Plastic-free update

I thought it was about time that I wrote about how we were getting on with reducing single use plastic in our house.  It’s something that we’re conscious of all the time, but we’ve not found it not as easy as you might think to just stop using all plastics as there are so many of them in everyday use.  We’ve decided that rather than try to change everything wholesale (which might mean creating more plastic waste as we just throw things away), we’ll change what we can when we reach a point that something needs replacing.

You can see what we’ve been up to so far here and here, but here’s a short recap.  So far, we’ve replaced tea bags with loose leaf tea …

That was an easy change to make and we’re still enjoying our tea from Brew Tea Company.

I bought a Cora Ball which is supposed to help catch the microfibres in clothes when you wash them to stop them being washed down the drain into the sea.

Hmm … the jury is still out on this one.  The ball itself was expensive (nearly £30) and I might have had higher expectations for it than were reasonable.  I was really hoping that it would catch the pet hairs that are constantly stuck to our clothes, but mostly what it’s caught is loose threads from clothes and rather a lot of long hair (that’ll belong to my girls rather than the pets).  I suppose that whatever it catches is something that doesn’t go down the drain, and the leaflet that comes with it does say that using top loading versus front loading machines, liquid rather than powder and washing at higher or lower temperatures will all affect what the ball will catch.

The ball is made of recycled plastic and is recyclable itself so I guess that by buying it, I’ve taken some plastic out of the system.  This BBC series called War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita was a really good watch and quite an eye-opener – it’s heart-breaking to think that plastic from the UK is being shipped out to countries like Malaysia where it’s making children ill.  We have no right to make other people’s children suffer because of our waste.

This is what my ball looks like now, so you can see that it’s been well bashed about in the washing machine (and the dryer sometimes too!) …

Whilst I was taking photos to write this post and thinking that I wouldn’t have much positive to say about the Cora Ball (although at least that red thread won’t be winding it’s way around some poor unsuspecting sea creature), I was really pleased to spot this …

That, my friends, is the microfibre fluff that I was hoping to catch with the ball, and whilst there may not be a huge amount of it (we do tend to wear a lot of cotton in our house), there’s still some that will go into the bin rather than down the drain.  Will it make a huge difference to the ocean?  (Somebody commented on my Instagram post that it would still end up in the ocean after being washed there through landfill so the only answer was to stop wearing any plastic clothing.)  In the end, only future generations will be able to tell us that but I do know that if we don’t do anything at all, then that doesn’t leave the world in a better place than we found it, so perhaps my nearly £30 is well-spent after all.  Would I buy another one?  Probably not whilst they are so expensive, but I do still think they are a good idea and will still use the one that I have.

What else?  Our beeswax wraps got plenty of use but now I think they either need re-waxing or replacing altogether.  I’ve found a few tutorials online for making your own which look quite straightforward so I think I might give that a go when I’ve got some spare time.

I’m also going to make some re-useable make-up wipes – I bought some flannels from the supermarket and I’m going to cut them up so that they are about the same size as the little cotton pads that I currently buy and then bind the edges with the sewing machine so that they don’t fray.

I’m hoping to get time to do that over the summer holidays, and might even rope small daughter in to help as she’ll be able to use some for herself too.  I’ll let you know how we get on!

I was looking around on Instagram the other day and ended up having a conversation with a lady who recommended earth friendly bleach to me.  I’ve never heard of earth friendly bleach, but as we have a septic tank then I’m always on the look-out for something that will be an alternative to the bottled bleach that doesn’t do the micro-organisms in the tank any good.

This is the earth-friendly bleach, and so far, I’m impressed!  You mix it with hot water and it can be used for laundry and cleaning – I’ve been using it down the toilet and it has been doing a good job so I might not be buying bottled bleach again.  The downside, as often is the case with things like this, is that it’s not cheap but as I won’t be using it every day then I’m prepared to spend a bit more to try it out if I know it’s going to be better for our tank and ultimately the environment.

I bought it from Babipur and whilst I was on the website, I thought I’d take a look around … always fatal to your credit card but I will use what I’ve bought 😀

Organic cotton bread bags for my home made sourdough bread.  So far, I’ve been keeping it in freezer bags which I’m re-using from loaf to loaf as the loaves are not the right size for our small bread bin …

Mesh bags for loose fruit and veg – it’s not always easy to buy loose veg, especially at the supermarket, but it’s easier when I go to the farm shop and I’ve got a couple of these for big daughter too, who is making an effort to go plastic-free in Manchester.

New toilet brushes (ours have certainly not been single use and are well past their sell-by date now!) and a new dish washing brush.  When I first saw this, I thought it might be a bit small compared to my old one, but actually, I’ve found it to be a great size.  That round head fits just nicely into the bottle that my husband uses every morning when he makes his own smoothie and gets all the bits out from around the rim.  It’s replaceable too, so there’s no need to throw the whole brush away when the head is worn out.

Finally, I’ve been using this.  It’s called Koh and it’s an Australian universal cleaner.  I first saw it as a Facebook advertisement and after seeing the ad far too often, decided that I would find out if the testimonials were actually true.  The company claims that you can get rid of all the other cleaning products that you have as Koh will clean everything.  It’s allergy-friendly, pet-friendly, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, plus think of all the space in your cupboard and all the plastic you’ll save and there’s a 30 day money back guarantee … how could I not try it out?!  I decided that if I could send it all back, I might as well give it a good go first so I bought one of the bundles containing a floor mop, atomisers, lots of re-usable cloths (yes, they are microfibre but they’re not single use) and diamond sponges for really tough stains.

Well, that was back in January and I did not sent it back after the 30-day trial.  In fact, I’m on my second box of cleaner (it comes in a 4 litre “wine box” to be used with refillable atomisers and has lasted for longer than I expected, even after buying more atomisers and using it in the floor mop!), and big daughter is now a convert too.  It cleans the floors, the windows, the worktops, even the enamel of the Aga when it’s on and hot which is something pretty amazing.  It gets rid of cat smells (one of our cats has a random piddling issue which is very annoying and very smelly) and has even got rid of a stain on a mattress when small daughter had an unexpected nose bleed.  It’s fabulous for getting bird poo off the cars and I use it on my specs too instead of cleaning wipes which are, of course, plastic.  I even had the “Wow!” moment that I’d seen in the advert when I attacked the soap scum on the shower door and it feels pretty good to be able to see out of the shower door now after too long thinking that my eyes were even more blurry in the shower than out of it! 😀

I spent a lot of time watching the online videos about it – there are lots on the Koh website and Facebook page – and reading reviews and as with all of these things, there are people who won’t like it and that’s fine – not everything suits everybody after all – but I am really pleased that I decided to try it out and I have no plans to stop using it any time soon.  And I’ve given all my other bottles of cleaning products to the church to use up for their cleaning so nothing has gone to waste.

Phew!  There we go!  I’m still using my shampoo bars and big daughter has moved onto refillable shampoo and conditioner which suits her hair type better.  She’s found a shop called The Eighth Day in Manchester which sings it’s siren song to her every time she passes so there’s no chance of us running out of plastic-free ideas!

We’re still a long way from being totally plastic-free and I’m not sure that I actually want to live a life without any plastic at all, but we are making steps towards being more sustainable and we’ve drastically reduced the amount of single use plastic that was coming into the house – I know that by the amount that is going into our recycling bin.  We’ll keep on going, and if others are doing the same then every little effort is going to help.


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31 Responses

  1. MidgePorterDesign says:

    This has come at a great time as I am on a reduce the plastic mission too! Thanks for the links. Our little village shop has just started Ecover refills and I've just made it through the settling-in period for shampoo and conditioning bars. I am trying to find out more about non-plastic yarn bases to see how durable they would be on items such as socks. Any tips? I want to try and avoid silk but wondered about bamboo? Great blog! Xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      If you have a look at my no-nylon sock yarn review page, there's some info there which might help. I've also used Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn 4ply for socks which has got silk in it but I know that Victoria is very conscious of ethical issues around silk so there may be more info on that on her website. I haven't tried using a bamboo base yarn yet so do let me know if you find one and try it out! 😀 xx

    • Susan Rayner says:

      I have tried Bamboo for socks and it felt lovely and silky when I knitted it but after washing it went all floppy and stretched!

    • Anonymous says:

      I have used Cobasi sock yarn. It contains silk and bamboo. It's an extremely durable yarn and holds its shape, but it takes ages for it to dry.

    • MidgePorterDesign says:

      Thank you and I will x

  2. happy hooker says:

    It's not easy going plastic free, everything seems to be made of plastic/wrapped in plastic/contain plastic components. I wish manufacturers would get their act together, instead of blaming consumers. After all, it's not us mere mortals who needlessly wrap things in 2 layers of plastic (which then fill our bins and in many cases can't or won't be recycled by the council. All we can do is be mindful of what we buy and try to go for the least harmful options.
    Thanks for the link to the 8th Day, some tasty-sounding recipes which I must try! xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      You're right, there has to be some responsibility taken by the manufacturers too, and I am sure that effort and expense are involved in not making the change to something other than plastic. I saw some soap for sale the other day where the "plastic" wrapper was actually potato skin and seaweed but you'd never have known so it is possible! xx

  3. selina says:

    great post, full of good information,
    i make my own cleaners out of lemon rinds & vinegar, i also use only one liquid for dishes & laundry & sometimes i'll dilute it down so it lasts longer. am allergic to bleach & hate the stuff anyways.
    i gave up a lot of convenience foods which all came in plastic, some it is hard to get away from; noodles come in plastic, pet meat comes in plastic so i can't give it all up & quite frankly have given up trying to be totally plastic free, that was just too stressful but cutting back where possible was a lot easier.
    thanx for sharing

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I think that we'd tie ourselves up in knots if we were to try to go completely plastic-free, and I don't intend to as I think that plastic can be useful. It's the single-use stuff that I think we need to work on, but as more and more people become vocal about it, this is going to change too xx

  4. Lenore says:

    Goodness, I live in Australia and never heard of Koh. Thank you for sharing.

  5. sustainablemum says:

    I think if we make conscious decisions about our purchases then that can only be a good thing. When we are so far from the means of production and in turn the resources needed for that it makes it so much harder to make 'good' decisions. Sound like you are finding some good solutions!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      You are absolutely right – it's all about making conscious decisions and informed choices. None of this is going to change overnight but if it does change (and it must) then that can only be something to be welcomed xx

  6. Anonymous says:

    Eezepaws wash bags are great for washing pet bedding, towels etc. All the hair is trapped inside the bag and they come in sizes ranging from guinea pig up to horse blanket size. Stops your washing machine getting clogged up and leaving pet hair in the drum to get on clothes in the next wash. Hair is easily removed from the bag and they dry in an hour. Available from Amazon.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I will definitely go and have a look at those, thank you! We have pet hairs on everything, and they seem to be worse this summer with the peculiar weather! 🙂 xx

  7. Susan Rayner says:

    I hope that supermarkets will get the message and stop packaging everything in plastic – then the manufacturers of the packaging would have to rethink what they make! I can't remember anything being wrapped in plastic up to the late 70s! Admittedly I wasn't living here in the UK!
    I am investigating a loose leaf tea in a De-Caf version which would be lovely – so far not successfully (some taste awful).
    The Cora Ball sounds as though it is made for America or Australia where they use top loading washing machines more than we do!
    We are all trying our best – but it is not always the consumer who is at fault – we need to get the message across to manufacturers that we won't buy things packaged in plastic and made of non recyclable nylons etc (lots of leisure wear!). The War on Waste programme was a real eye opener!
    I have knitted with Bamboo for socks and they went all floppy and stretched when washed!
    Thank you for a thought provoking and fascinating blog!!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I've looked at loose leaf options for decaf tea as well, although there are environmental issues around how the caffeine is removed – I think each of our decisions has to be made on balance and we can only make the best decision to suit ourselves and our circumstances. I think you're right about the Cora Ball – it is an American invention and the leaflet that came with it did say you might get less fluff out of a front loading machine, but I thought it was worth a try anyway! 🙂 xx

  8. Chiara (blackbird) says:

    I started making my own shampoo bar, soap bar, liquid soap for hands and for washing machine, conditioner, fabric softener, general cleaning product and degreaser (most of them come from the same basic product that i dilute in different ways). I do not go completely plastic free as coconut oil comes in plastic jars (but next order will be 5kg at least!), and a lot of the chemical components are in plastic or must be shipped (carbon print!), but still, instead of using a shampoo bottle a month we use a single shampoo bar, a soap rectangle lasts months (or will last if i give it a longer maturation time!) and i use a very small quantity of machine soap and softener (that is made only from water and citric acid by the way). The plastic container get recycled to contain my own products and make presents. I will not buy acryilic yarn anymore, and if I'll find some beeswax I would try to produce my own wraps. To go totally plastic free is complicated, at the supermarket plastic free fruits and vegetables can cost double than the wrapped ones and sometimes I'm on a budget. Still. An effort is better than nothing!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Wow, it sounds like you're making a huge effort! I'd love to have a go at making shampoo bars but have been put off by the thought of the mess I would make! 🙂 I think that anything that we can do has to make some sort of difference, and we shouldn't be put off even trying because we think we can't do it all xx

  9. Barbiedi says:

    I bought the Koh and was impressed how clean the shower door was, I am doing a bit at a time like you x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh that's fab – thanks for trying it out! It's great stuff, isn't it? I cheered when I saw my shower door! 🙂 xx

  10. Knitting Fiona says:

    Every little helps. I stopped using fabric conditioner and when I do use the tumble dryer, I have wool balls that are great and also help stop things tangling so much. I’ve been using Koh for a while and love it too. I crocheted a hemp scourer, but forgot it would shrink, so need to do one a bit bigger. It do work though. We have a local shop which refills bottles and sells spices and dry goods, weighed in your own containers. Using my local fruit and veg shop too and crocheted a string bag that holds a surprising amount. I just used left over sock yarn so it is easy to wash.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh that's a good idea – I must have a go at making some scourers; I have bought some non-plastic ones but they're still a bit stiff and I could do with something that's a bit more flexible. I wouldn't have thought of making string bags from sock yarn but of course that's perfect and the nylon will make them stronger too. Thank you for the suggestions! xx

  11. Dianna says:

    What a great project! I love my produce bags; I can never re-use the plastic ones from the store so I'm happy to use them instead. I still have a long way to go so I have learned a lot from your post. Thank you!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Thank you! I am learning from other people too, so I think the more that we can all talk about it and share, the more people are going to find out what the options are 🙂 xx

  12. Eileen T says:

    I've just made the decision to eliminate my use of single use plastic (as far as is possible) so this post has been extremely helpful. I'll be changing products as and when they need to be replaced so have plenty of time for research.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I think that's very wise – trying to do it all at once creates more waste, I think, not to mention being very expensive! 🙂 xx

  13. Anonymous says:

    Christine, I never, ever, comment on blogs (shame on me) but I just wanted to say a massive thank you for introducing me to Koh. I am so sceptical about things like that and would never have made the leap without your endorsement. It was worth every penny to get the oven gleaming (yes, I got the wow factor on the door in less than 10 mins!) but the oven shelves are a pig of a job and worth putting in the dishwasher first to save your spray, cloths and elbow grease! I had given up trying to get the film of soap/water marks off the shower tiles, but after admittedly quite a bit of scrubbing they look brand new, and the shower hose, taps etc are gleaming. I am hopeful that now I am back to square one I'll never have such big jobs again.

    The microbibre cloths are huge and such good quality. I really liked 'Knitting Fiona's' tip about making hemp scourers (using these on some jobs are a great halfway house between the cloth and the diamond sponge) – I am amazed how well they work and no more green plastic tat by the sink. I used plain garden jute twine and crocheted Lucy's 'Flora flower' as well as some rectangles with puffed stitches. I was worried that they would smell, but if rinsed properly, they don't at all. They can be washed with my tea towels and cloths and at the end of life they can go in the compost.

    I enjoy reading all the posts you write, but this one has genuinely been one of the most useful things I have read on any blog, so thanks again!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh I'm so pleased the Koh has worked so well for you, thank you for letting me know! I have been so delighted with how Koh has made such light work of the cleaning for me; I've found myself wandering around the house saying "what can I clean now?" which had been previously un-heard of! 🙂 That first effort of scrubbing is definitely worth the effort – my shower doors have definitely stayed easier to clean, which as been a great relief!

      I really must have a go at making some hemp scourers. I bought some non-plastic scrubby pads on the recommendation of someone else and they are very good, but are still quite stiff and sometimes you need something softer to get into the corners. I shall investigate on your recommendation of those, thank you! 🙂 xx

  14. dollis says:

    Has your daughter tried The Unicorn Grocery at Chorlton? Plastic-free and sustainable produce and they also source as much as they can locally, offering a huge range of environmentally-friendly products.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      No, she lives in the city centre and hasn't ventured out to the wilds of Chorlton yet! 🙂 I'll mention it to her, though, I'm sure she'd be interested in making a visit! xx

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