10 Items you never knew contained plastic - Plastic Free July Part 2


To continue with the #plasticfreejuly theme, we wanted to bring you part 2 where we explore some of the items we use daily that we don’t usually think about when we think of plastic waste. Plastic is used to store food, make toys, and package just about everything. But, plastic has also found its way into quite a few items you may not have expected. Plastic is an extremely useful and cheap material because of its durability and origins from petroleum, see more info about this in our last blog. However, now we are facing plastic invasion, and knowledge is power so here are 10 things to look out for when fighting the good fight against single-use plastic waste!


Tea Bags
You may associate tea bags with your favorite sleepy time beverage, but did you know almost all store-bought tea bags seal those natural tea leaves in very unnatural polyethylene.  If you’ve been throwing these in your compost, quit while you’re ahead, as they won’t break down any time soon. 
Alternative:
Consider switching to loose leaf tea and a reusable tea bag.

Chewing Gum
Nearly all gums contain plastic and double that if you include their packaging and you’re rolling in it. Originally, gum used to be made with only natural rubbers, like chicle (which is latex sap from a sapodilla tree), or natural waxes, such as beeswax or paraffin wax. However, after World War 2, when synthetic rubber was able to be manufactured, the natural rubbers and wax in chewing gum was replaced by plastics, such as polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate. 
Alternative:
Some gum brands, such as Glee Gum in the US, are making gums with chicle and other natural ingredients. And if you’re looking to cut down on the plastic in the packaging for your gum, look for brands that don’t individually package each piece, and are sold in cardboard packages or little recyclable tins. 
 
Tetra Paks
Most people think they are recyclable, but due to a sneaky layer of polyethylene between layers of paperboard and aluminum, Tetra Paks are not recyclable at all facilities, and separating these layers can be incredibly difficult!  Be conscious of the packaging you pick when trying to go green, if you can it is great to go with a material you know can be recycled.
Alternative:
If Tetra Paks aren’t recyclable at a center near you, then look for liquids in other normally recyclable and plastic-free materials, such as glass, aluminum, or steel. However, it can be hard to find certain liquids that come in plastic-free packaging. If that’s the case, then try to look for bulk packaging or try to make your own! For example, if you can’t find a plastic-free soda option at your local store, you could bring your own glass bottle or jug to fill up at a soda station. For juices, try blending your own, or look at local farmer's markets or cafes that make their own juice and let you bring your own plastic-free container. 
 
Produce Bags and Stickers
As you try to avoid plastic bags at the grocery store, most of the grocery stores are using produce bags and it includes a sticker which is made of plastic only!
Alternative:
Some grocery stores are now looking into laser marking products to get the same end result, but in the meantime, do your best and bring your own bags for produce.

Tin and Aluminum Cans
To keep the metal from corroding, beverage manufacturers line the inside of cans with a resin called epoxy.  Epoxy is generally thermosetting plastic and is harmful when inhaled or comes in contact with skin causing nose irritation, eczema etc.
Alternative:
Plan ahead and keep your favorite beverage handy in a reusable bottle! For broths, you could look into using bouillon cubes, or just make your own, which is also a good way to use leftover vegetable or meat scraps.

Glitter
Glitter is one of the most common ways to glam up a party, whether it's for graduation or a baby shower, but almost all glitter is made of plastic, so once it's in the oceans and land, it never goes away.  It has a special way of making everything happier, but this cosmetic ingredient and holiday essential is in fact a microplastic that can invade our water systems and oceans.
Alternative:
Luckily, companies like Bio-Glitter have developed biodegradable glitter!  Bio-glitter is made of Eucalyptus cellulose and it biodegrades in nature in 30 days.  Another bonus to Bio-glitter is that they sell their glitter in glass bottles, so their product is 100% plastic-free.

If you really want to get into DIY, you could use food coloring and salt, sand, or rice and make your own natural glitter. Get a few cups of the material, add a few drops of food coloring, shake, and next thing you know, you have glitter!  Another alternative to glitter is confetti. Confetti is made of paper, so no worries about contaminating the environment, just make sure it's plastic-free.

Glass Jar Lids
Many people use glass jars in an attempt to be environmentally conscious, and while the jar itself is glass, the metal lids contain a layer of plastic to create a seal and prevent rusting.  
Alternative:
Reuse your jars when possible and be sure to recycle the jar when it’s time to part ways!

Disposable Coffee Cups
Coffee cups might seem like things that are recycled with ease, but did you know these cups are lined with plastic to keep your hot bean water from seeping through? 
Alternative:
See if your favorite coffee spot will fill a reusable thermos, and if not, make your own coffee at home. Your wallet and the planet will thank you!

Clothing
Do you know what your clothes are made of?  Check the label! If you see the words, acrylic, microfiber, polyester, or nylon your clothes are not only made of plastic but are releasing microplastics into waterways with every wash. 
Alternative:
Look for clothes made out of sustainable, natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, hemp, soybean, Tencel (which is made out of wood pulp), and other rayon materials! Clothes made out of these materials maybe a little more expensive, but they can be worth investing in. Another way to cut down on the plastic in your closet is to cut down on the number of clothes you buy, and getting good use out of the ones you do have. If you can, try to avoid the lures of fast fashion and only update your closet when you really need to. 

Paper Milk Cartons
If there’s something you might have gathered from the previous items on this list, it's that if it’s holding a liquid, it more than likely has a plastic coating, and paper milk cartons are no exception.  A typical shelf-stable carton averages 74 percent paper, 22 percent plastic, and 4 percent aluminum, making it difficult to recycle.  
Alternative:
If your grocery store offers it, try glass milk bottles!

Next time you buy something, consider if you need it or if you could go without it. As plastic has seeped its way into so many of our daily items, it may seem overwhelming to say the least. But don’t fear, just start one step at a time and you will be doing your part to save the planet. Try removing just one of the above items from your daily routine each month if you can. You may even find that the alternative is saving you money in the long run. Do you know any other items? Tell us in the comments below.


This plastic-free July, gain a little knowledge, inform yourself, and see if you can make one change towards sustainability in your daily life. Let’s do our part to make a difference. 

In case you’re interested in learning more about composting, do check out our new video on youtube: 73 Questions About Composting.

At Saathi, we developed all-natural biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made of banana and bamboo fiber which are good for the body, community, and environment. When you purchase Saathi pads, you are not just getting a soft, rash-free product, but you’re also helping an Indian farmer, enabling a village girl to attend school because she has access to pads, and reducing plastic pollution and CO2 emissions! Hats off to you!

Follow us at @saathipads on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Youtube to learn more facts and myth busters about sustainability, women’s health, and more.

 

 

Sources: 

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-in-chewing-gum-604296, https://myplasticfreelife.com/2017/02/glee-chewing-gum-goes-plastic-free/
https://medium.com/climate-conscious/tetra-paks-are-100-recyclable-but-are-they-sustainable-849949e763e5
https://www.discoverbioglitter.com/#section_1, https://www.todayglitter.com/, https://sophiesbarn.com/blogs/news/seven-eco-friendly-alternatives-to-glitter
https://www.vettacapsule.com/blogs/blog/your-guide-to-eco-friendly-fabrics

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