Bring back real litter!

Since the introduction of plastic, litter has been hijacked and turned into something unsustainable. I want to restore litter to its rightful place in the ecological cycle. I say lets reclaim litter from packaging businesses and get it back in the compost bins.

The New Litter
Imagine a world where litter if dropped would in a few weeks at most, have transformed itself into healthy compost to feed the next generation of plants. Rubbish you could safely burn on the bonfire and then spread the ashes round your gooseberries. Trash you didn’t have to carefully sort before paying a great deal to have it removed and specially dealt with.
Thats how rubbish used to be before we started using plastic for wrapping and packaging just about everything. Most plastic does not biodegrade so it cannot be composted, it is not easily burnt and it cannot be fed to the pigs. Instead this plastic rubbish lasts for decades, centuries possibly for ever. If it escapes out into the environment it is out there for ever.
using plastic, a product that lasts for generations for disposable throw away products we use for moments before discarding has completely changed our relationship with rubbish and littering generally.
What No Bin?
While this might not be so noticeable in some places. it bcomes horrible apparent elsewhere.
A while ago I went to visit the nomads who live out in the Persian deserts. We sat in a circle drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds. As we muched we scattered the discarded seed husks around our feet. Then one of my companions brought out some shop bought sweets. All the kids went crazy for this big city treat excitedly ripping off the shiny plastic wrappers. Then as they did with the seed husks, they dropped the glittering plastic skins onto on the ground. Because that’s what they do with litter. And until now it hasn’t been a problem. The seed husks of course biodegrade back into the soil but the plastic sweet wrappers are there for ever.
So what to do with them? Plastic can only be disposed of in a few very specialized, costly and labour intensive ways. It has to be collected up, transported and buried in landfill, burnt in a high specification incinerators or recycled. But these are nomads. They don’t have a rubbish collection service. Indeed they are a donkey ride away from the nearest road. There is an open dump some distance away where household waste is thrown. It used to be self managing. The goats scavenged through it for food and what was left would eventually biodegrade. Now of course it is and evergrowing morass of plastic bottles, tangled with plastic bags and shiny wrappers. Looking closer and you could see that the sandy scrub land all around us was scattered with plastic trash. The nomads sometimes try  to burn their plastic trash but it doesn’t burn well on open fires. All around the camp were warped and blackened half-melted misshapes. Burning plastic at best smells dreadful and adds to global warming, at worst it can release dangerous fumes. Not something you want to be trying at home – or outside your tent.This simple world once self sustaining is becoming increasingly polluted.

This is long it takes for natural products to biodegrade, when scattered about as litter:
Paper ~ 2-5 months
Cotton rags ~ 1-5 month
Natural fiber rope ~ 3-14 months
Orange peel ~6 months
Wool socks ~1 to 5 years
Leather shoes ~25 to 40 years
Tin cans ~ 50 to 100 years
Plastic lasts for ever.

Cheap enough to trash but not disposable….
So now when the nomads move on they leave a heap of everlasting trash that the hot, dry wind scatters across the plain. But what is the answer? Should the nomads be banned from using plastic they can’t dispose of, not allowed access to fizzy drinks, processed food, aspirin or anything packaged in disposable plastic packaging?
Though plastic packaging and one-use products are described as disposable they aren’t. Not really. What disposable means in this context is that these items are cheap enough to be used once and then discarded.

Because plastic lasts for ever, every bit of plastic trash has to be collected and specially treated. So along with the landfill site,incinerator or recycling plant to actually treat plastic waste, you need roads, refuse trucks, a workforce and the money to pay for it all. Consequently it’s not just nomads who have plastic trash problem. You can find appalling examples of plastic pollution in
Countries with weak or corrupt governments,
Remote places with a limited infrastructure including many beaches
Communities with little money
Societies upset by war, natural disasters and other calamities.

There are many reasons why a community may not be able to dispose of its plastic trash but the results are always disastrous. There are swathes of plastic trash spoiling the beaches, choking streams and littering verges. It is mixed in with the house hold waste on open rubbish dumps and every year hundreds of wild and domestic animals die or are permanently maimed as a result of accidentally ingesting plastic. Plastic pollution is impacting on the tourist trade, polluting washing water and damaging the livelihood of the poorest, those who depend on rivers for water, whose animals graze on common land.

Real Litter And The Natural Process
Littering, feral cows and open rubbish dumps as methods of waste disposal are not without their problems but it is worth noting that isolated villages and islanders have managed their rubbish for this way for hundreds of years and maintained clean, working landscape. Because rather than doing long term damage, real litter is an essential part of a natural process. Many fruits rely on littering to spread their seed. Think apples – the fruit is eaten the core discarded elsewhere it rots and the seeds hopefully get to germinate.
Dumping biological litter releases essential nutrients back into the soil. Compost and partially rotted matters helps improve soil structure and feed the millions a tiny creatures essential for healthy eco system.
Natural waste is an essential part of the biological cycle. Traditional methods of waste disposal work with the ecosystem and help return nutrients as part of the natural cycle.This is an intact nutrient cycle.
broken nutrint cycle
As societies become distanced from this cycle they see waste products not essentials elements in a circular system but a useless end product of a linear system that have to be specially disposed of.
This is called a broken system and is ecologically unhealthy.Yet this is the system that plastic manufacturers like to promote. Reason being of course that plastic does not belong in the circular biological system. Plastic litter is an unnatural end product that has to be specially disposed of. 
broken nutrient cycle
Great images were Found on
Litter once used to describe natural shedding of material as in leaf litter is now also refers unnatural and environmentally damaging human detritus escaping into the ecosystem.

Why should you care
If you are reading this in a country that has a workable infrastructure, regular rubbish collections and street cleaners you might feel that that unnatural litter is not your problem. It can be collected and disposed of for you and as for returning nutrients to soil, who needs compost when we have chemists to make fertilizer?
But consider this then this system only works for as long as there is stability, money and manpower. Its rather like saying who needs stairs if you have a lift. Fine when the lift is working but if it breaks down, goes on strike or you don’t have the money to maintain it…. well you can see where I am going with this.
Or this; current methods of waste disposal in richer countries are extremely expensive. You are paying a great deal of money to clean up this trash.
More importantly all these clean up methods come  with their own serious side effects. Put plastic in landfill and it just sits there. Consequently the landfill sites are nearly full and news ones are in increasingly short supply. Burning plastic is controversial with many groups claiming it releases toxins into the atmosphere. It certainly adds to global warming.
plastic plankton pollution #plastic
Recycling has a role to play but it is not cost effective to recycle all plastics so only percentage are. All of these methods require a lot of resources. None resolve the problem of plastic litter that has escaped into the environment.

Litter Louts
And of course even the best waste collection system are only partially effective. Certainly there are large parts of the U.K. that are badly plastic damaged. Litter louts the cry goes up. And as someone who picks up other peoples plastic trash I hate them too. But when it comes to litter, tossers are only part of the problem. Even if we caught all litterers and locked them up, we would still have a litter problem because a lot of littering is accidental. Think sweets dropped unnoticed, picnic ware left behind and plasters peeling off. More is down to natural causes, mostly wind blown. Plastic trash is often gusted back out of bins. Anyone who lives near a rubbish treatment site will know that a lot of plastic escapes back out into the environment.
Any one who lives in the countryside knows that black and green plastic used on farms gets everywhere. Much of the plastic on the roadside is packaging blown off lorries. Animals scrabbling in bins also do a lot of damage.


exfoliate imageThen there is littering thats not considered littering. Because these products are labelled disposable there is the assumption that they are safe to throw them away. Because they often mimic products which are genuinely biodegradable it is easy to understand why people get confused. What could be more biodegradable than a teabag. Paper and leaves. But the paper contains plastic that will live for ever in your compost heap.

The plastic exfoliating beads in your face scrub that get washed down the sink and into the sea are micro plastic pollutants that many countries are now banning.

A tampon that looks like it is made of cotton wool is neither cotton or wool but plastic. And thousands of them get flushed down the toilet and have to be dealt with at the other end. By hand. Urghhhh! You can find a list of sneaky plastics here

Whatever the reasons anyone who uses plastic disposables, (which is everyone), is deliberately, accidentally or through ignorance guilty of improperly discarding them at some point. Consequently huge amounts of plastic disposables escape out into the environment on a daily basis. And not just onto the streets and into the trees. Scientists are findings increasing amounts of plastic in the sea and soil and animals they support. Our discarded plastic is changing the environment in fundamental and irreversible ways.

Who Is Responsible

The plastics industry say end users should behave more responsibly, stop littering and start recycling more. Well of course they would as this shifts the focus from the huge amounts of trash being created by their industry. To dispose of plastic properly the end user needs to be able finance an expensive system of specialized plastic treatment plants and organize regular rubbish collections. Then they need to know the difference between what is compostable and what looks as though it is. To research and find the plastic  in the most unlikely places (teabags, toothpaste and glitter soap) and then dispose of it “properly”. Though how anyone is going to dispose of plastic micro beads in facewash properly is beyond me.

Their arguments are a smoke screen. It is futile to say that people should stop littering. Some won’t  and others don’t know they are doing it.  It completely ignores littering as a result of natural cause and disasters. It disregards littering as a result of poverty by those who have no access to waste disposal systems. It seems expect that impoverished countries to find the money to implement effective waste control measures.

Basically it is an attempt to  divert blame from where it really lies – with the product. Something that is made to be discarded has to be properly disposable not properly disposed of. Any disposable, throwaway product has to be designed bearing the following points in mind

  • Litter does not always end up in the bin
  • End of life disposal methods
  • The cost and practicality of effective waste disposal
  • Allow for the consumer manage waste at the point of creation
  • To present no danger to the natural ecosystem
  • To must have a lifespan of months maximum

Waste in short has to be natural, compostable, safe for animals to eat and carbon neutral to burn. Plastic fails on just about every count.
We have to go back to traditional litter, real litter that meets all of the above criteria. Returning to real litter does not mean littering is to be endorsed. Yes you can dispose of a banana peel by throwing it in the bushes where it will naturally compost but if everyone did so there would be heaps of festering food  and rats the size of rabbits.

The natural environment can only cope with a fixed amount of waste at any time. Too much and it becomes overwhelmed. In larger communities littering would still need to controlled but it would be via  municipal composting schemes… more of this later. In the meantime,  if the banana peel did end up in the bushes, it would do no harm.

At worst real rubbish would look untidy and only for the time it took to rot away. It certainly wouldn’t have dreadful consequences that plastic littering has. Making throwaway items out of a material that damages the environment,  is a danger to animals  and impacts adversely on the poorer members of the community is, to put it very kindly, irresponsible.

Using those products is endorsing and encouraging this irresponsibility. We have to stop using plastic to make disposable products. But rather than wait (probably a very long time), for governments to, (possibly), legislate, I would suggest we take individual responsibility now. I urge you to join me in the campaigning for real rubbish ( working title CAMFORR)  by boycotting plastic, so-called disposables and demanding biodegradable alternatives.

CAMFORR Refusing to use to keep it clean.

You can find are loads of  compostable plastic free and plastic less products here

Want to shop plastic free – try this reusable and compostable packaging

Reports and statistics on plastic trash, pollution and uptake by animals here and check out P-f U.K. directory of plastivists.

Other campaigns – ask Diary Crest to keep glass refillable milk bottles – sign the petition Any designers out there? We need  logo!


Clothing Manifesto

I have a list of sustainable criteria when choosing what clothes to buy or make. They have to meet as many of the following as possible

Fabric is mostly
made from natural fibres
ideally organic
Fair-trade or U.K. made
Clothes can be gifted/secondhand but only in limited amounts
Have to be fairly made / homemade i.e. made by adults who are paid a living wage or me.
From shops /businesseswith sustainable environmental policies
Or local shops & suppliers
Made using plastic free thread
Fastened with plastic free fixings
Bought in fair and sustainable amounts.
unhung & unpackaged

Natural Versus Synthetic Fibres

My clothes are mostly made from natural fibres because on consideration they are the greenest, biodegradable option. If you need it, there is a quick  intro to synthetic, regenerated, combination and natural fibres here.

Problems with Synthetic Fibres
Like most other plastics many synthetic fibre do not biodegrade so are difficult to depose of.
Synthetic fabrics  shed plastic microfibres when washed which are being consumed by plankton.
They cannot be dyed.
And more reasons why I prefer natural fabrics over the others here.

I still wear some synthetic fibres but only for specialist clothing that doesn’t need washing often. Tags plastic we use, clothes.


Buying Ready Made

Buying ready-made, plastic free clothes is a real chore. While I might choose to buy cotton that does not mean the clothes I buy  will be entirely natural fibres. Even if it says 100% cotton, you will often find that the washing instructions are printed on a synthetic fabric, the thread used to sew may be polyester, that buttons zips and other fixings and finishings will almost certainly contain synthetics.

Plastic Free Packaging
And even if I can get plastic free clothing there is the packaging and presentation to consider
While you may see clothes in shops unpacked, many fabric items come to the shop plastic packed for protection. Even clothes hanging unpacked on hangers will most probably have arrived plastic packed and then been unpacked .

And you will of course see clothes hanging on hangers. I used to think that when the clothes arrived at the shop they were hung on hangers that would, if I refused them, be re-used to hang more clothes. This is not the case. Many clothes now come already hung hangers.  If I refuse a hanger chances are it will not be reused but may thrown away, possibly recycled.

Recycled Plastic Packaging
Though the bags and hangers can probably be recycled I have no way of knowing if they will be. Even if they are, recycling is only a more responsible form of waste disposal. It still comes with an environmental cost. Just because plastic can be recycled is no reason to use it to create everlasting trash and in such ludicrous amounts.


Price Tags & Labels
Even if you manage to source a packaging free item there will be size label, stickers, price tags and irritating plastic ties to contend with. Even cardboard labels will most likely be plasticized.

Buying On Line
While you might avoid the hangers and price tags by buying online there is onward packaging to contend with. In my experience many companies send stuff out in plastic and refuse to otherwise stating that they need the plastic is needed to protect the product. Even the greener companies do this.

Buying Second Hand

One way to cut the packaging, hangers and price tags is to buy second hand. It is also in many ways a greener option than buying new but I don’t like it.

I have no problem with buying or better still being gifted second hand clothes but there are a number of issues to be considered. For me the most important are you cannot use your money to influence how the clothes were made and by whom. Buying second-hand clothes made in sweat shops out of unsustainable fabrics are not, to my mind, guilt free.

Yes it is greener but the plastic packaging rubbish has still been created, fair-trade, organic and natural fibres may not be available and they still use those irritating plastic tags to attach their own labels. But most importantly I feel that charity shops take some of the guilt out of excessive consumption. People feel good about giving clothes to charity it helps raise money for good causes, helps people who cannot afford to buy new and so on. It also means that the donor can go out and buy more clothes. It does nothing to reduce the unsustainable levels of clothing consumption. In fact too many clothes are donated to charities and they simply cannot sell them all in the host countries. Many of the clothes donated to charity shops are sold to second hand dealers. You give to Oxfam, (and lots of other charities), they sell it to textile businesses (not charities) who make a profit from selling it in developing countries. The second hand clothes trade  is credited with hindering the development of sustainable industries in developing countries. You can read more here.

Sustainable Clothing

I only feel comfortable buying sustainable clothes. I mean clothes made from cloth woven from fair-trade, ideally organically-grown, natural fibres, by people paid a proper wage. The articles then need to be sewn up in safe and healthy environments by adults who can live off what they earn. Problem is I can’t afford those kinds of clothes on what I earn.

So I shop at M&S. one of the more sustainable high street stores and pretty good value. They also do reasonably good quality cotton basics. They sell a lot of stuff unhung and they actually reuse their plastic hangers. But….. much as I like M&S I have to admit that they can be a little… erm…. stodgy? And some of the above plastic related issues still apply,

Making Your Own Plasticfree Sustainable Clothes

Seems to me the only way to get completely compostable clothes that are, sustainable, affordable and plastic-free as possible is to make them yourself. So I dragged out my sewing machine and started stitching my own sustainable duds in sustainable amounts.

What’s A Sustainable Amounts Of Clothes

Of course one mans over consumption is another’s nothing to wear so how to decide what is sustainable?

This is how the equation works for me. We cannot exceed current levels of production. We cannot expect others to want less than we have. Therefore we can only consume our global share

Whats a global share?11.74 kg per person of which 3.8 kg is natural fibres.  all You can check my figures here.

See my global share here…


Plastics That Cut Plastic

There are always conflicts in any course of action and a plastic boycott is no different. Some times you need to use plastic to cut your plastic consumption.

Plastic Products 

If a product reduces your consumption of plastic disposables or packaging waste then we feel there is a strong justification for using it. The silicone menstrual cup for example. This reusable menstrual protection made from non biodegradable silicon and may come plastic packaged yet will save you mountains of plastic menstrual waste. Another is our juice maker.

Plastic Packed 

I make my own personal care and cleaning products, everything from dish wash powder to suntan lotion. This of course massively reduces my plastic consumption but doesn’t cut it completely. Yes, you guessed it, the ingredients I use to make said products come wrapped in plastic. As I cannot avoid this, and the end waste is a few plastic bags as opposed to a big pile of plastic packaging, I accept it as inevitable. Of course I continue to look for plastic free suppliers.

Glass bottle /plastic lid
Essential oils
Coconut oil used in place of almost everything

Comes In A Plastic Bag
Vegetable butter and other cosmetic making supplies
Borax and other cleaning chemicals
Cotton on a plastic reel for making plastic free clothes.

Check out a list of sneaky plastic here – yes that tin is plastic lined!


While you can often buy single units plastic free if you go further back down the supply chain, products bought wholesale are packed in plastic. The plastic bags are then broken open and individual units sold on unwrapped. This is true of most things from bacon in the butchers to mop heads in the market and loo rolls in the corner shop.

Now you you only want one mop head, searching out an unwrapped one is the way to go. But what if you have a very dirty house and you need 10 mop heads? Is it foolish to cling to principal and buy each mop head separately? Even when you know that those 10 mop heads will arrive at the shop packed in a plastic bag?

In this case I buy bulk because even if I bought ten, individual, unwrapped mop heads, the original plastic packaging (the plastic bag came in), is still in my waste stream if not in my bin.

Believe me, I have been down this path with our wholesalers. I have even had sales staff very kindly rip open the plastic bags to give me the mop heads unpackaged – but what is the point in that? At least if I take the bag I know it will get put in the recycle bin. I console myself with the thought that buying in bulk massively reduces packaging. It is not my preferred option but my preferred option of plastic-free packaging at all levels does not yet exist. Until it does, I will keep on campaigning for sustainable packaging and contacting the people who supply the wholesaler.

Which raises the question – how far back down the waste stream are you prepared to go to be plastic free?


See all our plastic to cut plastic products here
You can read more about the plastics we use here

Thinking About My Carbon Footprint

How much carbon can you create in a year?

The Guardian.

The UK government has pledged to cut emissions by 20% before 2012, to around eight tonnes per capita. It further aims to reduce national emissions by 60% before 2050, to around four tonnes each. These are good targets to adopt as personal goals, although ultimately we should all be aiming for the global allocation of two tonnes each.

Kick the Habit says that, for individuals, “less than 50 percent are direct emissions (such as driving a car or using a heater).” About 20 percent are caused by the creation, use and disposal of products we use; 25 percent comes from powering workplaces; and 10 percent from maintaining public infrastructure. You can drive your car less and turn down the heat, but consider ways you can affect business and government policies that could tap into that other 50-plus percent.


From Manicore

Let’s get back to figures: in 1990, our CO2 emissions amounted to 6 to 7 billion tons of carbon (often noted 6 to 7 GtC, G standing for the prefix “giga” that means a billion in the scientific notation). So independently of what was decided in Kyoto, a goal that has a “physical” meaning for the world is to get down to 3 Gt per year at most. 3 GtC for 6,5 billion human beings (about to become 7 to 9 in 2050) means, if we equitably allocate the “emission right”, 460 kg of carbon (that is 1,7 tonne of CO2) per person and per year

Best Carbon calculators

15 chosen by Earth Matters

And these from the Guardian

and this one has some good stats

Air con

In the typical home, air conditioning uses more electricity than anything else—16% of total electricity used.  In warmer regions AC can be 60-70% of your summer electric bill, according to Austin Energy.  This is where the savings are folks, not in worrying that you left your cell phone charger plugged in too long.

Central AC is simply an energy hog.  A window unit AC uses 500 to 1440 watts, while a 2.5-ton central system uses about 3500 watts. That’s a lot of power.  A floor fan uses only 100 watts on the highest speed, and ceiling fans use only 15 to 90 watts depending on speed and size.

Carbon saved by recycling your waste: to see the original and all its links go to do the green thing.

According to a household waste study by the Open University for DEFRA, 2 the average household produces 18.6 kg of waste per week made up of the following:

Cardboard & paper 3.8 kg
Dense plastic packaging 0.7 kg
Ferrous packaging (steel & tin cans) 0.4 kg
Aluminium packaging 0.2 kg
Miscellaneous metal (ferrous and non-ferrous) 0.6 kg
Glass packaging 1.7 kg
Textiles 0.3 kg
Putrescible kitchen waste 3.1 kg
Garden waste 2.9 kg
Misc. combustible waste (DIY combustibles) 3.3 kg

Miscellaneous plastic (e.g. plastic coat-hangers, plastic film) 0.6 kg
Sanitary wastes 0.3 kg
Misc. non-combustible waste (brick, rubble) 0.6 kg
Dust & ash 0.1 kg

Most of this waste  can be recycled. The following shows how much CO2 can be saved if each is recycled rather than landfilled.

Carbon emissions for each waste type (in tonnes of CO2e per tonne of material): 3

Cardboard & paper (1.5 tonnes CO2e) = 5.7 kg CO2 for 3.8 kg
Dense plastic packaging (2 tonnes CO2e) = 1.4 kg CO2 for 0.7 kg
Ferrous packaging (1.5 tonnes CO2e) = 1.05 kg CO2 for 0.7 kg 4
Aluminium packaging (10 tonnes CO2e) = 5 kg CO2 for 0.5 kg 5
Glass packaging (0.5 tonnes CO2e) = 0.85 kg CO2 for 1.7 kg
Textiles (8 tonnes CO2e) = 2.4 kg CO2 for 0.3 kg
Putrescible kitchen waste (4.5 tonnes CO2e) = 13.95 kg CO2 for 3.1 kg
Garden waste (1 tonne CO2e) = 2.9 kg CO2 for 2.9 kg
Misc. combustible waste (take as wood – 1.5 tonne CO2e) = 4.95 kg CO2 for 3.3 kg

This comes to a total of 38.2 kg CO2 per household per week, or 16.6 kg CO2 per person per week. 6

A vegetarian Diet

But controversial as the findings may sound, comparing the respective impact of different foods based on their calorie content isn’t new or radical.

“If you stop eating beef, you can’t replace a kilogram of it, which has 2,280 calories, with a kilogram of broccoli, at 340 calories. You have to replace it with 6.7 kilograms of broccoli,” Tamar Haspel wrote last year for the Washington Post. “Calories are the great equaliser, and it makes sense to use them as the basis of the calculation.”

It is very difficult to truly measure the carbon cost of eating or not eating meat.

becoming a parent could lead to a legacy of 262 times more carbon emissions than failing to convert to energy-saving light bulbs, are you still keen to start a family?

The transportation sector is the second largest source of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Transporting goods and people around the world produced 22% of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions in 2010.

Carbon Producers

– Electricity & heat (24.9%)
– Industry (14.7%)
– Transportation (14.3%)
– Other fuel combustion (8.6%)
– Fugitive emissions (4%)
Agriculture (13.8%)
Land use change (12.2%)
Industrial processes (4.3%)
Waste (3.2%)

These sectors are then assigned to various end uses, giving the following results

Road transport (10.5%)
Air transport (excluding additional warming impacts) (1.7% )
Other transport (2.5%)
Fuel and power for residential buildings (10.2%)
Fuel and power for commercial buildings (6.3%)
Unallocated fuel combustion (3.8%)
Iron and steel production (4%)
Aluminium and non-ferrous metals production (1.2%)
Machinery production (1%)
Pulp, paper and printing (1.1%)
Food and tobacco industries (1.0%)
Chemicals production (4.1%)
Cement production (5.0%)
Other industry (7.0%)
Transmission and distribution losses (2.2%)
Coal mining (1.3%)
Oil and gas production (6.4%)
Deforestation (11.3%)
Reforestation (-0.4%)
Harvest and land management (1.3%)
Agricultural energy use (1.4%)
Agricultural soils (5.2%)
Livestock and manure (5.4%)
Rice cultivation (1.5%)
Other cultivation (1.7%)
Landfill of waste (1.7%)
Wastewater and other waste (1.5%)

It should be stressed that there is a fair degree of uncertainty about the precise contribution of some activities, especially those which include biological processes such as land use change and agriculture. Indeed, the total contribution from deforestation is much lower in the data above than it was in the equivalent figures from 2000, due to a change in the underlying methodology – as described in the WRI’s accompanying paper (pdf).



Not In My Bin Plastic Rule

When determining if something is plastic free I sometimes have to apply the not-in-my-bin rule.

A cheesy case study

Please note there are other cheese options but for the purpose of this study we are going with the cheaper mass produced cheese!

We buy cheese unpackaged. Sometimes from a market (try Queensgate in Huddersfield), sometimes a supermarket will have the block uncut,(Tescoes are  good for this). We take our own packaging and ask for the cheese to be wrapped in that. However the big block of cheese is usually wrapped in plastic. It’s how they pack and keep  mass-produced cheese in the UK.

So, does this counts as plastic free?

Yes and no. I cannot control the supply chain or how others choose to use plastic. I can only control my own environment and what I use plastic for. That might sound like dissembling but consider this;

  • many products even if they are sold loose will arrive to the shop plastic packed. That includes meat to the butchers, boxes plastic film wrapped onto crates, crates secured with plastic webbing.
  • You can buy an unwrapped sandwich in a bakers but what of the ingredients? did the baker buy them plastic free? Same can be said for dining out.

The only way I could be sure my food was plastic free would be to grow and butcher it myself –  and never eat out or buy in.  This is a blog about living plastic- free in the everyday world. For sure I do what I can but I cannot greatly affect how the supply chain operates –  yet, (you wait till the movement gets more powerful).

However I can say not in my bin. I can show that at the user end at least, products do not need to be plastic packed and that some consumers will not use plastic packaging. By choosing biodegradable forms of packaging I can massively reduce my plastic waste. I can also dispose of my own rubbish by composting. It doesn’t resolve all the issues of plastic packaging but it reduces the problems at my level of use. And that is a pretty big contribution.

In the UK alone we generate 3 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, 56% of which is used packaging, three-quarters of which is from households. (waste on line)

Imagine if the 65 million UK residents cut the plastic that goes in the domestic bins and started composting. Looks wistfully into space…


Plastic we boycott

Obviously we don’t use

  • Plastic wrapping, bags and packaging and bottles
  • Throw away, disposable items
  • Synthetic fibres, fabrics and leathers – not just made of plastic but shed micro plastics when washed
  • Trashy items that are cheap, badly made,have a limited lifespan and are consumer trash.
  • Plastic items for which there is a viable and sustainable, natural alternative.

Sneaky plastics

But did you know that there were plastic in all these products too

Chewing Gum

I don't do chewing gum because not only does it come packed in plastic, it is actually made from plastic ...
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Toothpaste With Added Plastic

What's in your commercial toothpaste? For starters ther may be plastic micro beads!Did you know that at least 12  Crest  toothpastes ...
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Greaseproof paper/ waxed paper

Baking paper – also known as greaseproof bakery paper or parchment paper, is grease proof paper that is used in ...
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Condoms & Lubricants

If all goes well on Valentines day you may well be planning some intimate moments. Time to check out condoms ...
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Cardboard laminated

When I started my boycott I soon realized that giving up plastic would be no easy ride but I didn’t ...
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Cardboard Boxes With Plastic Liners

The plastic free cocoa quest has suffered something of a setback. Last week Mother came bustling in flushed with pride.“I ...
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Cardboard Cups & Pots

So you find what looks like a cardboard container full of yummy ice cream or you see that your favourite ...
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Microbeads.... the newest way to exfoliate. These tiny particles, or microbeads, scrub away at the skin supposedly leaving it wonderfully ...
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Foil and Paper, Plastic lined

Now of course I know that nearly all paper products used to package food that have a thin plastic liner.  Foil ...
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Plastic In Menstrual Products

Those disposable pads and tampons? Not cotton wool as you might have thought but plastic. Sigh! Why? Along with cotton ...
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Metal Lids With Plastic Linings

Back in the early days of the boycott I didn’t think of glass jars as an issue - after all ...
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Tin Cans, Plastic Liners & Health

So you think, no that you've given up plastic but at least you can buy stuff in tins. At least ...
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Rubber – PVC free

I didn't know that PVC was found in rubbers but here you go .... from the blurb.... PVC-free thermoplastic rubber ...
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Tea Bags

Whats in your tea bag? Paper and tea you wish but actually no. Firstly is your bag made from paper? ...
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Laminated Cartons /Tetra Paks

They might look cardboard and many think they are even some kind of waxed paper but tetrapaks and the like ...
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Lucky then that we sourced a whole load of alternatives!


The three levels of plastic free food

How to cut the plastic you wrap your food in…

#pfuk bagStage 1 Warming Up

Bagger Off …start by saying no to “free” plastic carriers and taking your own reusable bag.

Get loose.. buy loose and unwrapped food and take your own reusable produce bags and and pots to put them in.

Water waste … take your own tap water in a refillable bottle.

Milking It Now….play that fun game Find The Milkman -stalk your neighbors looking for empties or check here

Having mastered stage 1 you will now feel like a real challenge. Well its not far away…

Stage 2 Giving Up pfree food raspberries soft fruit

Your task is to refuse plastic wrapped products and source substitutes.

This will mean some hardship and deprivation – no crisps unless you make them yourself!!!!!

You will have to make some choices here as to what you can and cant do without.

Stage 2 Lite

It should mean that you give up everything for which there isn’t a plastic free substitute. However if that is not possible I would suggest that you allow yourself a fixed number of necessities for which you cannot find a regular plastic free substitute. Mine include brown rice and noodles.

And I think you you can allow an occasional plastic treat. These would be plastic packed products for which there is no substitute, that you probably could do without -but life would be miserable. Mine are nori seaweed, smoked salmon and creme freche.

Next you next have to ask yourself what constitutes plastic wrapped.

Stage 3 Stealth Plasticplastic lined tin cans

I consider all of the below to be plastic packaged.

Nearly all PAPER products used to wrap food are  Plastic coated paper – no plastic lined tetra paks, disposable cups, wraps of sugar and of course tubs of ice cream.

Foiled again…. most  foil packaging is also plastic wrapped- watch out for butter margarine and Boursin.

No can do – Tins & soda  are plastic coated so out they go

Pain in the jars. GLASS JARS WITH METAL LIDS what could possibly go wrong. The lids are plastic lined or have a little disc of plastic as a seal.

If you agree, your plastic boycott suddenly got way harder!

Stage 3 Lite as for stage 2

Again try to cut the above to the minimum, but don’t beat yourself up over a bottle of ketchup! Reduce the tins and jars you use but decide what you have to keep. I still buy honey, beans and tuna.


You can find all the plastic free food I have sourced here

You can see the plastic food I eat here



Share the #plasticfree love…

As more people go plastic-free, there are an increasing number of zero waste shops and stalls springing up. I cant really keep track of them. And obviously I am not aware of all of them. So I really welcome input from others.

Stronger Together

I always wanted the blog to be a resource where numerous people could Collaborate on producing the bestest ever data base of plastic free resources for UK plastivists.
So if you want to contribute and I hope you do, here’s how


Products – Nuts

1 Source

You have found some loose nuts for sale at your local market
You want to share this info.

2 Seek…

You search the Plasric Is Rubbish database for nuts to see if there is already an entry.

And You Will Find…

A post on nuts

Yes there is a post for nuts…

3 Share Your Nut Related Information

In the leave a reply box  at the bottom of the post add your info for loose nuts.
You should be able to do this quite easily via any of your social media accounts
Now anyone looking for nuts will find  your info as well as mine

If you have a post on the subject on your own blog please  leave a link to your own post again in the comments section.

Another Example – Shops

And its not just for products. If you have a shop in Halifax selling plastic free products and you want it listed,  go to
By Place
Towns organised alphabetically that have #plasticfree/ packaging free/ zerowaste shops  listed  here.

Add you shop under H for Halifax


if you cannot find a post about nuts or H for Halifax tell me and I will set one  up.

Other Ways To Find Posts

Here are some other links you might find useful when searching for posts

Plastic Free Products

The easiest way to find a #plasticfree alternative in our huge database of products is to use the search function (#grandmothersuckeggs!) However we have also organised them by other criteria.
By Category Everything from food to Gardening to personal care
By Task 
Want to know how to wash the pots, #plasticfree? Check out these posts organised by task!
A to Z organised… erm…alphabetically

By Place
Towns organised alphabetically that have #plasticfree/ packaging free/ zerowaste shops. Find them here.
Supermarkets & Chainstores can surprise you – check out the plastic-free and reduced packaging products here.

Sharing Is caring And with your contributions,  posts can stay up to date and we can all benefit from each other’s expertise.

What do you think? Inputs, feedback and thoughts greatly welcomed. Anyone fancy out trying out and commenting on the system?


the plastic food I eat…

Plastic food is food that comes in

I have sourced plastic free alternatives for most food stuffs and while it might sound hard (it was!), and be rather more time consuming (it is!), there are very good reasons not to eat plastic packed foods. Read this about  chemicals leaching from plastic into food.

Of course there are some foodstuffs for which there is no alternative such as crips. So what to do then? Some I have chosen to give up; cornflakes, crisps, crackers and cucumbers spring alliteratively to mind. Others I cannot do without.

Here are the plastic packed foods I still eat….

Cupboard Staples – essentials

Polythene Versus Film

Many products like dried beans, lentils and pulses can be found, dried, and packaged in lovely looking, printed, laminated plastic film.  Or to put it more simply several layers of plastic each with different properties stuck together.

Because they consist of different plastics bonded together it is difficult to know what they are and how to treat them and separating the films is tricky and so very expensive. Films therefore often don’t get recycled but burnt or landfilled.

Simple polythene bags are easy to recycle. You can read more about that here.

Early on in the boycott I decided to buy many dried staples in bulk, on-line in polythene bags.

Beans & Pulses

I bought a whole lot of dried beans and pulses in bulk, on-line. Years later and I am still eating them. There are a few limited options for buy loose. Heres where you can buy loose, cardboard and polytheism wrapped  dried beans and pulses.

Dried pasta

An essential in our house. Quick and easy but sadly not plastic free. Again rather than buy small amounts in fancy film bags I buy the big bags made from polythene, from Tescoes. Sadly, I cannot buy whole wheat or organic pasta like this so I have to make do white white pasta twirls.

Iranian herbsno alternatives unless we go to Iran

Vegetable oil – even the tins are plastic lined

Glass Jars with Plastic or plastic lined lids

  • Tomato ketchup
  • Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Mango Chutney
  • Sweetcorn relish
  • mayonnaise – I just can’t make this stuff!
  • Marmite
  • Pickled Gherkins
  • Pickled Beetroot


  • Coconut milk
  • Baked beans
  • Tomato puree
  • Tuna

Cant resist – occasional treats

  • Cream cheese
  • Smoked Salmon (plastic free options here)
  • Noodles
  • Nori seaweed
  • Cream and Creme freche


Bottles with plastic lined lids, caps and corks
Cans of tonic

Check out plastic free booze here.


Now I know what you are thinking – if my diet consists of mainly baked beans, tuna pasta and vodka, I have hardly gone plastic free. This however is not the case. Sadly the student days are long since gone. And, since I have learnt about how chemicals may leach from the wrapping into the contents, I am not so keen to eat plastic packed food. I eat the above in very limited amounts  (except for alcohol obviously), and often when we are entertaining/ have children round.

More Plastic Free Food & Drink Posts

You can see all my plastic free alternatives here



Plastivan and the plastic free UK tour…

We have done the plastic free home and nailed backpacking plastic-free – it’s time for a new challenge. How about packing everything up to travel round the UK in a van? A plastic free van… a plastivan if you will!

Our plan? To travel high roads and low dives of the great and glorious U.K. It’s been a trip long in the coming but one of the advantages of advancing years is that I can finally afford to travel England. Before this it has been backpacking in Asia and I know Varanasi better than I knew Bath. In fact I didnt know Bath at all and while both places encourage bathing in the local waters, I was fairly certain Bath didnt do public cremations. Unless it was of reputations. Get that Jane Austin reference there?

So armed with a National Trust card we set off to explore our heritage. It went so well that when winter came, we decided to take the van to Spain to explore some one elses.

NB When I say afford, this is not luxury travel. It involves a good measure of wild camping and we can only look wistfully through the windows of the NT cafe (in the delightfully converted, scullions punishment room). But who knows? Maybe bed and breakfast and cream teas are the rewards of retirement.

The Van

Spring 2013 we converted the work van into a home. It was been something of a recycling, upcycling kind of project. The design was dictated by what was in the cellar, parts cannabalised from the old van and what was going cheap on ebay.

We insulated the walls with plastic bubble insulation as it was the thinnest most efficient and liner we could afford. Put in some lights that VB wired up to a leisure battery.

  • We cook on an old, 2 ring camping stove.
  • The sink and tap are from the old van the plate racks are from Ikea.
  • The curtains are what we had in the fabric pile.
  • The paint is from the cellar.

The overall impression is …. eclectic? Hendrix on chintz?

April 2014

we set off round England


We spent winter in Spain.

Plastic Free Living

Of course every month is plastic free for us but you can read our write ups of plastic free July, here.

You can find all our van posts here


About Us & Why The Boycott

We are Kate and Ami. We started  blogging as Polythene Pam and Village Boy but are gradually creeping out not the bright lights . We live in Yorkshire, England, in a small industrial town. We don’t have pets or kids. We shop at supermarkets when we have to, eat meat, drink alcohol and munch cheese. Giving up is not in our nature! We want to do everything but without creating a huge pile of non-biodegradable, possibly carcinogenic, lethal to wildlife rubbish that future generations will have to clean up.

We travel a lot (plastic-free of course), and much of this blog has been written while sweating our faces off in some backwater with limited internet access. Please make allowances.

We do it for free, gratis, nowt. It is our voluntary environmental work if you like.

So why boycott plastic?

The term plastic (when used to describe a synthetic product and not a quality) embraces a huge range of artifacts from glue to kayaks, stockings to tires. Why would we want to boycott glue you might ask? Or Kayaks? And how can glue be a plastic anyway?

All important questions and one that this blog tries to answer. However, when we started (back in 2006), we knew nothing of such things – we only knew we were incensed by ever-increasing amounts of plastic litter

One day a plastic bag got tangled in the tree outside my house. Months later it was still there. Next year, when the leaves fell, there it was! Looking all ragged and tatty and even more unpleasant. It was then I realized that plastic rubbish, unlike an apple core say, doesn’t biodegrade. I know it seems obvious now but I had never considered it before.

Plastic of course lasts for decades if not for ever yet we are using it to make one-use, throwaway and trashy, short-life items.The rubbish we are making in such huge amounts will be around for ever.

A couple of statistics for you:

  • The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. (WRAP)
  • The amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes. (WRAP)
  • Most plastic (and we are talking millions of tons a year) doesn’t biodegrade and lasts for centuries possibly forever!

Because it doesn’t biodegrade every bit of plastic waste, every sweet wrapper and crisp packet, has to be collected and specially disposed of. But even disposing of it is not easy. Put it in landfill and it sits there for ever. It can only be incinerated in special facilities. Recycling is often not cost effective and only a small percentage of plastic trash is. All of these solutions are expensive and only partially effective. Inevitably some plastic trash ends up as litter. Because it doesn’t rot, once it is out there it is out for ever. Hardly surprising then that plastic litter is increasing exponentially with dreadful consequences. Not only does it look ugly, it is damaging the environment, polluting the sea, choking up drains and maiming and killing animals.

Using a material that lasts for ever to make disposable throw away products has to be a misuse of plastic? Which brought it right back to me. While I might not have been mindlessly scattering plastic litter, I was certainly misusing plastic. I too was a part of the problem.

I got to thinking how much plastic rubbish we, my husband and I, created. In fact I monitored it. I saved all our plastic rubbish for a week. By the end of 7 days I was running out of space. It was shocking.  you can see how much plastic we got through in a week and read more about our audit HERE. For sure my plastic rubbish goes in the bin but, as I was becoming increasingly aware, that is not the end of the problem.

Disposal aside, there are other issues to be considered such as the endocrine disruptors that leach out into plastic wrapped food, the powerful carcinogens created during the manufacture of various plastic products and the unknown additives whose toxicity has not yet been assessed. I could go on but there is enough to think about there  find out more with the Problems With Plastic

So  we decided to cut unnecessary plastics from our lives.

Being plastic dependant we decided to do it bit by bit. To start slow – build up those green muscles gradually. Each month we would stop “using” a piece of disposable plastic , and source a non plastic alternative.In January 2007 we launched our 12 steps program for a cleaner planet. We called it that because a) we were giving up plastic..and b) we thought it would take 12 months. Years on and we are still finding new plastic to cut.

We boycott non-biodegradable plastics used to make throwaway items like bags, packaging and bottles, trashy items that have a limited lifespan, items such as synthetic fibers for which there is a viable natural alternative and any other plastic that irritates us (easily done)! You can see the full list here kate-featured

Yes it is a big list but we have sourced a surprising number of packaging-free, sustainable, biodegradable and reusable alternatives. Now we send very little to landfill nor do we recycle much. Instead we compost like demons. It feels good to know we have taken responsibility for our own rubbish and can dispose of most of it ourselves. If the bin men go on strike we don’t have to worry. Is that green or just my 70′s childhood trauma revealing its self?

And yes we do still use some plastic. We don’t dislike plastic as such, we dislike the misuse of plastic. Strong, durable, light weight, long-lasting and cheap, plastics are integral to the development and production of products that have changed the world for the better. Furthermore to replace all plastic products with natural” alternatives would place a huge strain on the environment. So we still use durable plastics when we think they are the best option. But they have to last a very long time and we have strict guidelines for how we use them. You can see the plastic we use here

I realize that a total ban on all plastics is not a realistic or even a desirable goal, but how plastic is used needs to be stringently examined. Along with what it is used for and how it is reused at the end of a product’s life. And, increasingly urgently, how the less desirable aspects can be minimized. We need to be developing cleaner, greener plastics.

All important considerations and ones I discuss in the blog. In the meantime, if you want to cut your plastic footprint check out the big list of plastic free products over here

Check out our other plastic free projects here

We are always on the look out for new products and are happy to review any that might be sent to us for consideration.

We love to feature posts by others.

you can contact us on



Recently I was reading European Plastics mission statement about marine pollution and what the plastic industry can do to help. I have to say I was rather disappointed. It seems they are going to talk to some people and think very hard about the problem, do some research and then maybe talk a bit more. Meanwhile more and more beaches are getting to look like this, the sea bed bag covered, Laos is filthy, the trees are festoon and barbed wire snarled.

So I thought I would try to help them out. Here are some of my ideas.

Do feel free to join in.

Plastic Pollution Plan

Ban unnecessary disposable plastic products such as plastic carrier bags.

Cut all unnecessary packaging such as bananas wrapped in plastic and Quink Ink in (glass) bottles enclosed in plastic blister packs

Do not use plastic to make stuff for which there is a natural alternative (see the Plastic Free Resource list for examples),  as long as the natural alternative is sustainable.

Refill services to be offered in shops for everything from shampoo to toilet cleaner. Supermarkets could really lead the way on this one instead of leaving it all to Ecover.

Bulk bins and weigh out service to be introduced for dry products such as pasta… again supermarkets? It can be down. Indeed Wholefood Market a new supermarket are doing just this in parts of the UK

Reusable glass bottles to be returned and then re- used.

Use only those plastics that can be easily recycled i.e. simple plastics. No more fancy, shiny wrappers.

All new plastic products have to be designed to be recycled and all plastic used has to be clearly marked with a code.

Those plastic products that can be made out of recycled plastic (such as buckets) should always be made from recycled plastic.

Any manufacturer who uses plastic to make one use disposables, or company who imports such products, has to pay an additional tax to cover the cost of dealing with the resultant waste. Something like the green dot system.

Plastic abusers to be sent to work in the recycling plant sorting the wet  waste!