Plastic has us surrounded. It’s hidden everywhere; we cannot avoid it.
No matter how many reusable shopping bags you have sitting in the boot of your car, it will still pop up where you least expect it.
Plastic has many secret identities. It has worked its way into countless everyday objects we rely on. There's also no denying that plastic as a material makes our modern life easy and convenient - it's a wonder material but we have mis-used it. There's no proper systems for end-of-life and it's SO cheap with no consideration of the true cost* (when market price includes the environmental and social price of the material).
We’ve done some eco-sleuthing, and hunted plastic down in places you might not expect it. And, in true CaliWoods style, have given you alternatives and ways that you can make change...
7 things you had no idea contained plastic, and how to replace them:
1. Tea bags > Loose leaf
Would you like a sprinkle of plastic with your tea? We hate to break it to you, but that innocent paper looking bag you bounce up and down to brew the perfect gumboot tea, may in fact be emitting tiny micro plastics into your morning cuppa.
To stop the tea bag from disintegrating in boiling water, polypropylene (plastic) is coated on the outside of the tea bag and string. All over the world, millions of tea bags are thrown into landfill or end up contaminating composts.
Ditch the tea bag, and enjoy a classic loose leaf tea instead. Find our favourite tea strainers here.
2. Synthetic fabric > Natural fabric
You don’t need to wear a plastic bag over your head to be wearing plastic… polyester, nylon, and acrylic fabrics are all plastic based, and chances are, you’re wearing them right now. Activewear is the common culprit, usually made of synthetic materials for breathability and stretch.
The issue is, when you wash your synthetic clothing, tiny micro plastics are emitted into our waterways, enter the oceans, and end up in the fish that we eat! Not to mention your clothes will take hundreds of years to break down (if at all).
Restrict new purchases of synthetics, and limit the amount of times you wash your existing ones: make spot washing your friend.
3. Chewing gum > Mints or toothpicks
For centuries we've been battling each other in bubble blowing competitions, and chewing gum to concentrate or freshen our breath. Unfortunately, we started out chewing gum derived from tree sap, and now, we chew gum made from a polymer; the same synthetic (and non-biodegradable) material used to make car tyres!
As well as plastic, gum contains preservatives, fillers, sweeteners, and flavourings, that are not beneficial for our health in the slightest.
When gum enters the environment, it will either stick to the sidewalk to be removed in a costly and timely process, or will find its way into the food chain.
Unless you’ve found a natural, biodegradable gum that you can dispose of responsibly, nibble on a toothpick, or use mints to freshen your breath.
4. Glitter > Avoid it, or go eco
Glitter is fun but this little plastic phenomenon needs to be addressed! Micro plastics leak into the environment, and glitter is the very definition of a micro plastic.
We’re not here to be the party-police, but even bio-glitter (made from plants) needs particular environmental conditions to break down. Is there any place in the world for glitter?
If possible, avoid glitter and opt for something equally appealing. Choose a glitter-free card, wear outrageously awesome outfits to festivals instead of body paint. If you simply cannot break up with glitter just yet, try making it yourself, or choose bio-glitter.
5. Balloons > Enjoy nature
It’s a shame something so fun can be so bad for the environment! Watching balloons float off into the sky can be breathtaking, but what goes up, must come down, and when balloons come back down, it’s not ideal for anyone. Would you throw plastic out of your car window? Because balloon releases do exactly the same thing.
Reconsider using Balloons for decorations - they are a single-use plastic. Latex balloons exist, but, like bio-glitter, must be disposed of responsibly in a commercial composting plant. Try paper or fabric buntings which can be stored and then reused over and over for many parties to come.
We know it's hard to give up a common cultural tradition, so here's some alternatives; fly paper kites, let your favourite flowers off down a stream, or light candles.
6. Cigarette Butts!
No ifs, buts or maybes - cigarette butts are plastic! Tell your smoking friends and help to share the word about this common plastic item that not many people know about.
Most people think they are made from cotton or some spongey-type material but butts are actually one of the most common items picked up on beach cleans. They don't break down as most people think and are having devastating impacts of marine life.
Next time you see someone flick their butt, call them out! There's natural alternatives cigarette filters available online.
7. Wipes > Reusable wipes
Handy for wiping kids faces (and bums!), cleaning up urgent spills, and keeping clean while travelling, wipes are another plastic offender. Wipes easily disguise themselves as paper, but they’re usually made with a mix of polyester and wood fibres.
Like so many eco-swaps: go reusable!
Cut old towels and clothes into handy squares, or purchase reusable wipes that you can wash and reuse for many years to come.
We hope you learnt something in our '7 Things You Had No Idea Contained Plastic' post and are motivated to make some switch outs in your daily life and parties to come! Comment below on what tip you found most useful!
*For more in detail information on True Cost and Circular Economy check out the 'The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics' by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.