to Procter & Gamble Co., the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry per year, or about six loads per week. That suggests a per-family carbon footprint from doing laundry of about 480 pounds per year, or about 10 pounds per week. And that doesn’t include running the dryer.

Key findings include:

  • the average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year;
  • the cost of this unused clothing is around £30 billion;
  • extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints; and
  • an estimated £100 million worth (based on 2015 prices) or around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

Micro Fibres

Traditional plastics degrade rather than biodegrade, which means they simply break up and fall apart into smaller pieces. The plastic has not changed its structure as such – merely fragmented. And it seems the process can continue indefinitely. Particles of plastic of 20 microns in diameter (a width thinner than a human hair) have been identified.

Sources of micro plastics are
Synthetic clothing that release thousands of plastic fibres every wash.
Read more here


Read all our fabrics, clothes and related posts, HERE.



Fibres are short fine hairs that can be twisted or spun into longer thread or yarn. This may be woven or knitted into fabric.
Fibres (and then yarns and ultimately fabrics) can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres.

Natural fibres Are derived from plants like cotton or animals like wool and silk
Synthetic fibres are man-made from chemicals many of which are petroleum derived.
Regenerated Fibres The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources. It is then converted through a chemical process into fibres.

Fabrics & Fibres, an intruduction
Guide to synthetic, (plastic), regenerated, combination and natural fibres.
why I prefer natural fabrics over synthetics here.

Yarns and threads

and what they are used for….
Yarns and threads often take the name from the fibre in which they are spun.

See links to plastic free products HERE

Fibres & Fabrics

These are plant or animal derived.
They biodegrade
Coarse Fibres are for rope, string, sacking and industrial uses include Abaca jute and sisal.
Fibres used for finer fabrics and yarn include cotton, flax wool and silk.

Natural Yarn
Coarse Fibres Are used for rope, string, sacking and industrial uses.
they include:
Abaca can be used for rope,
coir from coconuts has a wide range of applications,
jute is used for sack cloth and
sisal for string.
As well as these traditional uses there are many new applications.
Read more HERE

Fibres used for finer fabrics and yarn include
Cotton used to make cotton
Flax is used to make linen. It is one of the strongest vegetable fibres.
Wools include
Sheep’s wool in a range of weights and qualities
Alpaca wool used to make high-end luxury fabrics.
Angora wool -The silky white wool of the Angora rabbit is very fine and soft, and used in high quality knitwear
Mohair also from the Angora goat.
Cashmere wool comes from cashmere goats and has great insulation properties without being bulky
Silk is strong and light weight.

These are man-made from chemicals many of which are petroleum derived.
Acrylic, nylon and polyester come from oil and coal.
Most do not biodegrade.
Acrylic fibre resembles wool and so is used to replace that natural fibre.
Nylon is used as a silk substitute. It is a very fine and strong fibre so can be used to make ladies tights.
Polyester is one of the most popular man-made fibres. It is the same  Polyethylene terephthalat, (frequently shortened to PET or PETE and was formerly called PETP or PET-P), that is used to make bottles and a lot of other plastic stuff. Read more

The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into a fiber. One such in bamboo. Most bamboo fabric  is made using  chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide  combined with multi-phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide have been linked to serious health problems. Others are looking extremely promising and are biodegradable.
They usually go under the trade names
Bamboo Rayon
Tencel (lyocell)

Regenerated Fibres & fabrics  a very basic introduction


Threads can be woven or knitted into fabric.
They may be named after then yarn type. So cotton can be the fibre the yarn or the fabric. They may be named after the trade name like Modal.
See above for some fibre and yarn names.
But fabrics can also be subdivided into a huge number of additional categories. For example cotton fabric can be described as denim, lawn or muslin.
Woollen fabrics could be called tweed or challis.
Silk comes under any number of of luscious sounding names including Charmeuse, Chiffon and Crepe de Chine.

Fabric may also be described by the technique used to make it. So jersey is a knitted fabric that could be made from cotton, silk or polyester.

You can find over 200 types of fabric listed HERE


Looks like a kind of cotton wool used for quilting and stuffing things. Can be bought HERE

gsm means grammes per square metre so typically a voile or muslin would weigh less than 100 grammes per metre.
Shirtweight would be 100 to 200 gsm. Lightweight canvas would be around 300gsm. Denim is often classified in oz per sq yard. 12 oz = 400 gsm.

Buy Fabrics
Buy from on line suppliers
Local fabric shops.
British made Fabric
Regenerated Fibres & fabrics  a very basic introduction
Kinds Of fabric – my ongoing experiences with cloth

The more I sew the more I realise all fabrics are not the same – even if they go under the same name! The following are my ongoing notes on the subject. I have a lot to learn!


Lawn is a very fine cotton though as with everything in life it seems you can get different grades of fabric that have, predictably, slightly different qualities. The Ebay lawn I used to make my wrap around top creases far more than the Thai lawn from Japan I used to make the back packers bloomers. I am not complaining about the Ebay lawn. It is still good and at that price, a real bargain. But if you don’t like ironing but do mind looking crumpled than it might be better to try and source a higher grade fabric.

I though I had when I bought some grey lawn from the Button Box in Huddersfield to make the Choir Boy Top. This is more like a muslin more crumply than the Japanese lawn but nots as creased as the Ebay stuff.

Printed Cotton
ROse and Hubble for loon pants. Seems to be indestructible.



How to buy Food

So you want to cut your plastic? Let’s start with …

Try your local shops first. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source. You might be suprised. Asian Supermarkets and Polish Delis are particularly good.

Here is a list of food types by category with purchase details

Loose Food A to Z

Find out if a shop near you sells bulk food loose. This is stuff that that normally comes plastic packaged ie rice, pasta and salt. And yes these shops do exist in the U.K. There’s just not many of them.

Heres a list of towns with shops selling loose food.

Supermarkets & Chainstores 

Because sometimes we have to shop there and yes you can get plastic free and zero waste stuff. Read up about them plus
eating for a week, plastic-free, only from supermarkets  – a case study.

Bags & Packaging

Shopping plastic free means taking your  OWN PACKAGING. Check out the plastic-free shopping kit here.


Delivered in glass bottles but double check before you order

Other Products

Find the  plastic free products you want and the purchase details will be in the post.  You can search by search, or via these menus……
By Category Everything from food to watering cans to clothes

By Task Want to know how to wash the pots, throw a party or sew #plasticfree. Check out these posts organised by task!


Shops and products we have used on our travels

Here is my plastic free tool kit…

a to z of plastic free Labels by task 2


Halloween labels and flour paste!

Print and stick  these creepy labels onto a wine bottles to make a suitably  themed halloween gift  – but don’t use avery labels as some suggest!  Print onto plain paper, cut out and attach to bottle of choice using homemade, boiled  flour & water paste.

I have included a boiled flour and water paste from this paper mache  making web page because it is easy and clear to follow but also because  I think the rest of the site looks fascinating. And inspiring. You could use some of the techniques to make ghoulish sculptures, masks or even reusable pumpkin lanterns. That would save you some work!

Obviously adapt the choice of beverage if it’s for a child’s party!

Flour and water paste attached labels wash off easily if you are using a reusable bottle… of course you are using a reusable bottle!

More ideas for Halloween can be found here….


Large Scale Composting Case Studies

Composting accelerates the natural process of biodegrading or rotting down organic waste material into a rich soil or compost. Its a great and  sustainable way to deal with our waste.

As I’m sure you know biodegradable waste does not do well in the unnatural conditions of landfill. It bubbles away producing methane which adds to the greenhouse effect. Composting biodegradable waste on the other hand produces a nutrient rich material that can be used to grow more food.

How It Works

All natural (as oppose to synthetic) materials do eventually biodegrade or rot. Composting speeds up that process

Useful composting information

Biodegradable –Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism, such as fungi or bacteria over a period of time. More about biodegrading HERE
Compostable – To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain amount of time, the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive.

Home Or Industrial Composting?
Industrial composting are large scale schemes.
Home composting is a bin in your back yard.
The difference is is that industrial composting is a lot hotter and can work more quickly.
Therefore, while a product might be classed as both biodegradable and compostable, it might not break down in a backyard compost bin.

Case Study – A Cafe
Cute Boscastle National Trust Cafe uses compostable disposables and “. we collect the cups, cup holders, plates and the untreated wooden cutlery that we use, and they are taken to a local farmer who shreds them. He then mixes them with his green waste and composts them into a peat free mulch substitute. This mulch is hen taken to the National Trust plant nurseries at Lanhydrock House near Bodmin, who grow, amongst all the other plant, the plants that are sold in the National Trust shop that adjoins the cafe in Boscastle. By doing it this way, we not only successfully recycle the disposables from the national Trust Cafe in Boscastle, but we contribute to saving the limited resources of peat bogs.”
Read more HERE

Community Composting

Community composting is where local community groups share the use and management of a common composting facility.
Key points
Community composting is where residents jointly share and manage a central composting facility.
Community composting allows people to compost food and garden waste who may otherwise struggle to do so.
Community composting has an added benefit of bringing the community together.
Guidance is available for overcoming practical difficulties which may arise.
Grant funding may be available to cover costs.

More help can be found at the UK community compost Organisation HERE


The UK composting industry has experienced a period of strong growth, according to figures released today. The amount of waste composted in 2007/8 rose by nine per cent from the previous year and further growth is predicted in the annual WRAP and AFOR survey.
As demand for composted products continued to increase, the industry turned over   more than £165m in the year to April 2008. In total, 4.5 million tonnes of separately collected waste was composted in the UK in 2007/2008.
Read more here.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to increase composting of food scraps generated by the city’s eight million inhabitants. In a few years, separation of food waste from other refuse could be required of residents, the mayor said.
The administration says it will soon be looking to pay a local composting plant to process 100,000 tons of food scraps a year, or about 10 percent of the city’s residential food waste.Read more here.

How Councils Compost

How to compost on a large scale – read more HERE

Keeping Your Waste Sweet
Bokashi Bins are not strictly composting but pickling. This allows you to store compostable food waste for long periods of time. Read more HERE

The New Litter

Companies using compostable plastic.


Our new innovative packaging, developed by Israeli start-up TIPA, is just as durable and impermeable as ordinary plastic – but it biologically decomposes within just 180 days and becomes a fertiliser for soil, behaving similarly to an orange peel. Read more here.

A while ago I got sent some Vegware stuff to review. Vegware make disposable, compostable packaging for the fast-food industry. Hooray for them …. but I am not in fast food. So what would I be using them for? For starters…

Eco For Life 
If you must drink bottled water this might interest you; water packaged in PLA compostable plastic bottles


Check out all our composting posts HERE
Want to know more about plastic? Read up here
See our big list of plastic types here

Why This Post Is ….

A little bit rubbish. You are reading a work in progress. Here’s why…

More Stuff

The case against incinerating rubbish and a proposed zerowaste alternative involving composting on an industrial scale – damn good stuff. Copied from

Nanoparticles from incinerators or gasifiers or gasifying incinerators use household waste as a fuel which due to its make up has the potential to contain every toxic element used in commerce – which means that it has the potential to emit nanoparticles containing those toxic elements. Diesel fuel contains far less of an array of toxic elements therefore comparisions of nanoparticle emissions from traffic with high temperature incineration or gasification is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Incineration and gasification does not destroy toxic elements- toxic elements in – toxic elements out. Gasification companies make inflated claims about what they are going to do with their products, but the char, or glassified melt, and the fly ash by-products, all contain toxic materials which are permanent in the case of metals and highly persistent in the case of dioxins and furans.
About 4 X more energy is saved reusing, recycling and composting the waste stream than burning them to create electricity so this proposal should not be considered a sustainable waste treatment process.
These proposals will directly impact on recycling and remove the drive to zero waste.
The key to sustainability (see my essay Zero Waste a key Stepping Stone to Sustainability) is Zero Waste. Everybody makes waste and as long as we do we are part of a non-sustainable way of living on this planet. But given good leadership everyone could be involved with the critical first step towards sustai
nability: source separation.

With source separation we can get out the organics clean enough to get them back to the soil, and recyclables which can be returned to industry – cutting out the huge energy demands of extraction and transport of raw materials, often half way around the planet. With the reuse of whole objects, we can create many jobs and small businesses, stimulate vital community development, and save even more energy by avoiding manufacture as well as extraction. But the single most important thing we can do is composting: composting sequesters carbon, if this material is burned it the Carbon is immediately converted into carbon
dioxide (global warming). Also by removing organics at source it makes it very much easier for cities to deal with the remainder of the materials – glass, metals, paper, cardboard, plastics, ceramic etc.
Burning ( or destroying) materials to recover energy is always second best. the number one priority is to recover materials and thereby conserve the embedded energy discussed above.
24 years ago promoters of incinerators tried to corral this issue between landfills and incinerators. you either burned it or you buried it. They scoffed at those like myself who argued that comparable reductions to incineration could be achieved by a combination of recycling and composting. But we have won that battle there are many small and large towns who are getting over 70% reduction with composting and recycling – incinerator only gets 75% reduction – you are still left with 25% as ash. You don’t get rid of landfills with incineration or gasifying incinerators. Note right mow San Francisco is getting 73% reduction without incineration, at a fraction of the cost of an incinerator and with many more jobs created.
Many of the proposals for gasification plants are coming from companies which have never operated such plants. There is a world of difference from small scale pilot plants and a fully-fledged commercial operation. here are very few
of these operations burning municipal solid waste. no one should entertain for a moment such a company coming to town unless they can establish some kind of solid track record – somewhere! A track record which can demonstrate what there emissions are and what they are doing with the byproducts. At the very least they should be required to a give a very careful written and documented response to Dr. Vyvyan Howard’s paper on nanoparticles, health and incineration. Right now they can promise anything because there are NO regulations for nanoparticles from incinerators or gasifying incinerators.
Highly exaggerated claims are being made with NO DATA to support them. When these
companies promise the earth it is probably because
they never expect these plants to run for more than a few years. The name of the game as far as I can see it is that they set themselves up as a “green & sustainable” entity promising to produce “green energy” and “fight global warming” a) to seduce local decision makers and b) to suck up any soft European money for green alternatives as well as PFI – once this is in the bank watch out for
them selling out the contract to some other company and/or go belly up with the principals walking away with a lot of the cash in their pockets.
Of course, they will argue that they agree with us that recycling and composting are important, but all they want are the residuals. But the residuals are the evidence of bad industrial design – so rather than destroy them we have to say if we can’t reuse, recycle or compost anything you shouldn’t be making it. This is how we can go from the current 70-80% diversion rates up to about 95% diversion over the next 10 years or so. this is the future.
Incineration simply burns the evidence that we are doing something wrong – and will delay by 25 years the crucial move towards sustainability. The Zero waste approach makes more sense on every front: economically, environmentally, and globally.
Paul Connett
Dec 9, 2009


About Dr Paul Connett

Dr Connett is a graduate of Cambridge University and holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College. From 1983 he taught chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY where he specialised in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology before retiring in May 2006. Over the past 24 years his research on waste management has taken him to 49 states in the US and 52 other countries, where he has given over 2000 pro bono public presentations. Ralph Nader said of Paul Connett, “He is the only person I know who can make waste interesting.”

A recent essay on “Zero Waste for Sustainability” which was published as a chapter in a book in Italy in 2009 (Rifiuto: Riduco e Riciclo per vivere meglio, Monanari, S. (ed)), along with several videotapes Paul has made on Zero Waste, can be accessed at This site is hosted by the group AESHP (American Environmental Health Studies Project) which Paul directs.

Drinking chocolate

Plastic free July  beverages include  the rather luxurious real drinking chocolate. I have long been on a quest to source plastic-free cocoa. It has not been going well. Morrisons let me down and then there was my mothers disappointing cardboard box. I was nearly there  in  Whitby but had to leave  before it happened. If you want to know more you can catch up here….

Well Todmorden Market once again come up trumps. The deli stall sells real drinking chocolate wrapped in paper and foil. You buy it in bars, bash it into bits and melt it in hot water or milk, (or my personal fave half / half mix), to make drinking chocolate. Or you can chuck a chunk in a shot of espresso in to make a funky, monkey mocha. It tastes good but there is a downside – it  is not cheap and you can’t use it to make chocolate cake!


2017 Plastic Free July

Of course every month is plastic free for me but plastic free July is a time to make a bit of extra effort.

What is Plastic Free July

The aim is to cut your consumption of one use plastic, for one month; how much you choose to cut is up to  you – read my take.

A bit of history

Plastic Free July started in 2011 in Australia  in 2013 it went global. They have a great website and are all round good eggs.

My Plastic Free July
I try to cut all disposable plastics including the lesser known sneaky plastics

Progress Reports
As this page can get rather full I tend to report my own progress separately .
A Day By Day Update –  right here

1 straw obviously my mimes were not too good
3 plastic line cans of beer because I get so bored of water

 U.K. Participants

Who is we? Every year UK based bloggers have joined in.
It’s really important to link up with U.K. based plastivists who will be sharing throughout the month. While some solutions like solid shampoo from Lush can be accessed UK wide,  many are local.

First off we have Lisa at

and Sarah at

Pip- squeaking @Pip_Squeaking of in her second year now. <

From Bristol it’s the Cheeky Girls of Green:
Author and TV presenter @nataliefee. Read about here in thePlastic Free U.K. Directory:
And Michelle film maker, writer of the great blog Plastic A Lot Less and tweeter @beingpall.
They are the brains behind numerous campaigns, the latest being

Get on the list

If you are tweeting or writing this year go to that post and add your details in the comment box.

You can find a list of bloggers who have contributed in the past, here.

Keeping in Touch
Facebook groupf eatured

Join in at the Plastic Is Rubbish Support Group where people share plastic free tips.
And Twitter @plasticSrubbish

I encourage UK participants to use the hashtag #pfjuk for British related posts. Mainly because it gets very dispiriting to hear of a fantastic bulk food store only to find it is based in Sydney.


Water Tap

Tap water in many countries the water is actually safe to drink. In others sadly it is not. You can find out here…
Can I Drink The Water?
Visit this super cool website to find out if you drink the water. Just pick the country you want and read the result.

Safe Tap Water

Yes? Hooray – all you need to take is your refillable bottle. Fill it with tap water and no need to ever buy bottled.

Read up about U.K. Tap water here 

But Surely Bottled Is Still Better?


Some articles on the subject
And here 
And this about PET plastic bottles 
So much so that water bottle bans are becoming more common 

Not Safe Water?

Sterilise Your Own Water
When the tap water is not safe we still don’t buy bottled water. Instead we sterilize tap water using a Steripen. Been doing this for years all over the world.

Refill Schemes

Refill Schemes in the U.K. The U.K.  is one country lucky enough to have safe drinking water BUT sometimes when you are out and about it can be hard to access tap. These worthy schemes  aim make safe, free, tap water available.

Refill Abroad

Many countries offer a refill service where you can buy filtered purified water
Find A Refill Service
S.E.Asia Thailand & Malaysia

Carbonated Water

But I like fizzy water. Make your own from tap 

Water Bottles

Check out which refillable water bottle here


In the office– try these water filters 

Got no taps?– If you must drink bottled water this might interest you; water packaged in PLA compostable plastic bottles

Better still – make your own water from air. Have a look at this interesting machine. “Our smallest machine, the Water from Air™ AW3 makes up to 32 litres of great tasting, purified water straight from the air. Our largest, scalable machines (WFA100+) make up to 1500 litres per day, per unit – for example, if the need is 6000 litres per day, the configuration will require 4 stackable units.” Visit the web site. 



Microbeads…. the newest way to exfoliate. These tiny particles, or microbeads, scrub away at the skin supposedly leaving it wonderfully cleansed.  These beads may well deep clean your skin but guess what? Unless otherwise stated, they are almost certainly made from plastic.

After using, they are washed off your face and down the drain and into the ocean where they become pollutants that don’t biodegrade. Truly, plastic is rubbish!

Here’s a really easy way to avoid this problem.

Reusable Products

Cotton Flannels – the old school way to clean up. Rub away the dirt and dead skin…it works, honest.

Want tougher love? try a luffa. These dried fibrous vegetables will buff up your blackheads and polish your butt.  I got mine, unwrapped, from TKMax. I cut off smaller pieces to do my face with. Gently scour.

Then there are natural bristle brushes for body brushing. This is exactly as it sounds. Brushing your body and I love this. I have had my brush for ages and I can’t remember where I got it, but these look quite nice – sustainable beech body with pig bristles – vegans and vegetarians you could try these with tampico fibres. 

Exfoliating Scrubs From the Kitchen….

All these have been recommended on the internet. I usually use the above so cannot really comment.


it is probably good practice to do an allergy test and do some further research.


If you are happy to bumble along with me and are aware of the risks of listening to someone who

a) doesn’t have any training in this field,

b) most of what they know comes from Google,

Welcome aboard but please, proceed with caution….

Bicarbonate of soda. Before I knew as much as I did about bicarb I did use this occasionally on my face when it got really greasy and blotchy looking. Since I have found out how alkaline it is I think it is best left for the the laundry.  I do not  advise that you use it on your skin.

However if you choose to,  its particles are rough enough to scour off dead skin but not so brutal as to leave you weeping.  You can get plastic free bicarb here.

Pumice is a textural term for a volcanic rock ...

Pumice is a textural term for a volcanic rock that is a solidified frothy lava typically created when super-heated (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Salt is good and scratchy and makes a good  scrub. It  is not as harsh as pumice, and you can use it in a plastic bath. I like it for my oily chest but would not use it on my face. You can find  plastic free salt here.

Sugar Scrubs – use sugar mixed with coconut oil.  This one seems to work well .

Oatmeal –  described as soothing, exfoliating, soft (no scratchy edges) and known for its gentle, skin-healthy effects. It also contains vitamins B and E. Grind  up plastic free oats in a food processor. I don’t use this on my face because I have get a reaction to it. I find it too brutal.

Coffee Grounds – grab them out of the pot rub them on.  Let them cool down first! I will use these occasionally and sparingly as it is a bugger to clean the shower afterwards

Other stuff….

For truly brutal exfoliation try pumice powder…arghhhhh. Best suited to hands, feet and really grisly elbows.  Use up to 10% in a moisturising cream base (find out how to make your own right here). Do not use the pumice scrub on sensitive skin. Do not use in a plastic bath – it may take off the surface. Can be bought from Aromantics.   (NB Comes in a plastic bag)

Other plastic free health and beauty products can be found right here