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Natracare Menstrual and Personal Care Products

Are you aware that most sanitary pads are made from approximately 90% plastic? An average pack of sanitary pads contains the same amount of plastics as 4 carrier bags! Natracare offers a range of feminine hygiene products that are made from organic cotton and natural, sustainably sourced materials without compromising on the performance.

Conventional sanitary pads are made from over 90% plastic, they are bleached with chlorine, contain petroleum-derived superabsorbent gels and often contain dyes, perfumes and latex. With the average woman using 17,000 pads in a life-time the effects of this polluting industry are enormous, and yet most of us barely consider what we are using every month.
The founder of Natracare, Susie Hewson, set up the brand 25 years ago as a direct response to this polluting industry. She researched and created a viable alternative made from certified organic cotton, FSC wood pulp and biodegradable plant starches. The brand offers a full range of tampons, pads, panty liners and even wipes which are all totally chlorine free, plastic free and biodegradable making them lighter on the environment and also kinder on your skin.

Further to this Natracare actively campaigns against plastic. With the help of local girl guides groups the Natracare team organised a Coastal Clean Up on Rottingdean beach near Brighton and the company has supported various awareness raising projects about plastic in the ocean such as the ‘Making Waves’ art exhibition in Bristol and the Midway Film Project.

Find out more on www.natracare.com

Follow up on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Natracare

Or Twitter: http://twitter.com/natracare

Please note

This post was written by the contributor. It is not a Plastic Is Rubbish review, does not represent my personal opinions and I have not used this product or service. Instead it is  a PfU.K. Directory submission.

The Pf U.K. Directory is…?

…a directory of UK-based groups, organisations businesses and individuals who are responding to the problems presented by the misuse of plastic. That does not mean anti-plastic necessarily but certainly plastic-problem aware.

The DIRECTORY is to promote their work not mine. Read more here…

Got a project?
It is very easy to get a project featured. Each contributor submits a short synopsis of their project, focussing on the plastic aware element and I post it. You can read the submission guidelines here.

Follow us on facebook here

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Vegware Fast Food Packaging

A while ago I got sent some Vegware stuff to review. Vegware make disposable compostable packaging from PLA plastic for the fast food industry. Hooray for them.
If you don’t know what PLA starch polymer is, read this
Basically it is a compostable plastic that comes in many different forms as you will see and can be used as a water proof lining for paper cups.

…. but I am not in fast food. So what would I be using them for? For starters…

PLA POTS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I take my own PLA compostable plastic deli pots to the supermarket when I need olives and humus and the like. PLA plastic looks and acts just like plastic but is made from corn starch rather than oil. Not only is this a renewable resource, it is also compostable  and, as Vegware say,”This annually-renewable eco-material has a carbon footprint 78% lower in manufacture than oil-based PET plastic, and these carbon savings are reflected in our Eco Audits.”

I can confirm that Vegware PLA pots are just as good. for shopping. They sent me a great range of shapes and sizes so I was able to expand my experience – even venturing into the ready-made salad bar at Morrisons. I have never done that as I have never had a PLA pot big enough!

The only thing I cannot find a use for is the flat black trays but that is probably because I don’t sell salami.

Because you cannot wash PLA in really hot water,(it melts), I use a new PLA pot every time I go shopping. However I reuse the old ones to freeze food I know I am going to heat up hot. The Vegware rectangular dishes are great for storing decent size portions in the freezer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The PLA pots end up in my compost bin. Many folk say that you can only compost PLA in industrial composting facilities. I manage just fine with my back yard bin!

But if for some reason you cannot compost PLA pots yourself, Vegware do a great alternative – paper / PLA lined pots. These are not nearly as long-lasting and can only be used once in the freezer . Basically they  fall apart much more quickly.

I cannot see anyone having a problem with composting these.

Paper/PLA lined cups and pots

I also got sent a whole load of paper tubs and cups with compostable, plastic liners with compostable sippy lids and some with built-in heat shields so you don’t burn your hands. If you have a takeaway service these would be great. Also good for parties,

I don’t entertain like that but I do make lots of home-made beauty products. These are great for samples and super useful for presents.

You know how it is you forgot Valentines day again but lucky you have a cupboard full of Shea Butter, essential oils and cocoa.

In no time at all you have whipped up a sensuous chocolate body mousse from your 91/2 weeks range. Grab a vegware paper pot and a felt tip and you have a personalised gift. For sure the drawings could have been better but I only had a Sharpy and a highlighter pen. Needs must….

You can see more on chocolate love mousse soon

 Bags, sheets and wrappings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also got sent a load of bags and wrappings. I am a big fan of taking my own bags shopping. It is the only way you can really shop plastic free. However,  I was so impressed with the gift potential of Vegware products, I have used the bags for other things. The last few days has seen me experimenting with wrapping and passing on all manner of things to surprised recipients.

For instance I bought a block of solid shampoo. It works pretty well but tends to be a bit sweaty. If you cut it and  leave it overnight it oozes and sticks so you cannot wrap it in normal paper. Hurrah for Vegware, shiny, plasticky see through bags.The brown greaseproof paper (?) is pretty good too.

My moisturising rose and lavender salt scrub is oily and moist but can be packed in the paper and PLA bag and safely left.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally that is a crystal rock deodorant in the see through bag – just because I can!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The brown Kraft carrier bags are just cute and make super quick wrapping / sweet gift bags. Again, the artistically inclined could personalise these.

More ideas to follow but if you feel inspired, you can check out the Vegware range here  range of fantastic products here….

 

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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 coffee shop does paper cups. You remember something about waxed paper. Hooray.
STOP
To make paper or cardboard water proof, they are laminated with polyethylene, a plastic resin. These products are in effect very thin plastic containers reinforced.

Other Issues
cardboard containers are made from virgin wood because there are major problems using recycled paper. Regulations are strict about what materials you can use to package food and drink and recycled paper isn’t strong enough.

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

Compostable Alternatives
There are compostable cardboard products for food on the market. They are lined with a clear, certified-compostable, cornstarch plastic (PLA).
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 but can check out this rather sweet cup to compost scheme here.

Biodegradable, Compostable Plastics

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.

Composting Plastic At Home
FYI While most agree that some  plastics are indeed compostable, many say that they can only composted in large scale municipal schemes. I have used and composted a number of compostable plastic products 

More

Fooled again? Check out the lesser known sneaky plastics here

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Disposables compostable

Sometime you need a disposable – wether its a compostable bag for the butcher, biodegradable paper cups for the office party or a plastic free tampon. Here are some options. They are all #plasticfree and biodegrade..  Click on the links to find suppliers.

Natracare Menstrual and Personal Care Products

Are you aware that most sanitary pads are made from approximately 90% plastic? An average pack of sanitary pads contains ...
Read More

Vegware Fast Food Packaging

A while ago I got sent some Vegware stuff to review. Vegware make disposable compostable packaging from PLA plastic for ...
Read More

Cardboard Cups & Pots

So you find what looks like a cardboard container full of yummy ice cream or you see that your favourite ...
Read More

Disposables compostable

Sometime you need a disposable - wether its a compostable bag for the butcher, biodegradable paper cups for the office ...
Read More

Compostable Plastic Products

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

Paper versus plastic versus reusables

So if I don't want to use plastic bags then would I suggest using paper as an alternative? Well actually ...
Read More

Paper Bags

If you want to buy plastic free food you really need to supply your own packaging. This will open up ...
Read More

Disposable Cups

Disposable cups are made from plastic lined paper, polystyrene or plastic. To make paper cups water proof they are laminated with polyethylene, ...
Read More

Straws Compostable

The picture shows a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose (You can watch the video in full ...
Read More

Cutlery – disposable & compostable

Though it's not the greenest option there are times when disposable partyware is the only choice. For our last big bash, ...
Read More

PLA Starch Bags – compostable plastic bags.

PLA starch bags are described as a compostable plastic.Which can be confusing as they are a very different product from ...
Read More

Pots – PLA compostable

These  deli pots are  made from  PLA plastic. This looks and acts just like plastic but is made from corn starch ...
Read More

Important

All of the above are certified compostable. They break down naturally. They have to meet certain enforceable standards to be classed as compostable. You can read about composting standards here.

Buy

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. But sometimes you can’t buy local so I have put together an Amazon catalogue. of independent sellers operating through Amazon.

Amazon is a very dirty word at the moment and I thought long and hard before suggesting them.  Heres why I went ahead….. No we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.

If you buy a product via this link we do get an affiliation fee for this. This is not why we do it.

If You Care Paper Snack and Sandwich 48 Bags (Pack of 6, Total 288 Bags) 100 x Brown Kraft Paper Food / Sweet / Mushroom Bags
If You Care Paper Snack and Sandwich 48 Bag…
£22.20
100 x Brown Kraft Paper Food / Sweet / Mush…
£0.71 – £11.61
5 Litre x 180 bags Compostable Bags - Biobag Kitchen Food Waste Caddy Liners 5 Litre - EN 13432 - Biobags 5L Bin Bags with Composting Guide Ban the Plastic Bag: A Community Action Plan for a Carrier Bag Free World All-Green 6 Litre Biobag Compostable Kitchen Caddy Liners Food Waste Bin Liners, 150 Bags
5 Litre x 180 bags Compostable Bags – Bioba…
£13.49
Ban the Plastic Bag: A Community Action Pla…
by Rebecca Hoskins
All-Green 6 Litre Biobag Compostable Kitche…
£10.99
BioBag Dog Waste Bags On Roll (2 rolls of 20 bags) , 40-Count Bags (Pack of 5) by BioBag 25ml Clear Biodegradable PLA Pots with Lids x 50 (Food/Craft/Storage Containers) Biodegradable Tableware: Wooden Forks Pk 100
BioBag Dog Waste Bags On Roll (2 rolls of 2…
£61.80
25ml Clear Biodegradable PLA Pots with Lids…
£4.99
Biodegradable Tableware: Wooden Forks Pk 100
£4.80
Biodegradable Tableware: Wooden Knives Pk 100 Wooden Dessert Spoon Disposable - 100 Pack Luckies Brown Paper Lunch Bag
Biodegradable Tableware: Wooden Knives Pk 100
£4.55
Wooden Dessert Spoon Disposable – 100 Pack
£5.19
Luckies Brown Paper Lunch Bag
£9.16

 

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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
Olives
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.

Snact

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.

Vegware
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

More

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

Find out more about composting here

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Paper versus plastic versus reusables

So if I don’t want to use plastic bags then would I suggest using paper as an alternative? Well actually no I wouldn’t.

Cutting down trees to make disposable paper products is very bad for the environment

Converting hard wood into paper bags is difficult work and results in more pollution than making a plastic bag.

Heres are some statistics are quoted on Wikipedia 

  •  Pulp mills contribute to air, water and landpollution. Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling).[1] Even paper recyclingcan be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking.[2]
  • Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land in both Canada and the United States, and releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year.[5]
  • Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for four percent of all the world’s energy use. The pulp and paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry.[6]

That’s not to say that plastic is a clean product but most sources agree it takes less resources to produce a plastic bag than a paper bag.

It also takes less resources to transport them. Paper is much heavier than plastic, more bulky and more expensive to move.

It is often argued that plastic bags are more likely to be reused usually as bin liners or as dog poop bags. If recycled bags were not available, users would have to buy plastic bin liners and poop bags new.  Which means f course that plastic bags are still being used but in a  less sustainable way.

But not all plastic bags are reused as bin liners and not everyone has a dog. Many bags are used once and then discarded.If all plastic bags were recycled say their advocates they would beat paper bags hands down. But  they are not. Most end up in landfill some end up as litter. Not all paper bags are recyled either but if they are dropped as litter they quickly biodegrade. Plastic bags do not and accumulate in the environment with serious consequences.


Indicator of Environmental Impact

Plastic bag
HDPE lightweight
*


Paper bag 

 Consumption of nonrenewable primary energy

 1.0

 1.1

 Consumption of water

 1.0

 4.0

 Climate change (emission of greenhouse gases)

 1.0

 3.3

 Acid rain (atmospheric acidification)

 1.0

 1.9

 Air quality (ground level ozone formation)

 1.0

 1.3

 Eutrophication of water bodies *

 1.0

 14.0

 Solid waste production

 1.0

 2.7

 Risk of litter

 1.0

 0.2

The Scottish Report (2005) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/57346/0016899.pdf

But while paper is more environmentally damaging, plastic pollution is reaching unacceptable levels and has to be tackled.

We have to stop using plastic to make disposable bags. We have to find sustainable alternatives.

Reusables Rather Than Disposables

For all the above I would be cautious about suggesting paper disposables as an alternative to plastic disposables.

My solution would be  to replace all disposables with reusables whenever possible.

Where disposables are offered they should be biodegradable and certified compostable so if they do end up as litter they will cause no damage to environment. I believe the current end problems of plastic pollution are greater than the initial problems of paper production pollution.

I would suggest

Bag Tax

However it is a very close call and the problems of paper pollution are big and not to be ignored. Nor would I like to see compostable plastic used to excess.

I would see all disposable packaging reduced as much as possible. Products should be sold loose and all onward packaging should have a clean up tax  attached i.e. All bags and packaging have to be paid for.

People bringing their own bags and packaging would obviously not have to pay

Reusable versus plastic bag case study….

The Environment Agency a UK government body has done a Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags Report SC030148 Read the report your self right here. It claims you would have use a cotton bag 393 times before its environmental impact equalled that of plastic bags.

Here are their maths….

It takes less resources to make one plastic bag then it does to make a reusable cotton bag.
pollution featured featured

Therefore a cotton bag has to be used 131 times before it equals a plastic bag.

If the plastic bags are then reused twice (so they are used 3 times in total) the cotton bag has to be used 393 times before it equals the environmental impact of the 131 polythene bags used 3 times each.

If the plastic bag is reused as a bin liner ( which is what most people do with them) then it is 327 times.

Do your cotton bags fall apart after 393 uses? Fall apart so badly they cannot be repaired? Mine don’t.

I have fair-trade organic string bags which I bought back in 2006 when I started my boycott. I am still using them and the cotton produce bags I bought at the same time 6 years later  ( and still now in 2015 come to that) .

Here are my maths….

Say I use one string bag 3 times a week. That would be for the weekly supermarket shop, the trips to the local butchers and green grocers, town on a Saturday to get library books and bits and bobs, carrying cabbages from the allotment, carrying cushions and all the other gubbins you use a bag for.

So say I use one string bag a very conservative 3 times a week over 52 weeks, (and the bag does go away with us and has been all round the world ),  I will use that bag at least 156 times a year in total

Over 6 years  I will have used that bag 936 times. My cotton bag is already 3 times greener than the plastic alternative and is good for many years yet. Actually it is even greener. You can get so much more in a string bag then a plastic bag. My string bag is worth at least 1 1/2  plastic bags for capacity.

When my bag does fall apart I will reuse it as a net to grow beans up then eventually compost it in my own compost bin.

Conclusions

If I didn’t have a reusable bag I would have to have used 312 plastic bags 3 times each in that time.

That’s 312 bags in the trash to be disposed of. They will most likely be landfilled or incinerated. Some of them might have blown off the truck during transportation. Wind blown refuse is a documented cause of litter.

Because we spend a lot of time abroad, some of them would have gone into bins in isolated villages in remote parts of the world – places that lack a waste collection service. Those bins would have been emptied into the river.

Produce bags…

As for produce bags; does any one reuse a produce bag 3 times – I don’t think so. Once as a dog poop bag maybe. But even if you do my cotton bags still win hands down.

Some Alternatives 

 

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Paper Bags

If you want to buy plastic free food you really need to supply your own packaging. This will open up a massive range of plastic free options. It will also help you avoid the hormone inhibitors and toxic chemicals that leach from plastic packaging into your food.

Sometimes you need a disposable bag, one that can be composted or burnt when done.

I use brown Kraft food grade bags.

They are great for
Cheese and stuff that sweats,
Mushrooms and vegetables (if you don’t have reusable produce bags)
Sandwiches, buns and biscuits,

They are an essential component in the  plastic free, take your own packaging,  shopping kit.

Sadly they are not so easy to get hold of. I bought my first load from Ebay which worked out expensive and they came, yes you’re way ahead of me, wrapped in plastic.

Finally I located a local paper bag seller who sold in bulk. They too came wrapped in plastic but it was polythene so easily recycled. It also represented a massive reduction in packaging.

The only downside now is that despite using them on a regular basis, there is still a huge pile of paper bags in the airing cupboard.

Paper bags  can be bought from hundreds of shops on the internet, including Amazon & Ebay.

Places to Use Your Bags

Find loose food outlets listed on the loose foods list

Please note  the scoop and save heading refers to a chain of shops so there will be more than one town listed in the one post.

More Information

Other kinds of useful, plastic free bags are listed  here.

Find out about composting here

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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!

Stats

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.

 

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Straws Compostable

The picture shows a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose (You can watch the video in full here). Every years hundreds of thousand plastic straws end up polluting the environment. Ecocycle estimate that 500 million straws are used in the US every day alone.

If you must have disposable straws, (and none of these great reusable options suit), then why not try these compostable ones made from cornstarch. They look and act  just like  plastic straws…  but they are made from PLA cornstarch and are certified compostable.

Find out more about compostable plastic here.

You can buy them from Vegware. They do everything from black cocktail (1000 for 10.00)  to jumbo smoothie.

I have seen  paper straws on ebay but (as far as I know), they are not certified compostable and  may be plastic lined. They certainly are plastic packed.

Any one know any more?

Composting

One type of certified compostable plastic is  Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) plastic.

Some say that PLA plastics do not break down in home compost bins. THEY ARE WRONG. We have used and composted a number of  PLA plastic products.

You can see the PLA products we have used here.

More

Or you can try these  reusable stainless steel beauties or glass straws. 

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Cutlery – disposable & compostable

Though it’s not the greenest option there are times when disposable partyware is the only choice. For our last big bash, some years ago now, we bought disposable cutlery made from PLA compostable plastic. It is just like normal plastic cutlery, tough and hard wearing. So much so it can be washed and reused – at least we do… and are still doing so.
The cutlery is really useful for picnics and outdoor parties. We always leave stuff behind and we don’t feel too bad about loosing this.

We got ours from Denny’s. They also do compostable straws, plates and glasses. In fact everything you need for entertaining.

Since we bought, a lot more companies have started to offer compostable party ware and new products are appearing all the time. It would be worth looking around.

Composting
There are those who say you cannot compost PLA plastic in home composters. We did. The knives did biodegrade. It took some time but it happened. However we do have a Green Joanna, the queen of compost bins.

Renting
We rented the extra stuff we needed for the party from a catering company . We probably could have hired cutlery too but we were curious to try the cornstarch stuff.

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PLA Starch Bags – compostable plastic bags.

PLA starch bags are described as a compostable plastic.Which can be confusing as they are a very different product from conventional, oil-derived plastics. Many people dismiss the compostable claim despite them being certified compostable  See plastics and introduction for more on this.
PLA plastic  is made  from plant-based materials such as corn starch. You can find about more about starch derived plastics here .
Once again they are compostable and certified as such.

Same, same but different?

PLA bags are almost but not quite the same as conventional plastic bags. However they share enough similarities to make them a very useful substitute and can be a great tool in your plastic free armoury.
They are not quite as strong as conventional plastic bags so are not good as carrier bags but they are water proof for a limited amount of time, ( eventually there is seepage), but you can certainly use them to carry fish or meat home. 
They are compostable and despite what folks might say they can be composted in a garden compost bin. Read more about PLA and composting here

Biobags & Others
One example of PLA bags is sold by the company Biobags. Back in the early days they were amongst the first to sell  in the U.K. They have very good credentials. Their bags are certified to BS N13432 standard and are manufactured sustainably at facilities certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. BioBag is the world’s largest brand of certified biodegradable and compostable bags and films made from Mater-Bi®. Biobags are the bags used in Modbury the plastic free town.

These days many companies make and sell PLA bags and you can buy the from supermarkets.

NB do check you bag is certified compostable.

Compostable? 

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.

What For & Which Size?

I use them for
fish and meat – (I ask that they use my bag instead of a plastic bag).
Buying loose frozen foodstuffs … yes you can frozen peas loose!
As freezer bags.

If you can get it, I find the 6 liter size best to take shopping. The 8 litre is obviously bin liner size, and eyebrows are raised when you ask to have your steak put in a bin liner..

Buy

PLA bags  can be bought from most big supermarkets. Biobags and other PLA bags can be found in hundreds of online shops  including Amazon & Ebay. Some suppliers are listed here.

Composting PLA Plastic At Home

While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it 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.
AND I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted a number PLA plastic products (including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery)
It does 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.

Read more about compostable plastics here

More

Find loose food outlets listed on the loose foods list
Other kinds of useful, plastic free bags are listed  here.

Greenwashing

And never forget that bio-degradable plastic bags do not biodegrade where as compostable plastic bags do compost. Not all bio-plastics (plant derived plastics) are compostable. Read more here.

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Pots – PLA compostable

These  deli pots are  made from  PLA plastic. This looks and acts just like plastic but is made from corn starch rather than oil. Not only is this a renewable resource, it is also  compostable 

I have bought  two size of pots ( with lids), specifically made to serve food portions,  which I take to the shops with me and use instead of the plastic pots provided.

I use them for
Olives
Humus
Potato salad
Pate
and anything else that takes my fancy.

I use them in supermarkets, farmers markets and anywhere that sells loose.

My Pots

The 350 ml (Big enough to hold a jar of Tesco olives)
The 500 ml (Big enough for a jar of beetroot)

Please note – the lids fit securely but are not completely waterproof – you might need to put the pots in a cornstarch bag for additional security.

More

The pots are really sturdy and don’t as you might imagine start biodegrading the minute you use them. For instance, I use them keep my home-made cosmetic cream in – months later there is still no sign of disintegration.

You can wash them but they do melt in hot water so cannot be washed at temperatures hot enough to sterilise. For this reason I would recommend that you take a new pot with you every time you go shopping.However that  need not stop you reusing them around the house. I recycle them as freezer pots , use them for sprouting seeds, growing cress and other garden based activities of which more later.

Find out more about PLA here

Suppliers

You can buy pots at various places on-line, they have started appearing on Ebay and there are some very good deals on Amazon

I bought mine from WF Dennys – very cheap but minimum purchase 100.

Vegware do a great range of shapes and sizes and will sell smaller amounts.

Compostable? 

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.

Composting PLA Plastic At Home

While most agree that PLA plastic is indeed compostable, many say that it 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.
AND I have been composting my PLA plastic for years. We have used and composted a number PLA plastic products (including Biobags , Deli pots  and disposable Cutlery)
It does 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.

Read more about compostable plastics here

Greenwashing

And never forget that bio-degradable plastic bags do not biodegrade where as compostable plastic bags do compost. Not all bio-plastics (plant derived plastics) are compostable. Read more here.