Replace these hidden-in-plain-sight plastics in your home

You may not be aware of just how dependent on plastic you are in your everyday life. Here are some ones to look out for, and eco-friendly swaps to try out

It can be easy to villify brands that use single-use-plastics or haven't made the swap for more eco-friendly materials, but there are few who can claim to be living perfectly zero-waste and plastic-free. Of course we need brands to be more transparent about what products are made from, but we also need to constantly check-in with what we use, as plastics have been discreetly incorporated into so many commonplace items in the home. Here are a few ways plastic is hiding in your home, and how to make a change that can help cut that amount back.

Teabags

You may be surprised to learn that most tea bags actually aren’t compostable, as they contain microplastics. Microplastics, like polypropylene, are used to seal many commercial tea bags, Barry's included. The brand made headlines last year when they announced that they are looking into alternatives. If Lyons is more your thing, apparently their tea bags fall into a similar camp, though owners Unilever announced plans to introduce a 100% plant-based option by the end of 2018 in the UK.

Rather than cutting open your used teabags, dumping the leaves in the compost and washing and drying the bag for the plastic recycling (yes, really), embrace loose tea or make a swap to one of these brands instead; Clipper, Teapigs, Pukka Herbs, Twinings (loose leaf pyramid bag only) and Aldi Specially Selected range.

Polyester

You already probably feel guilty enough about your fast fashion habit — but did you know that when you wash synthetic fibres in the washing machine, tiny plastics get released, ending up in the our rivers and oceans? Polyester, that cheap, mass-produced material that fills our wardrobes, has a lot to answer for. The Guppyfriend Washing Bag (available for about €30 online) is scientifically proven to catch these fibres. Place the washing in the bag, and afterwards when the wash is finished pick the microplastics out of the bag, like lint.

Floss

This is one we use daily and yet never really considered as plastic before — proving the work isn’t done when it comes to opening our eyes to our dependency on plastic. Traditional floss is waxed nylon (nylon and plastic are both made from crude oil). Instead of the plastic variety you are used to using, opt for silk (look for PETA-approved, wild and/or sustainably grown varieties like Georganics).

Tampons

You might be loyal to certain brands and buy your pads and tampons on autopilot when that time of the month comes around. But those plastic wrappers and applicators add up over time, and even pads themselves tend to be made with a plastic backing and ‘like-cotton’ synthetics that have harmful environmental consequences. A Mooncup or similar product is the best reusable option — but don’t feel guilty if it’s not for you, as it can take getting used to. Instead, try to reduce the amount of plastic you’re using each cycle by abandoning plastic applicators. A 2018 study found that 60% of women prefer tampons with applicators. Natracare tampons and pads are widely available in health food shops and are plastic-free, instead made from renewable, biodegradable and certifiably compostable materials. The tampons also are available with a cardboard applicator, if you feel you need it. All the cotton used in the products is Global Organic Textile Standard-certified, meaning that there is no toxic pesticide use and picking follows environmentally sound standards. And of course, even though it may be less straightforward to use an applicator-free tampon or you may have your doubts about using a more simple-looking pad, these products are just as effective as the mainstream options, just a little pared-back — that’s what happens when we cut out unnecessary plastics.

Everyday accessories

Clothes pegs, scrubbing brushes, baby soothers… you may have ditched your disposable cutlery and coffee cups, but chances are these plastic products are still your go-to around the house. Do a scan of your home and see where you can invest in alternatives when the time comes to replace them. Embrace the wooden clothes pegs we grew up with, try rubber baby soothers and an old fashioned scrubbing brush.

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