A comment often made about plastic recycling in, (I would suggest), a rather disparaging tone, is that it is not recycling but downcycling. 

Which seems dismissive of the recycling program and is  wrong as it does not apply to all forms of plastic recycling

So what is downcycling?

The term down-cycling is applied to a recycled product that is not as structurally strong as the original product as made from virgin materials.

This downcycled material can

  • only be used to make a different product
  • or has to be mixed with virgin materials before it can be reused to remake the original product

Paper for example; the fibres in paper degrade as they are recycled  so it goes from writing paper to loo roll, by way of newspapers.  Cotton too. The recycled fiber is of shorter and harder to spin so it needs to mixed with  virgin cotton fibers to improve yarn strengths before it can be reused.

This is true of plastic that is is mechanically recycled. The plastic gets weaker. One example of plastic  down-cycling chain is as follows

  • virgin PET bottle to fleece or carpet
  • fleece or carpet fibers to plastic lumber
  • plastic lumber to landfill though manufacturers claim that plastic lumber can be recycled again..

But why call it downcycling?

You may think I am being picky but I think that the name has negative connotations. Down-cycling suggests that the products created by recycling are moving down some kind of linear scale. And if this is so, then toilet paper  has a lesser value then writing paper. I beg to differ. Try wiping your bum  with Basildon Bond.

Applying the term downcycling to the process of plastic recycling as outlined above, seems even more counterintuitive. If you consider that a bottle has a lifespan of months, a fleece has a life span of years, a carpet decades and plastic lumber hundreds of years, it seems more like upcycling to me. The base material may not be as strong, it may may even need to be mixed with virgin plastic, but it is being used far more sensibly.

Using the term downcycling to describe this process  diminishes an essential and valuable practice that results in products with proven use whether it’s toilet paper or carpets.  Or have I got it all wrong?

The New Recycling

Just to remind you, not all recycled plastic is “down cycled” and closed loop plastic recycling is already being offered by a number of companies. For example “We take discarded soft drinks and water bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and milk bottles made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) and recycle them back into food-grade plastic. The resulting rPET and rHDPE is then used to make new bottles and food packaging.”

Plus some of the new synthetic fibres can be recycled as the same fabric with no loss of quality almost indefinitely. Patagonia is promoting one such closed loop fabric recycling scheme.

Then there are the associated technologies that turn plastic waste back into oil. While you might argue that is not recycling, you would be hard pushed to call it down cycling.

Find out more about plastics that can be recycled with no loss of quality here

N.B. Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think recycling is the answer to plastic (over) use and misuse but as part of a system of controlled usage it has a vital part to play.


Petrol in my vegetable oil?

Did you know that petroleum-derived hexane may be used to harvest your vegetable oil? No me neither but here’s how.


Vegetable oil comes from plant components, nuts, seeds, or fruits, but typically seeds.
Oil from plants is can be obtained either chemically with the use of solvents or mechanically (often calledcrushing” or “pressing).

Solvent extraction
Most commercially produced oils are solvent extracted. This involves a chemical solvent like the petroleum-derived hexane and heat up to 500 degrees. Once the oil is dissolved, the solvent is removed by distillation.
This technique is used for most of the “newer” oils such as soybean and cannola oils. Many of these products do not give up their oil easily, it has to be forced from them.
Hexane is a colorless flammable liquid, C6H14, derived from the fractional distillation of petroleum.
It is classified as an air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as a neurotoxin by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s unclear how much hexane remains in the food after processing

Testing by Swiss scientists found no detectable levels but independent testing commissioned by the nonprofit Cornucopia Institute found hexane residues in soy oil.

The process recovers 99% of the oil but to get rid of the hexane, the oil is heated to a high temperature.
Also the high temperatures used in this process can and do change the chemical structure of oils. Many argue this reduces or even completely destroys the flavour of many delicate oils.

Mechanical The oi is squeezed or pressed out of the vegetable matter in a variety of ways;

Screw press, a large screw based mechanism in a housing. As it turns it increases the pressure and  crushes the oils out of the seeds
Ram press uses  a  mechanise  piston in a cylinder that rams out the oil. Ram presses are generally more efficient than screw presses.

Industrial machines for extracting oil mechanically are call expellers.  They squeeze the oil out of the raw materials, under high pressure, in a single step. As the raw material is pressed, friction causes it to heat up and can sometimes exceed temperatures of 120°F (49°C). The amount of heat produced is important as heat can change the chemical structure of the oil. Wikkipedia

Cold Pressed Oils
Cold pressing tries to avoid the problems of heat. In this process the nuts, seeds, or fruits from which the oil is being harvested are ground into an even paste.
This is slowly stirred till the oil to separates from the solids.Then pressure is applied,(either with a machine or in the traditional way, with a stone) forcing the oil out.
N.B The friction caused by the pressure will increase the temperature and manufacturers must keep it within a certain degree range to be able to claim that the oil is cold pressed. This varies the world over
European Union cold pressed oil must never exceeds a certain temperature which varies depending on the source material, but is usually between 80° to 120°F (27° to 49°C).
In the United States, labeling is not as regulated, so consumers generally need to contact companies directly to enquire as to their manufacturing process.
Many people believe that cold pressed oil has a superior flavor.

The extracted oil may now be purified, refined or chemically altered. More of that to come.


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


Product Miles

Help Me

This is something of a prototype post and it needs some input. If you know of any great stores that should be on the list please let me know.


One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the shops seeing what you can source. Better still if they are independant shops rather than supermarkets. But it’s not just about local shops, buying local produce is extremely important to me for a number of reasons, one of which is product miles.

What are product miles?

The distance a product has to travel from growth or production to the place of consumption. is called product miles.
It follows in the better known tradition of
Air-miles – how far a product had to fly
Food miles – the distance from farm to fork
I am sure there are others I don’t know about. Container miles maybe? Ship miles? But I prefer product miles as it covers them all.
Why Count Them
I am always concerned by how far a purchase has to travel to reach me. If it was grown or made next door it will, obviously, have to be transported a shorter distance than one made in China.
I want to cut the carbon cost of everything I use and product miles have an attached carbon cost. The longer the distance a product travels, the more petrol needs to be burnt resulting in more emissions, more trucks are needed on more roads… basically it means more of everything. And a lot of them things I don’t much like including global warming.

Seasonal & Local

Buying closer to home doesn’t always mean that product was produced more ethically. Peppers grown in cold Holland in artificially heated greenhouses may have a higher carbon cost then peppers imported from hot Spain even though it is further away. Out of season U.K. strawberries will have a higher carbon cost (again from heating greenhouses) than ones grown in season.

Buying native fruit and veg in season is the greenest way to buy. But does limit my choice. If I need to buy imported often because there is no unpackaged local veg my general rule of thumb is seasonal native from the country of origin.

Ideally No further away than  Europe – bananas being the exception.

The Product Miles Of A U.K. Made Plastic Bowl
Salmon Luke make plastic bowls here in the U.K. This is from their website:
“Here are the product miles for our bowl and cutlery.
One Salmon Luke bowl 1,972 miles
One spoon and fork set 2,164 miles”
But be aware that “the raw ingredient for plastic is obviously oil, but it’s nigh on impossible to find out where ‘our’ oil was extracted. So, for the purposes of our study, we calculated the product miles from the petrochemical company which produced the finished polymer. ”

Buying British Made 

Cutting product miles means buying British made. There is still lots of stuff make right here and a lot of it is lovely. Here are some websites that promote British made products.

N.B. not all the materials used will be locally sourced…

Make it British
Looking for products made in Britain? You’ve come to the right place!
Make it British is THE source of information on British-made brands and UK manufacturing. We are passionate about British craftsmanship and want to help YOU find products made in Britain. @MakeItBritish

Still made in Britain

Is devoted to promoting British manufactured products. You may think from listening to media reports or reading a newspaper that we in Britain do not manufacture anything. This could not be further from the truth. Britain is still producing high quality goods and classic products. @StillMadeInBrit

U.K. Made
My website “ukmade” is about celebrating British manufacturing and helping you source British made goods. It has many recommendations of quality products made in the British Isles.

British Footwear Association
Today there are 5000 people making 5m pairs. However, these bald statistics hide another story. All producers are currently working flat out to satisfy the increasing demand for British made goods and the Northamptonshire factories continue to set the benchmark for high grade men’s welted products.
You can find the members directory here.

More shoes.. Check out this useful guide to shoes still made in the U.K.

Carrier Company
Make great clothes right here.

Etsy U.K.
Etsy is a peer-to-peer (P2P) e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items. Wikipedia
It is an American owned on-line market place.
It has a British made section Etsy.U.K. A good place for finding small, U.K. based makers and artists

Shopping British Owned

Of course I try to use small local independently owned shops where ever possible but sometimes you have to go chainstore. In which case these are, as far as I know, British owned.

Help Me

This is something of a prototype post and it needs some input. If you know of any great stores that should be on the list please let me know.

Regenerated fibres, Rayon, Viscose, Modal & Tencil.

The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into the following fivers.

  • Rayon
  • Bamboo Rayon-
  • Viscose,
  • Modal
  • Tencel

Rayon Notes

The following is information I am collecting on rayon. It is a highly technical product and quickly gets confusing. It is meant to be an introduction only .

It has been hard to find out wether Rayon is biodegradable or not!

There are definitely some  biodegradable rayons as made by Lenzing  which are touted as such. BUT most rayons are not described as biodegradable so I assume that other rayons may not biodegrade Or rather to be completely accurate like other synthetic polymers they will eventually biodegrade but may take hundreds of years to do so.
If by biodegrade you mean more like compostable then as far as I know, no rayon has ever been classed as compostable. However it is difficult to find hard, understandable data on this – at least I have not found any yet. If anyone knows anything about it I would love to know. So while it is easy to find out how long it takes for cotton to rot when scattered as litter there is no information on rayon.
Then there is this from  Wikkedpedia The more water-repellent the rayon-based fabric, the more slowly it will decompose.[10] Silverfish can eat rayon[citation needed]. Many kinds of marine creatures eat rayon fibers and it ends up in their bloodstream which can be fatal.[citation needed]
A recent ocean survey found that rayon contributed to 56.9% of the total fibers found in deep ocean areas, the rest being polyester, polyamides, acetate and acrylic.[11]
which suggests that rayon fibres act like other micro plastic fibres!
So while cellulose plastics used in packaging are often described as biodegradable, many rayons are not described as such. Could be an omission but is a grey area and until research proves otherwise, I will assume they are not.

Bamboo Rayon

Most bamboo fabric that is the current eco-fashion rage is chemically manufactured by “cooking” the bamboo leaves and woody shoots in strong chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide in a process also known as hydrolysis alkalization combined with multi-phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide have been linked to serious health problems.  great article here

The big bamboo swindle

“As the Commission charges, even if the rayon used in the companies’ clothing and textile products is manufactured using bamboo as the cellulose source, rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant. Similarly, the Commission charges that the companies’ clothing and textiles are not made using an environmentally friendly process.

The rayon manufacturing process uses toxic chemicals and results in the emission of hazardous air pollutants. And, despite the claims of Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa, the Commission charges that these rayon products are not biodegradable because they will not break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal. Most clothing and textiles are disposed of either by recycling or sending to a landfill. Neither method results in quick biodegradation.”

Federal Trade Commission Report

Wether that means they will biodegrade in a compost heap but not in landfill,  I cannot say but the production of bamboo fibres isnt very green. Everyone seems to agree on 

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance has this to say about other forms of regenerated fibres

To make popular fabrics, including rayon and viscose, forests are cut down to make way for monocrop tree plantations. Trees from both the forest and the plantations are cut down and go through an incredibly toxic process to create what is known as dissolving pulp, a white fluffy material that gets spun into threads and woven into cloth.

This cloth is made into fabrics by some of the world’s most popular brands, including RAN’s Fashion Fifteen: Forest destruction for fabric has to stop. That’s why RAN has launched our Out of Fashion campaign, to demand the fashion industry commit to forest friendly fabric.

“But it still comes as a surprise to many to learn that some of the most common fabrics used by big name fashion brands — viscose, rayon and modal — also originate as trees in Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, and South Africa. Only now has a public conversation finally started about the fact that the forest fabric industry is causing human rights violations and forest destruction in some of the world’s most critical ecosystems.

Plantation expansion for pulp has also been devastating to indigenous and forest-dependent communities. Just in the area owned and operated by one company, Toba Pulp Lestari, in Northern Sumatra, a nonprofit organization called KSPPM has documented over 20 distinct cases where land traditionally owned by communities has been forcibly seized without the consent of the community and then clear cut for acacia plantations.

Lenzig & Greener, Biodegradable Rayon

Viscose, Modal and Tencel (lyocell), from Austria-based company Lenzing, are made from wood pulp. These high-purity cellulose fibres are obtained from sustainably managed forests, according to a report by the University of Cambridge’s sustainable manufacturing group. Compared with cotton, wood has the advantages of low water consumption, reduced pesticide use and produces up to 10 times the amount of cellulose per hectare, states the report. And these fibres are 100 per cent biodegradable.

Lenzing’s latest accomplishment in environmental fiber technology is known as Edelweiss. Edelweiss-technology is based on oxygen-based chemistry which is more eco-friendly than the conventional one. Thus Lenzing Modal® Edelweiss is the only Modal fiber which satisfies the highest environmental standards and is even CO2-neutral.




Natural V Synthetic fabric

In April I am going to be trawling through my wardrobe, ( such as it is). here is some background information to get you in the mood.

What’s in your  Fabric


60% of fibres used today are synthetic and most of them are are petroleum derived, plastic in fact.

The most common are:

Acrylic fibre resembles wool and so is used to replace that natural fibre.
Nylon is used as a silk substitute. It is a very fine and strong fibre so can be used to make ladies tights.
Polyester is one of the most popular man-made fibres. It is the same  Polyethylene terephthalat, (frequently shortened to PET or PETE and was formerly called PETP or PET-P), that is used to make bottles and a lot of other plastic stuff.

Natural Fibres

The next big player in the textile market is cotton. Then in much smaller amounts wool and silk.

Regenerated Fibres

The base material is cellulose that can be obtained from a range of sources including wood, paper, cotton fiber, or  bamboo. It is then converted through a chemical process into a fiber. One such in bamboo. Most bamboo fabric  is made using  chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH – also known as caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulfide  combined with multi-phase bleaching. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide have been linked to serious health problems. Others are looking extremely promising and are biodegradable. But I don’t really know enough about them and more research needs to be done. They make up a small percentage of the market so for now I am going to discount them!

You can find more detailed facts and figures about synthetic and natural fibres here

Why Choose Natural Fibres

Natural sounds so lovely and clean but it can be low down and very dirty. Cotton comes with its own nasty a gender. A quarter of the total worldwide pesticide use occurs in cotton farming, hundreds or farmers get poisoned and it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton. Greedy and dirty!Read more…

Wool isn’t much better “The top three pesticides used on sheep are moderately toxic to humans but they are moderately to highly toxic to fish and amphibians, such as frogs, and they are suspected endocrine disruptors. Some of these pesticides are also highly water soluble which means that they can easily be carried from the sheep dip application site by rain or irrigation water runoff into our streams and rivers and contaminate our groundwater.” From Organic Clothing blog

However there are equally nasty chemicals used in making synthetic fibres. For example when making polyester, “Antimony is leached from the fibers during the high temperature dyeing process which is then expelled with the waste water. If not properly cleaned this results in a hazardous water pollutant.  Acrylonitrile used to make acrylic fibres is classed by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen (Group B1).

A main ingredient of Nylon  is “the chemical adipic acid. Producing the acid was once the largest source of industrial nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas. Efficient pollution controls have reduced adipic acid emissions 61 percent between 1990 and 2006, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But the chemical still accounts for 5-8 percent of global human-caused emissions of N2O.” read more

Plastic Fabric Pollution 

Synthetic sock survives ocean voyage

Moreover synthetic fibres have the same qualities as plastic. The problems with a polyester sock are the same as with a PET bottle. Though you get more wear out of a sock eventually it gets thrown away and because it is now non-biodegradable rubbish it needs to be special disposed of. Which is expensive and not always effective. Often cheap clothes and fabrics are not properly disposed of and go on to pollute the environment in the same way a bottle may. Plus all the other problems attendant with plastic products (you can read more about the problems with plastic here).

Micro Pollution

And it’s not just end of life disposal that is difficult, synthetic fabrics pollute through out their life time. Everytime they are washed they shed thousands of non biodegradable micro plastic fibres that wash down the drains and into the oceans where they are now affecting the ecosystem, (see micro plastics for more)

The energy used (and the CO2 emitted) to create 1 ton of spun fiber is much higher for synthetics than for hemp or cotton. 

My Choice

So, while acknowledging that natural fabrics have a major environmental impact I feel they are a better option for the following reasons

You can see the contents of my wardrobe here



Selling second hand clothes to Africa

You give to Oxfam, (and lots of other charities), they sell it to textile businesses (not charities) who make a profit from selling it to poorer Africans! Oh the irony!

According to the latest available UN figures, the UK is the second largest used clothing exporter after the US. It exported more than £380m ($600m), or 351,000 tonnes, worth of our discarded fashion overseas in 2013. Top destinations were Poland, Ghana, Pakistan and Ukraine. From the BBC News

According to Dr Brook in his book Clothing Poverty only a small percentage of clothes donated to Oxfam end up in U.K. stores. Most is sold to be exported. The majority is sold through “normal market exchanges”. It is purchased by “clients in the global south “ who sell to “African traders.”

Apparently most charities do this.

“Only about one-fifth of the clothing donated to charities is directly used or sold in their thrift shops. Says Rivoli, “There are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of castoffs, even if they were given away.”

So charities find another way to fund their programs using the clothing and other textiles that can’t be sold at their thrift shops: they sell it to textile recyclers at 5–7 cents per pound.”

Cambridge University issued a report in 2006 titled Well Dressed? The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom, in which it raised concerns that trade in secondhand clothes in African countries inhibits development of local industries even as it creates employment in these countries.

And the authors of Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste warn that in the long run, as prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing.

Read more

One of the sad ironies of today’s globalised economy is that many cotton farmers and ex-factory workers in countries such as Zambia are now too poor to afford any clothes other than imported second-hand ones from the west, whereas 30 or 40 years ago they could buy locally produced new clothes. The Guardian

And it would appear that H&M have got it really sussed. They sell you the clothes then you give them back so they can be reworn…. or resold.  From the H&M website

Don’t let fashion go to waste

No true fashion lover likes seeing clothes go to waste. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to give your garments a new life. For example, we’ve already made some new collections from worn clothes – many of which came via our own Garment Collecting service.

Looking ahead, there are three ways to repurpose the unwanted garments:

  • Rewear – clothing that can be worn again will be sold as second hand clothes
  • Reuse – old clothes and textiles will be turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths
  • Recycle – everything else is turned into textile fibres, or other use such as insulation.

You can see all posts on Charity Shops here

You can see all our posts on clothing, fabrics and the plastic-free wardrobe here.


Bad Cotton

Why is nothing EASY???????

From the world wildlife fund

About 20 million tones of cotton are produced each year in around 90 countries.

China, United States, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and West Africa account for over 75% of global production.
Cotton represents nearly half the fibre used to make clothes and other textiles worldwide ( the rest is synthetic fibres)It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans. (Though I think there is more cotton in a tee shirt?)Here are some more facts about cotton taken from this article in GOOD

textile mills consume 4.5 million bales of cotton yearly

a quarter of the total worldwide pesticide use occurs in cotton farming.

Each year, the World Health Organization estimates that three million people are poisoned by pesticide use

In November 2012, Greenpeace International investigated the use of hazardous chemicals used in dyes and they discovered that 63 percent of the clothing items they tested showed high traces of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and others had highly toxic phthalates and carcinogenic amines.

report found that water pollution in China over the past few years has grown, with the textile industry responsible for pumping out 2.5 billion tons of wastewater per year.

Read the rest for yourself … it’s just as bad.

You can read more about fabrics and yarns here….

There’s a great list of organic cotton products & suppliers here  at the blog.



Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant with significant climate warming potential.

Methane gas, or biogas, is released  when organic material breaks down. But only when organic materials are so compacted there is no oxygen they break down anaerobically and produce methane.

This is why landfill sites produce methane and compost heaps do not

“Rotting stuff in a landfill undergoes anaerobic decomposition and produces methane.  A compost pile undergoes aerobic decomposition and requires oxygen (O2) for the process to work.  Because it is exposed to oxygen it produces CO2 (carbon dioxide) instead of methane.”

Cow farts are also made of methane.

Global methane emissions from landfill are estimated to be between 30 and 70 million tonnes each year. Most of this landfill methane currently comes from developed countries, where the levels of waste tend to be highest.

Over a 20 year period, one ton of methane causes 72 times more warming than one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Methane can be  captured and used as fuel. This company is using methane gas from waste fish and chocolate to power their factory.

There are instructions here on how to harvest  methane at home (not from cow farts!)

Cut your methane production

Give up baked beans ….hahahahahahaa …..

Take up composting, the easiest way to cut your carbon footprint


Antiseptics & Disinfectants

This post talks about

This is an area where you want to do your own research and decide what level of protection you need. I do not use antiseptic or disinfectants because I don’t do surgery on my kitchen table or have a low immune system. I keep stuff clean and it seems to work. BUT this is a subject about which I know little. This is my understanding of it. I strongly advise you to do your own research.
Here goes…..


The world is full of microbes – micro-organisms – or germs.
“Microbes are single-cell organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle. They are the oldest form of life on earth. Microbe fossils date back more than 3.5 billion years to a time when the Earth was covered with oceans that regularly reached the boiling point, hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Without microbes, we couldn’t eat or breathe.Without us, they’d probably be just fine.”
Which is maybe why we seem determined to wipe them out.  Microbes are everywhere. Inside you outside you swarming all over that keyboard you just touched to type in that fantastically appreciative comment.

They can be divided into four main groups – bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Some are good such as the composting microbes, some are bad such as the pneumonia germs, some  just bumble about doing what ever it is they do in their teeny tiny world.
“By and large, the vast majority of the microbes on this planet are not those that make us sick. We have only scratched the surface to what microbes are out there, and more of them are harmless or even beneficial to us,” Says a scientist.

Kill THEM!!!!!!

But still we want them dead. And here’s how.

Antiseptics & Disinfectants

What are they and now are they different

  • Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances that slow or stop the growth of micro-organisms (germs)
  • They are used on living tissues and cells on external surfaces of the body and help prevent infections. Though they are antiseptics they are often called skin disinfectants,
  • Antibiotics  destroy micro-organisms inside the body, NHS website says…Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing and spreading. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections, such as the common cold, flu, most coughs and sore throats.
  • Disinfectants  destroy microorganisms which infect nonliving objects.

You would use an antiseptic to clean your hands, a disinfectant to clean your breadboard and an antibiotic to kill pneumonia
Wikkipedia tells us  that Some antiseptics are true germicides, capable of destroying microbes (bacteriocidal), while others are bacteriostatic and only prevent or inhibit their growth.
Antibacterials are antiseptics that have the proven ability to act against bacteria.
Antiseptics are not antibiotics.

Using Antiseptics and Disinfectants

This is not meant as advice I am just relating my personal choices. I never use disinfectants or antiseptics. I clean with  soap and bicarbonate ( which is mildly antiseptic but not as good as vinegar).

Most Common Uses

Disinfecting The Home

Food preparation, kitchens and bathrooms are the obvious places for disinfectants. You don’t want bad germs in your food.
I do the obvious things like wash my hands before eating and after I have touched anything dirty. I keep cooked and uncooked food separate. I don’t eat raw meat. I store food in clean conditions. I wash the chopping board if I have used it for meat before I use it for anything else. I have two boards that I use when preparing food. I clean fruit and veg before eating.
For all of this I use soap and hot water. soap and a good scrub.  I don’t think think that anything else is necessary. ,
Also disinfectants kill all microbes, the good the bad the stuff we don’t know what it does yet. Which is unessecary and possibly harmful. There are arguments that living in a sterile atmosphere lowers resistance to infection as the body has not built up any resistance.
Clean not sterile is my mantra.

We need to talk about vinegar…..

Commercial disinfectants are extremely effective. Green alternatives are billed as kinder less harmful. They are certainly less harmful to the microbes because they don’t work as well.

Vinegar & Essentail Oils
Vinegar is the much touted disinfectant of choice for the plastic free.
It is about 5% acetic acid. It’s the acid that kills bacteria and viruses, most probably by denaturing (chemically changing) the proteins and fats that make-up these nasties. It is  good but not as effective as common commercial disinfectants.
Vinegar will not kill  salmonella, “which can transfer from raw meat to chopping boards and onto other foods to give us food poisoning.”
Ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, Borax, “are not registered with EPA and should not be used for disinfecting because they are ineffective against S. aureus.

Undiluted vinegar and ammonia are effective against S.Typhi and E.coli 53, 332, 333.
Neat vinegar also kills flue virus.

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. It can kill salmonella.
Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.
Essentail Oils – there is even less evidence for  efface of essential oils and they take a lot of resources to produce.

Cleaning A Wound

For a long time hydrogen peroxide was used as an antiseptic on open wounds and grazes. Now many recommend against it saying it also kills off healthy tissue and beneficial bacteria. In short using any antiseptics on an open wound is an area of medical controversy.

“In clinical practice, antiseptics are broadly used for both intact skin and wounds, although concerns are raised based upon their effect on human cells and wound healing. Opinions are conflicting. Some authors strongly disapprove the use of antiseptics in open wounds.[6-8] On the other hand, others believe antiseptics have a role in wound care, and their use may favor wound healing clinically.[9,10]

Web MD claim that  cool running water “is the best treatments for common wounds, and that you should rinse the wound for at least five minutes to remove it of debris, dirt, or anything else that may be in there. The water will clean the wound out well enough for your body to take over without harming the still living tissue around the wound.

I don’t get many wounds and when I do, I don’t use antiseptics. Most cuts and scrapes seems to clear up with out infection – even when travelling in some of the dirtier places. Again, not a recommendation just an observation.

Skin Disinfectants ( Antiseptics)

Removing bacteria from the skin is done to prevent the spread of disease. The area of skin you need to keep cleanest is your hand which carry microbes from place to place  by touch.


The easiest way to disinfect the skin is to wash with soap and water. But don’t bother with anti bacterial soaps. “Washing your hands is extremely important for preventing the spread of infectious illness, especially at critical points like after using the toilet, changing the baby, or handling raw foods. But consumers can’t assume that antibacterial soaps are better for this than other soaps.”

Soap doesn’t kill bacteria but removes it .

“harmless and harmful microbes stick to the oil your hands naturally produce, and, absent removal, willingly hitch a ride until they reach their ultimate destination (inside of you or somebody else) where they can in some cases wreak havoc…. [washing hands]… for at least 20 or more seconds at a time, is a highly effective way of removing bacteria despite the fact that the bacteria doesn’t die, but is simply flushed away when you rinse (or wiped off on a towel).”


If you have no soap and water or that is not appropriate you can try alcohol. Both ethanol or ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol can be used as antisceptics and have similar effects. However ethanol or ethyl alcohol is the stuff that makes you drunk isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol (also known as rubbing alchohol or surgical spirit) is made from propene derived from fossil fuels and water. You can read more about it here

If you want a petroleum free product use ethyl alcohol.

ethyl alcohol.

Can be used as a skin disinfectant. It effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi, and kills most bacteria, fungi, and many viruses on the hands and skin.

It is commonly used as skin antiseptics, often in the form of wipes Wise geek

It is

  • effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi,
  • kills most bacteria, fungi, and many viruses on the hands and skin
  • is commonly used as skin antiseptics, often in the form of wipes or gels, and for disinfecting surfaces
  • Its main  main effect on microorganisms seems to be to coagulate essential proteins, rendering them ineffective, and causing cell death or inhibiting reproduction.
  • It may also have a dehydrating effect and may interfere with the functioning of cell membranes. Wise geek

Mouth  & Mouthwashes

Now this I do use. I have a troublesome wisdom tooth that occasionally flares up. I can keep it at bay with a rigorous tooth cleaning regime. When it is bad I use a salt mouthwash. And I have used hydrogen peroxide which seems to work.

Sodium chloride (salt) solution can be used  as a mildly antiseptic mouthwash.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a mouth gargle The Merck Manuals recommended diluting the 3% hydrogen peroxide 50 percent with water, but suggest it as a rinse and part of a treatment for trench mouth, for example.  The FDA has approved 3% solutions of hydrogen peroxide for use as a mouthwash.  Most sources said to use it only for a short time, however, such as part of a treatment of a mouth infection.  A report from Well-Connected (written or edited by physicians at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital) recommended against extended use, saying that overuse may actually damage cells and soften tooth surfaces. We were not able to find any authoritative information about hydrogen peroxide and canker sores.

Hydrogen peroxide may be amongst the better options.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. It can kill salmonella.

Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.

You can use of hydrogen peroxide is to bleach hair. The concentrations are between 3% and 6%.

It can be used to clean blood stains out of clothes and brighten colours but do be careful it doesnt actually leave bleach marks.






Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol

Do not mix up  your alcohols.  This is not a warning of the type “wine after beer makes you feel queer”  but an explanation of some rather confusing product names.
There are two kinds of alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol – also known as booze
  • Isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol (also known as rubbing alchohol or surgical spirit)
Ethyl alcohol
  • is a colourless volatile flammable liquid which is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks,
  • It is produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts.
  • It is a one of the oldest recreational drugs used by humans.
  • Its structural formula, CH3CH2OH, is often abbreviated as C2H5OH, C2H6O or EtOH.

Isopropyl alcohol, or isopropanol (also known as rubbing alchohol or surgical spirit) is made from propene derived from fossil fuels (oil) and water. You can read more about it here

Ethyl alcohol

Uses include

  • The ones that don’t really concern us – as a fuel, an industrial solvent, preservative for biological specimens fuel.,  a solvent in the manufacture of varnishes and perfumes.

From a plastic free perspective it can be used as a

  • perfume base
  • disinfectant
  • to make essences and flavorings
  • and tinctures
  • As A Cleaner

Short alcohols are what chemists call Amphiphilic; they interact favourably with both polar and non-polar things.

So if you add a bunch of alcohol to your grease the alcohol starts mixing with it. It mixes with it all over (because it is amphiphilic), but one of the important ways it mixes is by getting in between the long fatty chains. This helps liquefy the grease because the long fatty chains packing together is what makes grease a solid; if you stick something small in between the long grease chains they effectively melt (similar to plasticizing agents in polymers).

So why not use ONLY alcohol? Because while alcohol interacts favourably with all of the grease, it can’t actually dissolve much of it on a weight of grease per volume alcohol basis. You can dissolve (note this is not the correct technical term, but is serviceable for us) much, much more fat into water with soap. From Reddit


you can buy  pure Ethanol from eBay. This is 95% alcohol. Do not drink it. Keep it out of the way of children ( which includes daft teenagers). It must be used carefully. Then there is the issue of packaging. It will probably come in  a plastic bottle and plastic packaging.

Then you have to consider  the additives. Denatured, or industrial, alcohol is ethanol mixed with unpleasant additives making it undrinkable. Obviously you cannot use this to make essences flavourings and tinctures.

The other option is to buy the highest proof booze you can find.

What Is Proof

Alcohol proof is a measure of the content of ethanol (alcohol) in an alcoholic beverage. The term was originally used in the United Kingdom and was equal to about 1.75 times the alcohol by volume (ABV). The UK now uses the ABV standard instead of alcohol proof. Alcohol proof – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The proof then comes out to be about 1.75 times the alcohol by volume percentage. So when alcohol is described as 100% proof it works out at roughly 50% actual ethanol (alcohol) to water.
100% Alchohol
So forget proof lets go for percent – is it possible to get 100% alcohol? Apparently not. This webpage explains why
The highest proof alcohol you can buy is Everclear, at 190 proof. That’s nothing! Let’s get together and make an alcohol that’s 200 proof! Except we can’t possibly do that. There’s a physical limit to how pure alcohol can actually get, and we’ll tell you why.


How is industrial ethanol made
If you want to find out how ethanol is made (for industrial uses rather than home brew I mean),  check out this informative website.

Difference between ethanol and vodka Ethanol is ~96% ethanol, 4% water.  Vodka around  40% alcohol to 60% water.



Incineration is to dispose of waste materials by burning them. The end results are heat, ash and gases.
High-temperature waste treatment systems are described as “thermal treatment”.
Incinerating reduces the need for landfill but does not eliminate it. It reduces the soid mass of waste by 80–85% . The reamaining ashes still have to be disposed of.

The Process of Incineration

A dump truck drops the municipal waste into a warehouse-sized pit. Then a giant claw (much like one that picks up loot in an arcade game) grabs nearly a truckload of garbage and dumps it into an incinerator.

The incinerator is initially fired up with gas or other combustible material.

The process is then sustained by the waste itself. Complete waste combustion requires a temperature of 850º C for at least two seconds but most plants raise it to higher temperatures to reduce organic substances containing chlorine. Flue gases are then sent to scrubbers which remove all dangerous chemicals from them. To reduce dioxin in the chimneys where they are normally formed, cooling systems are introduced in the chimneys. Chimneys are required to be at least 9 meters above existing structures.

Technology developed in Europe mixes the waste at temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat then makes steam, which runs a turbine and produces electricity.


The Advantages Of Incineration & Waste To Energy

Pathogens and toxins can be destroyed by high temperatures making incineration a very good choice for certain kinds of waste.

Unlike  landfill  there is no release of methane. Every ton of MSW incinerated, prevents about one ton of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released to the atmosphere.

The leachates that are produced in landfills by waste are totally eliminated.

By reducing waste it reduces the pressure on landfill space.

Emmisions (Copied from Slate)

As for carbon dioxide—the big class of emissions that isn’t yet regulated—WTE actually performs quite well compared with other methods of electricity generation. On its face, WTE appears to be very carbon-intensive. The EPA reports that incinerating garbage releases 2,988 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity produced. That compares unfavorably with coal (2,249 pounds/megawatt hour) and natural gas (1,135 pounds/megawatt hour). But most of the stuff burned in WTE processes—such as paper, food, wood, and other stuff created of biomass—would have released the CO2 embedded in it over time, aspart of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle.” As a result, the EPA notes, only about one-third of the CO2 emissions associated with waste-to-energy can be ascribed to fossil fuels, i.e., burning the coal or natural gas necessary to incinerate the garbage. In other words, WTE really only produces 986 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. “So we’re roughly equivalent to natural gas, and half of coal,” Michaels says. “But coal and natural gas don’t manage solid waste.”

However not all good news….

The ashes are toxic and so need further treatment. As such they were cause for concern  however “Ash from modern incinerators is vitrified at temperatures of 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) to 1,100 °C (2,010 °F), reducing the leachability and toxicity of residue. As a result, special landfills are generally no longer required for incinerator ash from municipal waste streams”

The gases too need to be “cleaned” of pollutants before they are dispersed into the atmosphere. proponents of the technology claim that the flue scrubbers are up to the job while many others feel there is cause for concern.

Waste To Energy Systems

The heat created when incinerating the waste is used to make electricity which seems like a good idea.

It is important to remember that waste to energy systems do not make money or even cover the cost of waste incineration but they do offset it.

The plants  are very expensive to build and once built need a lot of fuel (waste) to run them. They need to be kept running. This means that alternatives forms of waste disposal like recycling are no longer promoted.

Here are some figures from 2009 for  Spokane County


Mandatory service area: Spokane County / 430,000 ratepayers
Type of contract: Full service/Operate Wheelabrator / Waste Management
Ownership: City of Spokane 
Financing ($110 million): Revenue Bonds – Mandatory debt to entire County
Department of Ecology Grant ($60 million)
Start-up: 1991
Expenses and Revenues for 2009:
   Cost of Operation   $17.2 million  ($62 per ton)
   Cost of Ash Disposal   $4.1 million ($47 per ton)
   Cost of Debt  $9 million
TOTAL COSTS   $30.3 million
   Electricity Revenue   $11.4 million
Materials Recovery  
$0.1 million
$18.8million ($68 per ton)

Refuse Combustion:

Operation: 24-hours per day, 7 days per week
Process Lines: 2 @ 400 tons-per-day
Plant maximum daily capacity: 800 tons
Average thru-put: 720 tons per day (365 days per year)
Feed system: 2 overhead refuse cranes with ram feeder
Grate design: Von Roll reciprocating
Combustion temperature: 2500° F
Auxiliary fuel: Natural gas
Waste weight reduction: 65%
Annual Greenhouse Gas Production 600,000,000 Pounds CO2
CO2 per MWH 4480 pounds of total CO2 per Megawatt Hour:
1580 pounds of fossil CO2 / MWh plus,
2900 pounds of bio CO2 / MWh
BTU values:
Garbage = 4,800/pound
Coal = 12,000/pound
Plastic = 14,000/pound
Tires = 16,000/pound

The Friends Of The Earth worries about the waste of resources.  The Following was taken from the website

Resource efficiency: Incineration wastes valuable resources such as metals, plastics, wood or biodegradable materials that could otherwise be salvaged through recycling. Every tonne of incinerated materials has to be extracted and processed again, increasing environmental damage and the European economy’s dependence on expensive imports. More energy is saved through recycling than is extracted by burning most waste

Climate change: Incineration produces greenhouse gas emissions – a typical incinerator converting waste to electricity produces around 33 percent more fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide than a gas-fired power station. In contrast, recycling saves greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding the need to extract and process primary resources.

Jobs: Recycling creates jobs. Recycling 10,000 tonnes of waste creates up to 250 jobs, compared to 20 to 40 jobs if the waste is incinerated, and about 10 if it is landfilled.

Laura Haight, senior environmental associate at New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says that if the petition passes, waste will take incentives away from more sustainable technologies like wind and solar. She also says that presenting the issue as though incineration offsets landfill emissions is the wrong approach.

“In framing this whole debate as incineration versus landfills, they’re pushing the needle back 20 years,” said Haight. “Twenty years ago, people used to say we need to do more recycling; now we’re talking about more burying or burning. No, we need to be doing more recycling.”

Haight points out that more energy is saved by reusing materials instead of destroying them. Also, rather than being burned, biomass could be composted and used for energy recovery, she said.

More information on waste to energy can be found here

Plastic to Energy

Burning Plastic On Open Fires 

NB Burning plastic on open fires can release carcinogens and toxins…


Dirt, pH balance and chemical cleaning

In this post you cad read about

  • Soils (Dirt)
  • Alkaline
  • Acid
  • Cleaning

Dirt, stains and even rusts  are all known  as soils in the cleaning world.  That is as  in soiled rather than the brown stuff worms eat. Cleaning is the removal soil. Again forget about spades!

Soils fall into 2 categories, organic and inorganic

  • Organic soils such as  fat, grease, protein like blood, and carbohydrate. I dont know what carbohydrate soil is – any one else? Mold, yeast and bacteria, motor oil, axle grease, cutting oils and other petroleum soils.
  • Inorganic soils such rust, scale, hard water deposits and minerals such as sand, silt and clay.

They require different cleaning solutions

  • Organic soils are usually best moved using alkaline cleaners.
  • Inorganic soils prefer and acid cleaner.
  • Minerals are often cleaned with general purpose cleaners.

Alkaline & Acid Solutions

Wether a solution is acid or alkaline is down to how much how much hydrogen is in a solution.

Acidity is measured in  pH or the power of hydrogen.

It is shown in number form on the pH scale of 1 to 14.

Confusingly the lower the number the higher the hydrogen. The higher the hydrogen the more acidic the solution.

pH 1 = lots of hydrogen (H+) ions in solution

pH 14 = hydroxyl ions (OH–) in solution

PH scale featured

The image is from precision Labs

So the strength of an acid is based on the concentration of H+ ions in the solution. 

pH1 is very acidic

pH 7 is neutral. Pure water is neutral.

pH7 and above is called  basic but often  referred to as alkaline).

Soils & Cleaning 

Organic soils are usually best moved using alkaline cleaners.

Inorganic soils prefer and acid cleaner.

Also good to know

Generally, you use an acidic cleaner on alkaline (also known as alkalie) dirt, and an alkaline cleaner on acidic dirt.

If you know the nature of your soil you know how to clean it.

Alkaline cleaners 

Alkalines work well because they emulsify grease.  Fatty acids are normally insoluble which is why they cannot be cleaned using water alone. The alkaline breaks down fat making them dispersable in water.

They also coat the dirt with negatively charged hydroxide ions which means the dirt particles repel each other. So rather than massing together in a big greasy clump they remain suspended in solution so again can be rinsed off.

“Tthe alkali will break down the fats making the residue soluble or dispersible in water. It’s called saponification: alkalis turn fats into soap which is why a greasy floor gets as slippery as a bag of arseholes when you put an alkali on it. While we rely on thermal disinfection in dish washers the fact is the alkali in a proper machine wash turns microbial cell walls into soap.

Examples of alkaline cleaners are

Acidic Cleaners

Do not cut through grease. Vinegar the acid much touted as a cleaning fluid will be no good on your greasy stains because Vinegar is polar, while oils are nonpolar, so they don’t interact well together. (You have seen how oil and vinegar in salad dressing separate from each other — this is because of their opposite polarity.)

Inorganic soils include grit, salt, rust and limescale.

They are best cleaned using acids

  • Hard water/mineral deposit removers
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Rust stain removers
  • Tub and tile cleaners
  • Mold removers

Acidic cleaners attack and dissolve these types of stains, breaking them down and making them easier to remove.

The acid dissolves these types of materials – many are carbonates so you see the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas fizzing off. Or at least you will with a decent product. Examples are toilet cleaners and kettle or boiler descalers.

Examples of acidic cleaners are

Make Or Buy

Buy or  make your own chemical cleaning products