Practical notes on how to save water on...


I am totally obsessed with plastic and how to stop using it.   All plastic is essentially created from crude oil.  Crude oil takes millions of years to form, compressed from decaying plant and mineral matter, in order to occur naturally.  Mankind has ravaged the world of its oil resources in the last two hundred years with fewer countries, supplying less oil from one decade to the next.  We cannot continue our love affair with plastic, it is not a sustainable material.  

Even recycling plastic takes a lot of effort and energy to produce and as plastic is recycled the quality reduces so most plastic cannot be recycled more than 10 or 20 times before the quality is so bad the product becomes worthless.  Often recycled plastic is blended with virgin material to increase the quality of the final product.  So our reliance on crude oil continues…

Think about how much plastic you use in your daily life… the vast majority of commercial activity provides products used in domestic life somewhere, somehow: golf clubs, mobile phones, lipstick, cars, jewellery, shoes.  Plastic is used everywhere –for everything! Where do we start –what is more important?  The best way to think about this is the life time of an object –what do you use once and throw away? What creates the most rubbish? These things are the worst offenders because they need recycling more often or end up in a landfill site or an incinerator more frequently.   

The disposable side of fast moving consumer goods is the worst offender here, fast food, fast entertainment, quick and easy everything on the go, comes at a price.   For example if you have a telephone made of plastic and you use this day in day out for 20 years this is of less consequence that buying plastic shampoo bottles every 6 weeks.  Burning plastic generates a lot of methane and carbon dioxide which increases global warming so the more that goes in the bin the worse it gets.  These are my top five “plastic cut outs”:

              1.  "1 drink" Soft drink bottles

              2.  Carrier bags

             3.  Squash and Water bottles

             4.  Cosmetics

             5.  Clothes

What are the alternatives to plastic?  If you look at the history of plastic you get some good clues as to how we can drive down our reliance on this type of material. Who remembers the 1950s? Sandwiches got wrapped in greaseproof paper; ginger beer came in a glass bottle; lunchboxes were made of metal; no shower gel in sight.  Glass and aluminium can be recycled for ever and ever with no loss of quality. The first products to really benefit from early plastics like bakelite (they just had to call it bakelite after Dr. Leo Baekeland, as its real name was polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride !) –were products benefiting from its heat resistant and electrical insulating properties. For example: radio and telephone casings. 

copyright old telephones flickr

So can we go back to those days when only a few products needed plastic? Probably not, technology has moved on and new solutions are appearing all the time, but it is useful to have the 1950s in your head to think about why the way we live is so different now. The container for rubbish to be collected by the public services is referred to as the DUST bin for the exact reason that it used to just contain dust.  Any waste was thrown onto the coal fire and when the fire has died, cold ashes or dust went into the dust bin. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, tread lightly on the earth.


  • Avoid “food on the go” which has plastic packaging, take your own bottled drinks and your own homemade packed lunch, if you have to wrap your sandwich, use greaseproof paper.
  • Carrier bags –take your own re-usable bags shopping
  • When you get inside a supermarket choose glass or metal over plastic containers for drinks, cooking oil etc. Go to the deli counter if the meat is individually wrapped for you by the person behind the counter, a plastic or paper bag from them is better that a plastic tray from the shelves in the meat isle....
  • Stop buying cling film –use containers with lids instead –you just don’t need it
  • Buy real butter blocks in a paper wrap rather than in a plastic tub
  • Cosmetics – shop around or just avoid –try olive oil for moisturiser and age gracefully
  • Buy shampoo bars, conditioner bars, solid deodorant blocks and solid soap –avoid bottled hair care and liquid soap, is a great place to look for this stuff ...(also see my post on SOAP)
  • Disposable razors –get an old fashioned handle and just change blades
  • Choose leather shoes, cotton T-shirts and woollen sweaters over nylon/viscose/polyester/rayon
  • Swap your clutch of biro pens for a single, refillable fountain pen, that is your very own.

***above all, think before you buy, the planet is not that cheap!***

I have yet to experiment with wooden real bristle toothbrushes, but they do exist….

post script

This click here is an interesting article on how much raw material we use per person

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