Three Plastic Necessities We Cannot Yet Escape
We're trying desperately in many areas of our life to ensure we're got the eco-box ticked, however there are some things where technology and packaging simply haven't caught up yet! Check out the below, and some ways on how you can think a little more wisely about these problem products.
The humble bamboo toothbrush has simplified and catalyzed many an eco friendly bathroom makeover. You can now find them everywhere from eco stores to supermarkets and they are saving billions of unrecyclable plastic toothbrushes from coming into existence. Not only is bamboo fast growing, compostable and affordable, it is also naturally antibacterial. This simple, sustainable idea is being produced by many companies however the one problem they all face is that there is not yet a solution for the bristles.
All designs currently use a “degradable polymer”. This is a fancy way if saying PLASTIC and all plastic (all matter in fact) is technically “degradable” at some point…it will break up into tiny pieces and this is NOT the same as “biodegradable” or “compostable”. It is the reality of our current technology and overall bamboo toothbrushes are far more environmentally friendly than their marine-destroying plastic cousins. When I am finished with my toothbrush I upcycle it as a scrubber for my bathroom, an eyebrow brush or for art projects. At the end of its life I pull out all the bristles or snap off the head and put them in a paper bag in the rubbish. There is no use trying to recycle these tiny bits of plastic, they will get lost in the sorting process. The bamboo can go in the compost or back into the Earth.
Medication and supplements
I believe in preventative practices and self-healing through natural medicines and modalities, food, movement and rest. At times we may need to call upon the benefits of Western medicine. Over my years of existing Waste Free, I have had 2 knee reconstructions, foot surgery, golden staff, and parasites to name a few so acknowledge and respect the role medication has played in my health. We must not feel guilty about granting ourselves forgiveness for using these when needed. At the same time medication is extremely overprescribed and overused. The convenient quick-fix it offers to many preventable or naturally curable issues is tempting, however I implore you to question why and whether you need it. Can a gentle, more natural approach help? If I get a headache I question if I have had enough water and sleep or if my neck has tightness.
Supplements in general are not needed if we eat wholesomely, but there are times where they provide great value. I have been on a naturopathic path to ridding myself of parasites and restoring my gut lining for several months (and I have successfully done so). I was prescribed several herbal supplements to enhance my healing which I decided to buy, understanding the importance of restoring my wellbeing but feeling very uncomfortable about the plastic. After learning what the components of the medicines were, I managed to source them in bulk (glutamine, oregano, slippery elm and some liquid herbal extracts that were measured out and poured into my own jar by a naturopathic pharmacist). If only I had questioned this at the start, but lesson learned nonetheless.
Pharmaceuticals and supplements generally come in blister packs or bottles and I don’t see this changing any time soon. The best we can do is reuse or recycle bottles and cardboard packets. Blister packs must be separated into foil and plastic before being recycled through TerraCycle (paired with Bausch + Lomb to handle all blister packs and contact lens packs) however if this isn’t available for you sometimes they just have to go to landfill. For unused or expired medication, ask your pharmacist about their drug take-back programs for safety purposes.
Ah, the eternal question of what water filtration system to use. Firstly it depends on what water you’re filtering (town, tank, ground or travel), what it contains and what you want to filter out (pathogens, bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride etc). All filters serve different purposes and have varying levels of effectiveness. All need changing after a while depending on usage.
My partner and I have played with several processes. We sourced a second hand jug with replacement filters. When we reached the end of the filter stockpile, it was time to research. We spent a while purchasing water from a reverse osmosis machine in our own 5L jars. This is a great option if it is available to you as they are powerful filters and the water is affordable. You do need a large container and I struggled to find something big enough in glass as I do not feel great about storing water in plastic. I eventually got tired of driving to the machine every few days.
There are above-bench and below-bench filters that attach to your sink. It is a large market and they vary in quality and function so I encourage you to do your research. These can get costly and all will come partly made of or wrapped in plastic. I looked into these second hand (of which there are many) but I couldn’t find one that suited my requirements at the time. On the opposite end of the scale, a stick of activated charcoal or a shungite rock can be placed in a jar or water overnight to remove many impurities. These are powerful, natural and can be bought waste free. I wish these filtered out fluoride but they do not.
We ended up deciding on a ceramic filter system. Basically this is a big ceramic jug where you fill a little bowl in the top with water, it travels through a filter and collects in the lower section. Luckily we bought a ceramic jug from an op shop years ago. These can be found second hand too. The filter is a “candle” of absorbent particles including activated alumina (to remove fluoride) and activated charcoal in a silver-impregnated ceramic micro porous shell. There is an extremely small amount of plastic used in the base of the candle to fix it to the ceramic bowl and mine also came with a little bubble wrap however I have not come across another filter that involves less plastic. For me, for now this is the perfect fit.
Travelling? For many years I have used Fill2Pure’s stainless steel bottle that has an impressive, heavily researched and developed filter, allowing me to drink water anywhere (including places in South America, America, Israel and Fiji) and negates the need to buy bottled water. There is of course plastic components involved in the bottle and in the packaging but I make my decision through weighing up the fact that one bottle allows me to avoid buying bottled water for years per filter.
These are the three main contributors of plastic waste in my life. At the moment, there is no way around them so I acknowledge their importance, take measured decisions when purchasing them and dispose of responsibly. There is no need to stress ourselves over aiming to be “Zero Waste” in a world that doesn’t yet allow us to be. Be kind to yourself and remember all the other ways you can contribute to lowering your footprint. My 33 day video guide, The Waste Free Way in 33 Days, walks you through the transition to waste free living with experience-based tools, resources and personal support so if this has sparked some interest in you, please come on board to move together to a low waste lifestyle.