Wednesday 26 February 2020

Review - Plastic Free Sanitary Wear

This is my 16th review on plastic alternatives. I hope these help give some ideas on alternatives you can use in your daily lives.

Scoring system: 

❤ = Will keep, I love it / πŸ‘€ = Not sure, will try some more / 😐 = Oh dear, it's not for me


Review Sixteen - Chemical and Plastic Free Sanitary Wear

Why on Earth are sanitary towels made with plastic I hear you ask. But is this true? 

According to Natracare, they say, on average, there may be 36g of plastic in every packet of period pads. That’s 2.4g of plastic per pad, and 2.5g for the outer pack itself. That’s the equivalent of 5 plastic carrier bags per pack. They go on to say that the average woman uses 11,000 menstrual items in their lifetime. And that's just one person!

Discarded items sometimes wash up on beaches (menstrual products are the 5th most common item washed up on European shores). 


I'm sure the Marine Conservation Society weren't particular happy when they found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 100 metres of shoreline during a beach cleanup in 2016!

Despite the name, 'fat bergs' in sewers are mostly made up of personal care products:- According to the BBC wet wipes contribute to 93% and the other 7% included feminine hygiene products. Only half a percent was actually made up of fat!


According to friends of the earth tampons have plastic in them too – even in the string – and plastic applicators are made from polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). They say 90% of a menstrual pad can be plastic and 6% of a tampon.

If that's not enough to put you off how about this:- A recent study from the US found that non-organic rayon-based tampons contain nasty chemicals including Carbon Disulfide, a known reproductive toxin and Methylene Chloride which is a chemical found in paint stripper! (Carbon Disulfide was not found in organic cotton tampons thank goodness).


So What Can We Do?

Friends of the Earth recommend switching to menstrual cups (have seen them being sold in local supermarkets), or washable pads from online stores or look for the organic plastic free alternatives that are chlorine free.

With this in mind I have been switching to a brand called Natracare. Made from organic cotton and wood pulp, according to their web site, Natracare pads have been plastic free since 1995.

Natrcare Plastic Free Cotton Sanitary Towels

As well as Natura Care I have also tried a product called Flo which is a natural, plant-based product, biodegradable and hypoallergenic - they use materials like organic cotton and organically-grown bamboo. 5% of proceeds goes to charities, which includes providing sanitary wear for schools and asylum centres. 

According to their site the pads use plant based biowrappers although the pad backing, and tampon wrapper and applicator is made from plastic (they're currently working on compostable materials). I have noticed on ethical superstore that their FLO tampons now say the applicators are made from plant based plastic so looks like advancements are being made.

Their sanitary wear is free from chlorine, synthetics, chemicals and fragrance free which is an added bonus.

Flo Bamboo Sanitary Pads / Menstrual Towels

My Verdict?

I have tried the Natracare tampons with no problems to report. They are very much the same as my normal product, but I rest safe in the knowledge that these are plastic free, organic, chlorine free and are also biodegradeable.

The natracare pads I tried were soft and comfortable. A little on the short side but they do stick very well. (You need good muscles to peel them off after use!)

With the Flo sanitary towel I bought the night and day pack. You get more day time ones which makes a lot of sense. The product with wings has the wings about a third of the way up meaning you can't position the item centrally. I find this doesn't work as well as those that do position centrally (for me anyway!) 

I love the box - it says 'Hello Gorgeous' on it and was nice to think some profits goes towards charities. Having a product that uses bamboo is a nice change to try and help save the trees.

So my verdict for both Natracare and Flo products was a love from me πŸ’—. You can order both brands from ethical superstores.

Check out this video, it may help you make the change!





Thursday 20 February 2020

Green Wash and Wish Cycling


What the Heck is Green washing?

No I haven't made these terms up!

Per Wikipedia, based on the term whitewash, 'greenwashing' was coined in a 1986 essay regarding the hotels practice of placing placards in each room, promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to "save the environment." 

Author Westervelt noted that in most cases, little or no effort toward reducing energy waste was being made by these institutions. More money or time [may have] been spent advertising being "green" than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices.

An example of this practise is Kimberly Clark's claim of "Pure and Natural" diapers in green packaging. It gives consumers a sense that it is purely natural from the brand name. The product uses organic cotton on the outside, however they keep the same petrochemical gel on the inside.

In 2018, in response to increased calls for banning plastic straws, Starbucks introduced a new straw-less lid that actually contained more plastic by weight than the old straw and lid combination.

More on these plus references at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing


I got Tripped up Too!
I fell into this trap myself during my experiment to reduce or replace 50 single use items for my 50th year on this planet. 

I bought some teeth flossing harps (called floss picks) that were touted as mainly made from corn starch material. In fact when you look at the package it says corn starch in big letters. It was only after I'd ordered them did I realise only 40% was corn starch, the rest was PP (Polypropylene) materials (on the packet I bought), I've seen others say PLA plastics.

On their own website it says:

'Our floss picks are made primarily from corn-starch but are not fully compostable. In time, we hope to be able to find a solution to ensure the firmness and quality of the floss pick handle with a fully compostable material.'

This is not mentioned on the listing details so unless you dig through the FAQ you wouldn't even realise. Many folks reviewing the product are delighted they have found a fully natural and compostable product when in fact it is neither of those things!

Also the flossing part itself is made from nylon (they say for their bamboo toothbrushes for instance that nylon bristles should be removed before disposal).


Crsytal Ball in Trees and Forest Photo by Bogdan Dirică from Pexels

The Good and Bad.. 
For me I do love that companies big or small are looking for ways to move away from petro chemical based plastics. BUT we have to be careful that folks are not being misled into thinking their product can be thrown into the compost bin which could then contaminate good compost material. I would assume industrial composters sift out final product anyway so it may be removed eventually, but I don't like the idea of plastics sitting in compost material leaching chemicals when we're trying desperately to keep fragments of plastics away from the natural environment.

It may also encourage consumers to choose one product over another believing they are doing right for the planet thereby giving the companies that do use greenwashing techniques the upper hand. Oh they do love a gullible consumer!

Do I Have any Solutions? 
Not really, other than be informed, look for alternatives and reduce your waste. You will be tripped up from time to time. If the companies aren't honest, for instance putting corn starch in big letters at the front when you realise it's only 40% corn starch which you don't see until you look at the back after purchase, I would say this is misleading. Even more misleading when the company does not give you the option to take a look at the back of the packet on their website, or at least paste their FAQ in the buying section to let consumers be aware of what they're buying and how to dispose of it properly!

Here's a wee video on greenwashing if you have a spare moment..

 


What is Wishcycling?
According to Recycle Nation 'Wishcycling is the process of putting items in a recycling bin instead of the trash even if you’re not sure whether they are recyclable or not.'

Seems pretty harmless right? Surely someone somewhere will figure out what to do with it! Trouble is, recycling machines notoriously get tangled up. 


Loose plastic bags for example don't want to be in with the plastics recycling, they are better off being dropped off at your local supermarket bag collection point where they can turn them into new bags. 

Meanwhile card items covered in grease (say from a pizza) may end up contaminating paper stock making a batch worthless. 

Recycling centres do have staff that help to sift through some of the stuff and machines can hep sift through others but due to the sheer volume some items can get missed and end up contaminating a whole batch.


What about Biodegradeable?

Another example is the introduction of biogradeable or compostable plastic. Recycle Now site says these should not be added to supermarket bag recycling. (A list of what can and can't be recycled can be found here.) So the consumer is mighty confused as to what goes where.


They say, 'Only non-biodegradable plastic can be recycled, regardless of whether it is fossil-based or bio-based. Compostable plastics can be composted at industrial scale composting facilities, so you can put these in with your green waste but only if it goes to one of these facilities - your council will be able to tell you where your green waste goes. 

'Compostable plastics should not go in with your dry recycling as they cannot be recycled in the same way as non-biodegradable plastic.'

Recycle Now site is a great resource to help you find what can and can't be recycled in your local area.

https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/how-is-it-recycled/plastics



Be a Recycling Detective

I guess we need to do our own research, for instance, I had been throwing tetrapacks regularly into our household recycling bins for collection only to find out our local sorting centre doesn't even process them. 

Tetrapacks were not shown in the picture of our laminated card sent out by the council on what can be recycled which made me wonder. I enquired and was told, no, we don't take any carton packs at all. That was news to me! So finally I got the right product in the right place after a bit of research and found a local drop off point for Tetrapak cartons. 

Other areas meanwhile may have no problem with tetrapak being picked up by household collection. My mum's laminated guide sheet in a different area, lists tetrapacks as a collected item. So the consumer has to be vigilant and try and figure it all out. What is the norm for collection in one area maybe different to another.


Should I Still Bother?
I really think it is still worth recycling, the points above are not meant to put any of you off. 

But as the saying always goes, 'It's not easy being green!' A bit of detective work maybe required. Keep on keeping on. After all, the planet is in your hands!

No Intelligent Species would destroy their own planet Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com from Pexels

Friday 14 February 2020

Make Your Own - Bath Bombs

My Make Your Own Section

I do love a good bath - I know it's not eco-friendly but it's the way I relax and ease those sore achy muscles, joints and bones. To conserve water I limit my baths to twice a week, the other days it's a quick wash with a good old fashioned flannel!

Below I introduce you to some bath bombs I've been making. Home made items can save on plastic, although you do get caught out when the ingredients you use to make your own comes in, well plastic. I am learning as I go and will give some tips below.

How to Make Home Made Fizzing Bath Bombs

This recipe is great fun, super easy and kids can have a go too. I make my bath bombs using silicone moulds originally bought for making cake pops, but the shape is perfect for making half disc shapes so I've re-purposed the moulds for my home making adventure.

Ingredients:

Baking Soda (bicarb) 8oz
Citric Acid 4oz
Corn Starch 4oz
Bath Salts 4oz

Mix dry ingredients together in a glass bowl. SLOWLY add about 3/4 tablespoon water, 2 tsp essential oil, 2.5 tablespoons oil plus 1 or 2 drops of food colouring. Whisk as you slowly add the liquid to prevent fizzing.

Once the mix clumps together in your hands you can then add them to your moulds. If I use half the mix above I have enough to make 15 half dome shapes. You can of course make half batches and give them different colours and smells.

Home Made Fizzing Bath Bombs

Tips on where to buy ingredients:

For the bath salts I used Dead Sea Salts from a company called Wessex Trader. Their product comes in non plastic packaging and the pouch itself is noted as compostable which is an added bonus. 

The citric acid I bought in a jar from Amazon which I thought was glass with a screw top lid. On arrival I realised this was plastic not glass, however with a screw top I can re-use and re-purpose the packaging after. The sea salt seller above does do bicarb of soda and citric acid in compostable bags so I will consider those in the future. 

For the oil, I love the lemon olive oil I bought from LIDL. Comes in a glass bottle and smells devine. Was originally bought for cooking but I have been known to steal some to put in my bath, either a little dribbled in with dead sea salts (occasionally with left over lemon or lime skins) or incorporated into the bath bombs above.

Lemon Olive Oil for Drizzling

Corn starch can be purchased in boxes from your local supermarket.

I also make toilet fizz bombs using 1 + 1/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1 tsp water and some essential oils which is another thing you can try πŸ’œ.

The fizz bombs harden as they dry - you can leave for several hours before removing from the moulds and place in a storage jar. If you find the mix too crumbly just add a little more water. Enjoy!

Pop by my Home Made Section for some more ideas..

Monday 10 February 2020

Review - Plastic Free Deodorant

This is my 15th review on plastic alternatives. I hope these help give some ideas on alternatives you can use in your daily lives.

Scoring system: 

❤ = Will keep, I love it / πŸ‘€ = Not sure, will try some more / 😐 = Oh dear, it's not for me


Review Fifteen - Earth Conscious Deodorant

I made the decision to swap out or reduce 50 items for my 50th year on this planet and very quickly built up a whole arsenal of plastic free products for personal care, bathroom and kitchen use. I found the switch for most items really easy (albeit at times expensive) - finding a suitable plastic free deodorant though has become a bit of a challenge.

I chose to buy the award winning Earth Conscious deodorant which has a base of bicarbonate of soda and coconut oil with jasmine and rose scent. It comes in a card tube so certainly hits the brief of being plastic free. Jasmine is one of my favourite scents too so I was super excited to give it a go. I bought mine from the Floral Fox shop.

However, for me the scent just wasn't there - at one point I thought I'd bought a scent free version by mistake. I wasn't so keen either on how the dry product pulls the skin as you apply. I thought at first it was due to it being cold having just arrived in the post on a cold day - but nope, even with being in a warm bathroom it didn't improve.

As I worked my way to the bottom I found the consistency changed slightly, I think I was reaching more of the coconut as it did glide a little easier but only just a slight improvement. The scent didn't get any stronger either.

Earth Conscious Plastic Free Deodorant Jasmine and Rose

I also found a strange odour being created which I couldn't quite work out! After googling I found the smell could be coming through your skin, as you start to eliminate the aluminium found in many products - I checked my normal product and found it did contain aluminium. 

So with the extra weird smell and the fact the product had little scent of its own I ended up having to use body spray on top to provide that extra bit of floral notes (the first time I've ever had to use two products to do one job!)

My normal deodorant though used to make me itch for a few days after shaving & this product didn't do that so that's one plus I can take away. 

I have read that some of their other products may have a stronger scent, maybe if I was to restart again with hindsight I would try a different one. A quick note though that some can be sensitive to sodium bicarbonate so wouldn't be suitable for all.

My verdict?

I love the fact it comes in a card tube and made in the UK, however due to the lack of scent and pulling on the skin I would have to rate this a no, it's not for me πŸ˜.

This is not meant to discourage others by the way from trying it out. They do have a tin product you apply with your fingers but I'm a little put off by this (fingers on pits on a daily basis doesn't appeal to me!)

My mission to find a good plastic free alternative is certainly not yet complete but kudos to the company who make plastic free alternatives available to all πŸ‘ .


Wednesday 5 February 2020

What Does BPA, PLA, Phthalates Mean?

Some Plastic Terms Explained
Plastics Animals in a Row Image by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

What is BPA? 

BPA stands for Bisphenol A and used in resins since the 1950s and also used in plastics.

It can form a shiny hard plastic surface called polycarbonate and has been used in the production of plastic plates, microwaveable food trays, re-usable water bottles, sippy cups, canned foods, dental sealants & even some till receipts.

In a survey of 2,517 people 93% had detectable levels in their urine. It has been known to disrupt endocrine function affecting hormones in mice & has caused health concerns among many due to its estrogen mimicking effects. The FDA have since banned BPA in sippy cups and baby bottles. [BPA has also been banned in baby bottles in the EU.]

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/09/news-BPA-free-plastic-safety-chemicals-health/


How to avoid? 

The advice mentioned in the National Geographic article above is to avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher (which may encourage BPA to leach out during the hot wash) and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6 and 7 which could have BPA compounds. 


(Some BPA free alternatives are available but the article highlights that some of these can also be problematic – check out the article highlighted above for more info).

Phthalates 

Phthalates are added to Poly vinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and helps to make it become more flexible. They can be used in paints, household cleaning bottles as well as vinyl floors. Due to its flexibility it can be used in cling film, catheters, IV tubes and children’s toys. Studies suggest it could affect hormones and also the fetus, so similar to BPA it can cause health concerns.

Source: http://www.babygreenthumb.com/p-115-phthalates.aspx


How to avoid? 

The website above suggests using wax wrap or parchment paper instead of cling film, avoid microwaving plastics and use ceramic or glass containers instead for storage. Buy cosmetics that are phthalate free. Plus avoid anything containing PVC.

Phthalates are commonly found in human urine samples. An analysis of 1999-2000 data found metabolites of DEP in all 2,540 samples and metabolites of DBP in 99% of samples. (DEP is a type of phthalate used in fragranced products, DBP can be found in nail polish). These 2 chemicals are now banned in cosmetics sold in the EU.

Source: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/phthalates/



Double Rainbow Over Field Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

What is PLA? 

PLA or Polylactic Acid is a plant based type of plastic usually made from cornstarch. Due to its natural backbone it is often touted as biodegradeable and sometimes compostable product. The downside it may need specific conditions to break it down effectively.

According to zerowasteman site they quote, ‘It is not recommended to put these PLA biodegradable plastics into your home compost, they might remain there for 100 – 1000 years.’

Source: https://zerowasteman.com/what-is-pla-plastic/

Industrial composters use a much higher heat setting, although it may not biodegrade at the same rate as your partially rotten food taken out for collection from the average household. Indeed, industrial composters may not accept any plastic based content whether natural or not. 

How to dispose? 

PLA bags are unsuitable for home composting and may also not be taken with your household food waste, so the natural solution is to recycle with normal plastic bags right? Sadly wrong! 


Recycle Now site states that plastic bag collections points at supermarkets cannot accept biodegradeable plastic bags. I’m guessing these bags are recycled into new bags, so they do not want biodegradeable content in it.

This can create a dilemma for the consumer – they want a non oil based plastic solution, one that breaks down as well, but at the moment it is not clear how best to dispose of them. 


Normal landfills may not have the right conditions to break them down quickly (as landfills are often hemetically sealed). Some household non recycling rubbish is sent directly to incinerators in energy recovery centres so the product may end up being incinerated at the end of its life instead.

Bioplastics 

Bioplastics is a term given to more natural, non petroleum based plastics. These may be derived from corn starch, sugar cane, vegetable matter, cellulose, wood chips or straw. I have seen mushroom based packaging also coming onto the scene using mycelium (they do say these are home compostable).

Wikipedia however states that,‘Not all bioplastics are biodegradable nor biodegrade more readily than commodity fossil-fuel derived plastics.’

They also state that the term ‘Bioplastic is misleading, because it suggests that any polymer derived from the biomass is environmentally friendly.' 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic

So similar to the PLA (polyactic acid, plant based plastic) above, some of these items may not be suitable for normal or even industrial composting.


Check out these sites for more: recycling biodegradeable coffee cups / how to dispose of your PLA based cup / how plastics are recycled (mentions compostable/biodegradeable).

Summary 

It’s great that other plastic alternatives are out there but the consumer does need to be aware that it may not be as easy to dispose of, despite the impression by some of the products listing them as eco friendly or compostable. 

I think for the moment, re-use them as many times as you can, then put them in your normal bin and at least the basis of the product was less reliant on petroleum based chemicals.

Even better, try and switch to plastic free alternatives, for example re-usable tote bags, mesh bags for weighing and carrying vegetables, and covering foods with wax wraps, brown paper or tin foil, or buying bulk items in glass jars so there’s less need for plastic wrapping or bags.

Check out my reviews and homemade section for more ideas on making that plastic swap!



mobius loop recycling triangle symbolgreen dot symbol


Related articles – what the recycling codes mean

The article below looks at recycling symbols and numbers; also what HDPE, PET etc means and how these are recycled.