plastic bags in cardboard boxes

The plastic free cocoa quest has suffered something of a setback.

Last week Mother came bustling in flushed with pride.“I don’t know what all the fuss is about”, she carrolled handing me a box of cocoa from Sainsburys.

Yes, a cardboard box, of cocoa.As if!

How many times have I told her “Squeeze and listen!”.

Most food products in cardboard boxes are further wrapped in plastic bags. To find out if this is so, you have gently squeeze the box and listen for the tell tale crackling of the plastic bag inside.

And yes, you look a right idiot in Supermarkets doing this

Sure enough the cocoa was further packed in a plastic bag – and not even one we can recycle.

Look here for other sneaky plastic.

Find out more about the cocoa quest here



Butter & Margerine

  1. Back in my more innocent days I used to think that butter wrapped in foil was plastic free. Till the day I didn’t have a butter dish to hand (!) and butter was served, as bought, in the wrapper. Over time the foil wrapping began to crack, crack but not break.  Strange I thought …  and closer investigation showed it was  not breaking up because it was foil  lined with plastic.You can find out more about plastic lined foil here

So began the search for paper wrapped butter.
This is what I have found. Salted butter is more likely to come wrapped in paper than unsalted. Why? I have no idea.
The greaseproof paper used to wrap the butter  may not be what it seems. Rather it could be plastic lined or  chemically treated rather than natural greaseproof paper. You can read about that here.

But taking all of the above into account, paper wrapped butter and margarine is the best we can do.

Buying Paper Wrapped Butter

More companies are switching to foil wrapped butter. Many that used to supply paper wrapped no longer do so. Consequently this info may be out of date. The Plastic Is Rubbish Facebook group is good for updates and latest info.

this is what we got…

The Cheese Stall in Queensgate, Huddersfield, (only salted)
Barbican in Chorlton Manchester, (only salted).
Sainsbury’s,  Huddersfield Town Centre do unsalted butter in paper but you can only find it on the cheese counter not in the self service aisles. The wrapper definitely has a paper component but is marked mixed materials which means it is probably plastic lined. See above notes.
MArks & Spencers sell some very expensive butter in paper.
Waitrose – Not personally confirmed.
Iceland – apparently still sell butter in paper – salted.

Many thanks to the Plastic Is Rubbish Facebook group for their input and updates


Sainsbury and the Co-op used to wrap their cheap, salted, butter in paper.  I have recently heard that they have stopped doing this.

Morrisons – I heard they used to sell some butter in paper. There are now reports that this has been discontinued.


I have found myself falling out with margarine – it is slithery, weird and synthetic so I only use it very occasionally. This information may well be out of date.
Sainsburys & Tescos do paper wrapped.


You can often use vegetable oil in place of margarine or butter. Cheaper than butter healthier than margarine.  It  isn’t  entirely plastic-free either but I do what I can


You can find out more about plastic lined paper and foil here

Go back to the oil index to find out about the plastic free oils and butters we use

And other sneaky plastics here….


Foil, Paper, Cardboard and Plastic

When I started my boycott  I soon realized that giving up plastic would be no  easy ride  but I didn’t really know just how insidious plastic was. In my ignorance I made mistakes. For instance  I thought shiny cardboard was shiny because, oh I don’t know, it had been varnished or something. It wasn’t until I put some in the compost heap and saw it disintegrating into separate components that I discovered it was covered with a thin layer of plastic.

Now of course I know that nearly all paper products used to package food that have a thin plastic liner.  Foil too is often reinforced this way. And Cardboard.

Why? The plastic strengthens the base material, makes it waterproof and protects any printed design work

Plasticized paper products include paper cups, individual wraps of  sugar, and almost all paper products used in food packaging.

The same goes for most foil wrapped food products including butter. And the metal seals for wine. Damn!

Cardboard products include clothing labels, tetrapaks, book covers and lots more

Worse still it can be very hard to spot.

To find out if paper or foil is plastic coated you can try tearing it  which may cause the plastic and paper to part company. Often this won’t happen and the product will tear almost like paper but if you look carefully you will see a very fine frill of clear plastic.

If you are still not sure try soaking the wrapper in water – eventually the paper or foil will separate from the plastic film.


Find other sneaky plastics here….

Plastic linings to metal lids

Back in the early days of the boycott I didn’t think of glass jars as an issue – after all they weren’t  plastic so it wasn’t a problem. Of course it was you numbskull.

Look at the lids – that white sticky stuff – the seal? That’s plastic that is…

Googling around and I found this from the containers and packaging site

“Plastisol liners are one method that helps seal metal closures onto containers. Plastisol is a PVC gasket that is used in metal continuous thread and lug (sometimes called twist) closures. It is normally applied to metal lids in a ring shape on the inside of the lid at the point where it will match up with the landing of the bottle.

Plastisol material starts out as a solid. After being heated properly, Plastisol becomes liquidus and forms around the landing of the container that is being sealed. When the material cools it begins to cure, or solidifies, which then creates a tight vacuum seal.”

PVC? Not sure I like that idea.There’s lots more information here on the poison that is  PVC. And despite the industry claiming it is perfectly safe, research is being done into alternatives.  Why you might ask – and so do I. Answers? I have none but”The environmentalist group Greenpeace has advocated the global phase-out of PVC because they claim dioxin is produced as a byproduct of vinyl chloride manufacture and from incineration of waste PVC in domestic garbage.”


One alternative could be this from k-online

The development of PVC-free compounds for lug-type twist closures and the corresponding production processes took place before the background of the 4th Amendment 2007/19/ EC of the Plastics Directive 2002/72/EC, which no longer permits the use of some phthalates as plasticisers in PVC-based seals of closures that come into contact with food. This marked an end to the exceptions with which EU and national authorities made allowances for the industry’s difficulties in finding solutions to the migration problems. Accordingly, manufacturers of metal lug closures, food producers, bottlers and retailers are under a great deal of pressure to bring products to market that are environmentally friendly, user-friendly and, above all, comply with statutory regulations.

This TPE is free of plasticisers and PVC and is useable with a wide range of lug-type twist caps (from 38 to 82 mm in diameter). Besides those properties that are indispensible in a sealant – good processability, pasturisability, compliance with the law – this new PVC-free compound ensures compliance with the valid migration thresholds even for oily foods with longer shelf-lives (e.g., antipasti). This was confirmed * in multiple individual tests. Thus vacuum twist seals with sealant compounds by Actega DS are the preferred solution for low-migration food storage and help food industry customers keep their products from becoming entangled in the problems associated with unhealthy packaging. Moreover, the new product also addressed the need to maintain a reliable vacuum until the closure is first opened and user-friendly resealability.

So I try not to use jars.

Look here for other sneaky plastic.


Why does my tin can have a plastic liner and is it bad for me?

Metal food and beverage cans have a thin coating on the interior surface, which is essential to prevent corrosion of the can and contamination of food and beverages with dissolved metals (UK FSA, 2002).


Aluminium drinks cans have a polymer plastic lining. It’s there to stop acids in the beverage from corroding the metal which is not good for the can or the flavor of the contents.,If you don’t believe me, you can try this experiment, as done by Steve Spangler, to separate the two. However you will need to be “a chemistry teacher or someone with the proper training to handle hazardous chemicals”)

If you are neither, just make do with this picture.

You might wish to know that when the can is recycled, the liner is burnt off.

“The History of the Liner – Technicians at the American Can Company, even before Prohibition, began toying with the idea of putting beer in a can. As early as 1929, Anheuser-Busch and Pabst experimented with the canning process. Schlitzeven proposed a can design that looked like a small barrel.

The major problem the early researchers were confronted with, however, was not strength, but the can’s liner. Several years and most of the early research funds were spent to solve this perplexing problem. Beer has a strong affinity for metal, causing precipitated salts and a foul taste. The brewers called the condition “metal turbidity”.

The American Can Company produced the flat or punch top can in 1934. The lining was made from a Union Carbide product called “Vinylite”, a plastic product which was trademarked “keglined” on September 25, 1934.”  Steve Spangler


Nearly all tin cans are plastic lined with epoxy resin.

They have been since the 50s.

In tins the liner can be white or yellow or transparent in which case it is  undetectable.  In most cases it is best to assume that your can has a plastic liner.

It helps to prevent canned foods from becoming tainted or spoiled by bacterial contamination.

Epoxy resins, are used because of their “exceptional combination of toughness, adhesion, formability and chemical resistance.”

these coatings make it possible for food products to maintain their quality and taste, while extending shelf life.

Bad for you?

You might not want to know that the lining contains Bisphenol A (BPA) a chemical building block that is used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins.

 So what?? To cut a long story short it would seem that BPA is toxic and does leach from plastic liners into the food.

The Bisphenol A Organisation argues that it is in such small amounts as to be negligible.

Based on the results of the SPI study, the estimated dietary intake of BPA from can coatings is less than 0.00011 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day. Stated another way, an average adult consumer would have to ingest more than 230 kilograms (or about 500 pounds) of canned food and beverages every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

It is true that several scientific panels including the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Food, the National Toxicology Program and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis have concluded that the claims that low doses of BPA affect human health have not (yet ), been substantiated. While accepting that animal testing has produced adverse results, they can find no concrete evidence that humans will react the same way.

BUT BPA is now considered by many to be  a hormone disruptor, a chemical that alters the body’s normal hormonal activity. There are many counter claims on the internet and in the media  that BPA  is lethal. You can read all the arguments  here

Why  use BPA at all  you might ask ? Here’s some information from the

It must also be noted that  despite claims that BPA is as safe as safe, research is  ongoing into alternatives. And maybe they have found one. According to Food Production Daily

“Researchers in the United States have developed a chemical derived from sugar with the potential to replace bisphenol A (BPA) in a number of products, including the lining of food cans. The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) said Professor Michael Jaffe had received a US patent for an epoxy resin based on isosorbide diglycidyl ether that could make consumer products safer.

“The patent will enable us to create a family of isosorbide-based epoxy resins that have the potential to replace bisphenol A in a number of products including food can linings”, Jaffe told

Note  the statement by Food Production Daily that this will  make consumer products safer. And I hardly need say that the creators of this new product are clear in their statements that BPA is not a good thing.

Hmmm – the choice is yours. As for me I boycott nearly all tins and cans – tonic, tomatoes, coconut milk, tomato puree and baked beans are the exceptions. I don’t like the plastic or the BPA.

Related Articles

You can find more reports, studies and media scares on BPA here

And how to make epoxy resin here


Rubber – PVC free

I didn’t know that PVC was found in rubbers but here you go ….

from the blurb….

PVC-free thermoplastic rubber erasers, measuring 35x31x8mm, manufactured in the EU.
PVC has long been recognised as a particularly hazardous plastic – vinyl chloride itself being a known carcinogen threatening the liver, and the byproduct dioxins from manufacture and incineration can persist long in the environment and travel great distances; these are linked to immune system suppression, reproductive disorders and cancer.

Yowser – maybe you dont want that in your pencil case. You can read more about The PVC debate here

You can buy the PVC Free Rubber here

You can read more about pens & pencils here….

Look here for other sneaky plastic.

Find more  plastic free products here >>>A-Z<<< plastic free index.


Toothpaste, toothpowder, dentifrice

Dentifrice – toothpaste or  toothpowder whichever, it  is basically an abrasive to clean and polish the teeth.

However it comes packed in masses of plastic.

Which is bad BUT worse still it may contain plastic! Did you know that at least 12  Crest  toothpastes have been identified as containing  microbeads of polyethylene (PE).  You can find which products here. Do take a look because you wont find plastic listed in the ingredients a fact  I find worrying.

Why are they there? It seems they  added for decorative purposes only. However dental hygenists are concerned and I quote Trish Walraven

“I am not saying that polyethylene is causing gum problems. I’d be jumping too soon to that conclusion without scientific proof.  But what I am saying definitively is that plastic is in your toothpaste, and that some of it is left behind even after you’re finished brushing and rinsing with it.”

Bits of plastic get stuck in your gums! But  I strongly reccomend that you read her excellent article  in full and then consider using a different dentifrice.

Plastic Free Dentifrice 

You can use salt. UGHH  

bicarbonate of soda –  can be used neat. Also ugh!!!

“Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), a product used for many years by itself or in combination with other ingredients has several excellent properties. As a soft crystalline substance that dissolves readily, it has a mild abrasive potential. In solution it will kill on contact all of the motile microorganisms associated with periodontal infections, e.g. spirochetes, motile rods, etc. It will also kill other disease related bacteria. It will also neutralize and detoxify the bacterial acids and toxins that form in plaques (bacterial biofilms). ” for more got to mizar

You can buy plastic free bicarb here

BUT for all its sterling qualities, I find it far too soapy tasting to use un-cut.

So I go for…

Home made Tooth Powder / Paste with Bi-carb

So I mix it with two other famous dentifrices known for their soft polishing action and Orris Root. Orris root is a natural preservative and helps the flavor along.
1 part chalk
1 part kaolin
1 part Orris Root
1 part bicarb

Put in a jar and shake well – use as tooth powder or mix to a stiff paste with water.

Or, if you still cant stand the taste, leave out the bicarb.

You can add flavour with peppermint oil. It is just like real toothpaste. Even leaves white marks on your clothes!

You can buy the chalk, kaolin and Orris Root from Aromantics . The products come in a plastic bags – booo… but they are polythene so easily recycled and  I get huge amounts tooth powder out of one small bag of ingredients.  I consider it a worthwhile compromise and far less plastic than any other option.

Ready Made Toothpaste

There are still some tooth pastes come in metal tubes BUT be aware that all metal tubed toothpastes I have come across have a plastic cap and the tubes are lined with a plastic liner. If you are happy to go ahead one such is

Marvis Classic Strong Mint Toothpaste

Apparently ” What makes Marvis unique is the range of exotic flavours – enticing and addictive tastes that produce a whirlwind of sensations. Marvis search the world to bring you irresistible new and original flavours that turn the simple act of teeth brushing into a daily pleasure of discovery and taste.”

Next…which  toothbrush 



Tea bags are a problem because tea bags, the actual bag that you thought was paper, does in fact contain plastic. This came to light when keen composters found fine plastic mesh in their  compost bins. It was the plastic web that holds the teabags together and that doesn’t biodegrade.

The following was taken from the  Guardian  A report published today by Which? Gardening reveals that teabags produced by top tea manufacturers such as Tetley, PG Tips, Twinnings, Clipper and Typhoo are only between 70-80% biodegradable. As a result, gardeners are finding the net part of teabags – caused by the inclusion of heat-resistant polypropylene – left on their compost heaps. Which? Gardening contacted the major tea manufacturers to check the content of their products. PG Tips responded: “‘Like most of the teabags in the UK, our teabags are made with about 80% paper fibre, which is fully compostable along with the tea leaves contained in the bag. The remaining packaging includes a small amount of plastic which is not fully biodegradable.”

Then there is the sealing. Wikipedia claims “Heat-sealed tea bag paper usually has a heat-sealable thermoplastic such as PVC or polypropylene as a component fiber on the inner tea bag surface.”

Loose Tea 

The only alternative is loose tea. Initially this might seem like a lot of faff. First you will need to source some loose tea. There are tea merchants who specialize in fine teas. Health food shops also are good for a go. Wholefood Market do a good range and here in Huddersfield you can try Choosy’s Tea Merchant in town or the stall on Todmorden Market. You might want to take your own bags.

You can find a full list of loose tea merchants here. If you know of any please leave details in the comments.

Pots, Strainers & Balls to you Mrs!

Next you will need a teapot and, unless you fancy taking up fortune telling, something to stop the leaves getting in your cup. You can get great teapots from charity shops. I favor the stainless steel 70s version, good for traveling in the van with. You can get all metal tea strainers if you look. Try the market, Ebay or  Amazon. I am not a big fan of tea strainers. They dribble and you need a saucer to put them on. And you have the icky job of removing the tea leaves from the pot afterwards, a soggy business at the best of times. No, I like these mesh balls. You put the tea in them then put them in the pot. At the end you empty them in the compost bin without worrying about nasty plastic mesh. Easy as!  You can even get some teapots that have integrated diffusers built in.


If you take milk, you will need to get yourself a milk man who delivers milk in glass bottles and possibly a milk jug!

Brewing Up

So now we are good to go. Put the leaves in the pot (or the mesh ball first) add boiling water and let it brew. Pour milk into a nice cup, pour tea, sit back and enjoy.

Tea Bags

tea-bags-2 If you cannot do without teabags you can try these from Twinings. Yes like the others the bag contains plastic but the box is not wrapped in plastic and bags come in a gold shiny packet. It looks like plastic but it is biodegradable and compostable. Teapigs do plastic free teabags though the packaging appears to contain some plastic. Also they are very expensive. You would have to really hate the idea of a tea pot to use these on a regular basis.


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.

If you can’t buy local, please do check the links in the posts.  They link direct  to the suppliers.  Do consider buying from them and support their online businesses.

If you can’t do that then I have put together and Amazon catalogue. Yes I know…

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 these links are for 3rd party sellers, we have always found the Amazon service to be good and their packaging usually compostable. In the absence of anything else we feel we can recommend them.

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