Wednesday 30 March 2022

Beware of Hidden Plastics

The Hidden Danger of Plastics

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

All around us are plastics, we cannot fail to notice. But what we can’t see are tiny little microplastics which make their way into our food chain, water & even the air we breathe.

Even makeup and face washes contained micro beads which have been banned thankfully. Micro fibres during a clothes wash can also be a huge unseen problem. 

Below I have listed some of the sources of hidden plastics, some which may surprise you such as in tap water & car tyres. It does make for stark reading. 

It was watching hard hitting documentaries that triggered me to start this blog, so seeing the hard truths can help trigger positive change. 

I hope some of the items listed below will give you food for thought..

Sources of Hidden (Micro) Plastics.

Drinks – a study by Dr. Noam van der Hal found that cows milk contained 10 to 200 particles of microplastics per sample. When he went to the dairy & sampled the milk, he found far less particles within the dairy collection tank. Dr. Noam concluded that the bottling process itself leaches plastics into the product.

Another study looked at contamination of soft drinks, cold tea & energy drinks - it was found that microplastics were detected in 48 out of 57 samples. 

Tea Bags – folks didn’t realise that tea bags contained plastics until a gardener noted that tea bags in his compost heap refused to break down fully. This is caused by polypropylene being used to seal the bags, keeping in the tea without them coming apart during a hot dunking.

Following subsequent news reports, consumers began to put pressure on tea bag companies to change their products to become more eco friendly. I wrote an article on these hidden plastics in tea back in 2019.

Some companies have improved their products since my article above - maybe check out the website of your fave tea company, to check on how they’re doing to emit plastics from their products.

Tap Water – A study reported that 83% of tap water samples from major cities around the world contained plastic fibres. In the UK, 72% of samples were found to have micro fibres, whereas in the US, numbers were much higher at 94%.

Bottled Water - Research from State University of New York examined 250 bottles from nine worldwide countries & found plastics hiding ‘in bottle after bottle and brand after brand’. There were typically 10 plastic particles found, per litre of bottled water.

Bottled Water by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Chewing Gum – In ancient times the chewing gum was plant based, usually from sap, tree resins & bark that Native Americans, Early Europeans & Mayans/Aztecs used to chew on as a breath freshener.

Modern day chewing gums may contain plastics in their gum base as well as polyisobutylene, a type of rubber found in inner car tyres. This is why you see wads of gum sticking (quite literally!) around for years & years.

There are biodegradable alternatives available, see the link below for some ideas.

Glitter – glitter can often contain plastic but some may not be aware. I found this article quite useful to learn a little more.

Toiletries – Microbeads (small insoluble particles) have been used as exfoliators in cosmetics & toiletries. These are solid plastic particles less than 5mm. It was realised that these microbeads can run off into oceans & be ingested by fish & sea mammals causing potential harm to the environment & wildlife.

Cosmetics Europe recommended that by 2020 all products containing microbeads should be phased out. Many companies have been switching to alternatives such as tapioca, seaweed, silica & corn.

In 2018, the UK government placed a ban on products containing microbeads being sold in stores. These included toothpastes, shower gels, face scrubs & soaps.

The government website stated that 'just one shower alone was thought to send 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the ocean, causing serious harm to marine life.'

Sadly there will be many beads out in the environment already swirling around in the seas & waterways, but at least action has been taken to prevent more being produced in the UK.

Clothes – fabrics can often be made up of polyester or acrylic. Washing of clothes releases thousands of microfibers into the waterways. These may not be picked up during filtration leading to contamination of tap water or be leached out into rivers & streams.

Prof Richard Thompson at Plymouth University found that on average, a 6kg wash load could release 140,000 fibres from a polyester-cotton mix or more than 700,000 fibres from acrylic. Dryers can also carry fibres into the air creating a source of airborne microplastic pollution.

White Jeep Photo by TimCompound on Pexels

Tyres – A report commissioned by Friends of the Earth found that vehicle tyres are the biggest cause of microplastic pollution in rivers, lakes & oceans in the UK. 

A recent study in Norway found that the average car tyre loses 4kg in its lifetime

Tyres contain about 20% natural rubber with the rest being made of synthetic materials containing plastic polymers. 

Another worrying ingredient is the use of carbon black - sourced from fossil fuels, it is used to blacken the tyres for resistence to UV light but is also reported to be non biodegradeable & possibly carcinogenic.

Fragments of plastic & synthetic rubber from tyres & brake pads can be kicked out onto the roads. Due to their tiny size they are easily picked up & carried by wind into streams, drains & rivers. The Norway study found particles can remain airborne for a whole month.

Nurdles – so what are nurdles I hear you ask! These are tiny plastic pellets that are often melted to make larger items. They are in effect the primary source of virgin plastic & transported by cargo to foreign countries still in its small pellet form.

Cargo spillages during bad storms can cause nurdles to be dumped out into the oceans. Due to their small size & light weight, they can often drift on top of the current & be carried out by tides to large expanses at sea, even as far as the arctic circle.

Fish & sea birds mistake them as food as they are similar in size to fish eggs. An accumulation of the microplastics can lodge in their guts, causing blockages & malnutrition.

Spillages can also occur during transfer by trucks to factories which can cause run off into drains & rivers, so the problem can be very widespread indeed.

This charity is looking for nurdle hunters to identify the full extent of the problem. Check out the site above for more information & if you can help, why not join the search for nurdles at your local beach.

Kid raking beach by tatiana-syrikova from Pexels

Rainwater – Researchers studied rainwater & air samples in 11 protected areas in the Western USA over 14 months - they found that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic fragments fell into these areas each year. 
This is the equivalent to over 120 million plastic water bottles (or 8 blue whales in weight). 
North PoleNanoplastics (smaller than a micrometre) have now been found as far away as the North & South poles. A chart about half way down this page shows they are so small they may even cross the blood-brain barrier.

Meanwhile, the top of Everest has been found to harbour microplastics – analysts found samples rife with thin, curly fibres of microplastic. Humans have quite literally left their mark in all sorts of places.

And who can forget the images of polar bears scavenging for food covered in plastic bags? Researchers in Alaska found a shocking 25% of polar bears had plastics lodged in their stomachs. 

Human Beings – A small study of 22 healthy volunteers in the Netherlands found traces of plastics in 17 of the blood samples taken. 

The most common plastic was polyethylene terephthalate (PET) usually found in drink bottles & fabrics, whilst the second most common was polystyrene used in takeaway food containers such as Styrofoam. The third was polyethylene used in paints, plastic wrap, sandwich bags & detergent bottles.

Here is another article on plastics affecting the human body – this is not meant to depress us, but is meant to open all our eyes to the problem we are all facing!
Did you know that humans have produced 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic since the 50s (equal in size to 1 billion elephants)? 

It’s hardly surprising that humans are ingesting & breathing in microplastics, but it is a concern that blood samples also contain plastic too. A stark reminder of how much damage we have done to ourselves & our planet.

Fragile Ice Globe by Pixabay from Pexels

We are resourceful beings & we need to come together to find solutions & act quickly – this planet is far too beautiful to waste.

Thank you for reading! 🌍

Check out our Positive News Stories to pick up the mood..

Saturday 5 March 2022

Make Own - Toothpaste & Natural Deodorant

 My Make Your Own Section

I have had a go at making mandarin infused vinegar cleaning spray, fizzing bath bombs, almond milk & liquid soap

Below I show you how to make your own natural deodorant & toothpaste plus some tips on using natural products around the house.

How to Make Home Made Natural Toothpaste (Tooth Powder)

I call this toothpaste but in reality it's a powder which you can make yourself really easily & very cheaply too! Key ingredients are arrowroot, baking soda, essential oil & chopped sage.

I used an old jar from a previously used plastic free product. Plastic free toothpaste can be very expensive so using the same jar to house my own version recycles the container & saves money at the same time. 

For extra brownie points, why not ditch the plastic & use a bamboo toothbrush instead!😇

The quantities will depend on how much you're planning to make, I suggest starting small to begin with to see how you get on. Mix equals quantities of arrowroot, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) & water (sprinkle water in gently to keep the powdery consistency). 

Add in peppermint oil & chopped sage. 

The peppermint oil can be adjusted but do take care of essential oils as they are very strong and can burn if swallowed neat - diluted down in the powder should be fine. Feel free to experiment with quantities, base ingredients and flavours to see what works for you.

The site below has the recipe & suggested quantities at:

You can search for other recipes that use clay for instance to make a paste & some use salt but I like this one as seems less abrasive than salt and I didn't have anything clay based in the cupboard. 

Here's what mine looked like. I find that my teeth do feel very smooth & clean afterwards. Use the toothbrush head to scoop up some of the powder. 

How to Make Your Own Home Made Natural Deodorant

So super easy, you'll wonder why you never did this before! Uses just 3 ingredients (baking soda, coconut oil & essential oil).

Mix equal quantities of coconut oil & baking soda. I started off very small as utilised an old jar of natural deodorant that I reviewed in the past - I found just 1/8th cup of coconut oil + 1/8th cup of bicarb was enough to make up my jar which would make it super cheap & was so quick an easy.

Coconut oil is available in supermarkets or places like Holland & Barrett.

You can add whatever scent you like, I chose sweet orange, lemon grass & lavender. 

Mix the 3 ingredients together (you may need to melt the coconut oil gently first, or if you have a warm kitchen just stirring makes it soften enough to mix with the other ingredients). Mix until you've smoothed out any lumps then add essential oils until you're happy with the scent. 

(Please note that some people are sensitive to bicarb so I would suggest making a small batch first to trial it out. If you are sensitive arrowroot can work as a good substitute).

Also don't drown it in essential oils as too much can irritate. Essential oils need a carrier so the coconut oil should help to protect the skin but never apply essential oils directly onto the skin undiluted.

I was inspired by Dr Axe for this recipe - google searches will help guide you but here's a link to the one I used:

The end product comes up like a paste that you apply to the underarm. You only need a pea sized amount, it should firm up once cold but warms up with the heat of your fingers for application. I found my last product in a similar sized jar lasted about 4 months so a little goes a long way & making your own is a huge saving on your pocket!

Uses for Coconut Oil

Once you've bought your coconut oil you'll find many uses for it. It can be used to soften skin, soothe irritated scalp, use as a hair mask by leaving in before washing and I even found that it makes a good furniture polish! 

We rescued a coffee table from the skip and it had 8 coffee or tea stain rings on it (was rescued from an office clear out). The coconut rubbed in obliterated the stains & the oil helped to condition the table at the same time - win win!

Why not try using coconut oil as a makeup remover? We sell home made makeup wipes in our store - apply a small amount of coconut oil on face then wipe off. Rinse wipe under tap with some handwash to clean. The wipes can be hand or machine washed and then composted after they've become worn out.

Uses for Bicarbonate of Soda

I make my own loo cleaner by adding one cup of bicarb to a cup of distilled vinegar - add bicarb around toilet bowl then add vinegar to make it froth up. Close lid for 10 mins then scrub with loo brush to clean. 

Uses for White Vinegar

Make your own orange vinegar cleaning spray (which I've also used as a fabric conditioner, you can add essential oils to this too for an extra burst of scent). Or you can use vinegar to make a loo cleaner (see bicarb section above). 

I also keep a glass spray bottle with a mix of vinegar & washing up liquid diluted in water as a useful all purpose spray - even makes a good weed killer too!

Lots more you can do with bicarb & vinegar to clean your home from top to bottom. These are just a few simple tricks to make and use natural things. 

How to Colour Your Hair Naturally

If you have dark brown hair a useful tip for keeping your hair colour is to add cocoa powder to your normal shampoo. Or add to a coconut oil home made hair mask for colour & conditioning.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful. There's some great eco books out there available & of course don't forget to check out some of my reviews and other home made items.

Lovelier Planet also sells some home made products. Come on by & take a look.

Herbal Tea in Glass Cup courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels

Now grab a tea & celebrate your greatness!