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



Natural fabrics

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 at the Ebay stuff.

Printed Cotton





Where 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

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!


Compostable Plastic Products

Compostable plastics come in various forms and are made in different ways. You can read all about compostable plastics here

Perhaps the most common are cellophane and PLA plastic. I would say (with absolutely no verifiable facts to back this up) that old school cellophane is now less popular than the new kid on the block, the starch derived  Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). Read about PLA in detail here

I’m sure that there will be others in the future.

Composting Plastic 

While most agree that some  plastics are indeed biodegradable and compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. As we don’t have many large scale municipal schemes this they say is a pointless advantage.I say the days of large scale municipal schemes is fast approaching as governments aim to divert biodegradable rubbish from landfill sites.

But  I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. Including  (including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery).
I have occasionally composted cellulose.
Both take longer than other products and  sometimes I have found shreds of it in my compost but I dig it into the soil where it quickly disappears.

What is biodegradable? Biodegradable products break down through a naturally occurring microorganism into simple, stable compounds which can be absorbed into the ecosystem. More about biodegrading here

What is compostable? To be classed compostable, items must biodegrade within a certain time (around the rate at which paper biodegrades), and the resulting biomass must be free of toxins, able to sustain plant life and be used as an organic fertilizer or soil additive. For a man-made product to be sold as compostable, it has to meet certain standards. One such is the European Norm EN13432. You can find out more here.

Read more about compostable plastics here

We have used and composted the following products.

PLA Compostable Plastic Bags

These disposable, water-resistant bags are great for
fish and meat
Frozen foodstuffs and freezer bags.

Deli pots PLA

Waterproof plastic pots with lids are great for all manner of deli delights including
Cream cheese
Deli counter lovelies
They can also be used to storefood in the freezer.

Disposable Cutlery  for  our big party PLA

We haven’t used these but sourced them FYI

Straws PLA
Dog poo bags PLA

The remains of my cellulose sponge cloths and the PLA wrapper they came in.

Toilet Rolls

Greencane deliver toilet rolls are wrapped in cellophane, a compostable plastic. Which I compost. Find out more about Greencaneproducts here.

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


Remember, not all bio- plastics can be composted and some are not as green as they sound

Find out more about composting here


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. 


Waste – A definition

On some servers this post is corrupted. Please follow the link to the replacement.

But while you are here, lets talk waste.

Waste is used to describe:
materials not needed after primary production:
the unwanted byproduct of a process:
Products no longer needed:
Objects that are now defunct:

Examples include municipal solid waste (household trash/refuse), hazardous waste, wastewater (such as sewage, which contains bodily wastes (feces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and others.

Waste is often considered worthless but this is usually not the case. It very much depends on the type of waste. And the waste disposal system favoured.


Disposable Cups

Disposable cups are made from plastic lined paper, polystyrene or plastic.

To make paper cups water proof they are laminated with polyethylene, a plastic resin.

Sustainability is Sexy claim that paper cups are made from virgin wood because there are major problems making paper coffee cups  from recycled paper. Regulations are strict about what materials you can use to package food and drink and  recycled paper isn’t strong enough.

We use a lot of disposable cups.

Here are some figures. As you can see, cup waste is huge!


The 2.5 billion synthetic cups thrown away in Britain every year are made from a mixture of materials which prevents them from being recycled alongside paper and cardboard. Daily Mail

A report conducted jointly by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation and Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000.[5] In 2006, Starbucks reported that this figure had grown to 2.3 billion cups for use at their stores.[6]

And just recently the Guardian reported that “A conservative estimate puts the number of paper cups handed out by coffee shops in the UK at 3bn, more than 8m a day. Yet, supposedly, fewer than one in 400 is being recycled.”

According to the paper industry, Americans will consume an estimated 23 billion paper coffee cups in 2010. Rob Martin, the Vice President of Merchandising and Production for Tully’s Coffee, estimated the 2006 use usage at 16 billion paper cups.[4]

Some Solutions

Polystyrene & Plastic

Why anyone would want to drink out of a polystyrene cup is beyond me. The drinks taste horrid which many be due to the nasty chemicals that go into polystyrene. Plastic cups too are awful. Flimsy and tacky.

Polystyrene is difficult to recycle. Difficult but not impossible …

For those of you who insist on using plastic cups there is  the  save a cup recycling system

Save a Cup was established by the vending, foodservice and plastics industries as a not for profit company. It was set up to collect and recycle used polystyrene (plastic) vending cups. Today the service has been extended and now includes cans, pods, plastic and paper cups.

Paper/plastic Cups

Because these cups are made from paper and plastic they are difficult to recycle. The parts have to separated. Though this can be done it is a complex  procedure which adds to the cost of the recycled product.

Leading many recyclers to say that they don’t recycle paper cups. Though some do. It’s a murkey scenario at best.

Compostable Cups

There are compostable products  on the market. they are made from clear certified-compostable, cornstarch plastic (PLA)  or paper cups lined with the same. Vegware for example do a full range.  But  there would need to be far more, large scale municipal composting schemes for this to be a properly effective answer for the above amounts of waste. You can check out a rather sweet cup to compost scheme here.

Take Your Own Cup

Of course none of the above address the issue of creating massive and unsustainable amounts of trash by using disposables. Don’t be part of the problem – take your own reusable cup and use that instead. You can find a great range of cups here.



The Range – a chain of home & garden shops

Loose pet food, home wares and some loose sweets.

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source.
Sometimes though there is no option but to use

Supermarkets & Chainstores

And yes you can get some plastic free and zero waste stuff there but YOU WILL NEED TO TAKE YOUR OWN PACKAGING. Check out the plastic-free shopping kit here.

The Range

This is new to me. It replaces Homebase on Leeds Rd, Huddersfield HD1 6ND.

It is one of 120 U.K. stores.

It sells  paints, crockery, bedding, art supplies and some garden stuff.


Pet food & Bird Seed

It gets my plastic free vote for it’s loose bird seed and pet food. You can see pictures here.
There is more animal feed in paper bags.
I don’t have pets so cannot speak from experience how good this is but well done for offering plastic free.

Other Stuff

Includes enamel cups – very pretty!

Get There

Directions to the Huddersfield Store
Phone:01484 534707


Wednesday 9am–8pm
Thursday 9am–8pm
Friday 9am–8pm
Saturday 9am–8pm
Sunday 10:30am–4:30pm
Monday 9am–8pm
Tuesday 9am–8pm

Other Stores

Shopping Tips

If you want to buy loose you will need to take your own reusable packaging – produce bags, tupperware even compostable disposables. You can find them here.

For the plastic free freak metal lids to glass jars are of course plastic lined .

Tin and cans including those for cosmetics are also plastic lined

For products that are packaged in plastic choose to buy simple plastics that can easily be recycled

Do remember not all stores stock all products. It might be wise to check ahead if you are making a special visit.

Don’t Like Supermarkets?

Other places to buy unpackaged food are listed here


Menstrual internal protection reusable

Products to deal with menstruation are plastic heavy  ( see some stats). They are made from plastic, come wrapped in plastic, block drains and dirty the sea shore. You really don’t want that kind of rubbish inside you, your bin or your environment. The way to cut your trash is to get a menstrual cup.

Menstrual Cup

This is  little cup that you use internally. It collects the flow and is then emptied washed and reused. Before you squeal and scream read this series of posts by one of the best environemental writers around.

Really, try them, they are easy peasy and the slight inconvenience is more than compensated for by the increased comfort factor. They are far more pleasant  then other internal protection.

Some of the many advantages include

  • Never run out of protection
  • No need to take your bag to the loo with you
  • Great for travelling in wild and rugged places
  • No need to put of dirty, plastic sanitary items in the bin next to the loo.
  • Much more comfortable
  • Saves you loads of money
  • Don’t see your pantyliner out on the beach


I like Moon cups  – made from silicone check out the site for more info. You can buy Mooncups in shops including

English: Fleurcup menstrual cup (large size); ...

Boot’s. If you want to get them on line try Ethical Superstore or Amazon 


Natural rubber cups are available from Australia.They are  called, rather dungeons and dragon like, The Keeper. It’s the  same principle as the Mooncup  but made of  natural rubber rather than silicone. They will ship,  see their website

Other Options

For those of you who cant face the thought of fiddling around, there are lots of alternatives here