A Week Without Single Use Plastic?

My name is Janie French. I am an old friend of Lesley's. Inspired by #PlasticFreeJuly, I decided to spend last week reducing the amount of single use plastic I get through. I wanted to write this blog because I live in a town (Hexham) without a zero-waste shop. How hard would it be?

Day One – Monday Eggs for breakfast (this is a recurring theme for the week). I buy free range, local eggs from Hexham market as usual. No plastic required.

Bad news. My daughter has broken my favourite mug and I can’t live without it. Luckily, Re in Corbridge still stock it. They use tissue paper and a paper bag to wrap it up, so it’s a guilt-free purchase.

For our tea, we have locally-farmed pork fillets from the butchers (I take plastic containers in with me) with mushrooms on the side. Hexham Market’s veg stall has just gone back to using brown paper bags, which is great timing for me.

On the downside, a duvet cover that I had ordered from Argos has TWO plastic covers on it. Argos do, however, tell me to leave the plastic with them as they recycle it. I buy some butter and realise that all of the wrappers are non-recyclable. it's a lot less plastic waste than our usual Yeo Valley tub, however. I do take them for recycling, but this may have to be a permanent swap. I am not ready to start churning my own quite yet...

Day Two – Tuesday A bigger Hexham Market runs every Tuesday, so I head down to the stall that Ridley’s Fish and Game run. Most of the stock is covered with cling film (grey squirrel ,anyone?), but the fresh fish isn’t. I hand my container over and buy smoked haddock and some samphire. The guy serving me is very happy to help.

Later on, I visit Spokes Kitchen in Corbridge with one of my daughters. She is on board with reducing our single-use plastic and makes sure that the drink she orders comes from a tin. The waitress brings it with a metal straw, which is great.

Day Three - Wednesday I receive a mounted print that I’d ordered from the V&A. I am surprised by the amount of bubble wrap they’ve used to protect it, which seems excessive. However, thanks to a Clean and Green initiative being run locally, I know that one of the local galleries uses recycled bubble wrap, so I am going to take it there.

My kids keep staring at the shelf where the biscuits normally appear. I tell them that if they want them then they have to make them as I can't find plastic free versions.. They rustle up some cookies using ingredients that come in paper or tins. Result and we are going to make our own from now on. I must find a recipe that's less delicious as the biscuits go very quickly!

Not the biscuits my kids made!

Day Four – Thursday I head down to my local Waitrose to see what I can buy there without involving plastic. It’s a real challenge. I end up getting some lovely bread from their bakery (it comes in paper bags) and lots of tinned things. We have soup for lunch all week (not a bad thing). The only rice or pasta that I can find in cardboard rather than plastic is a gluten free version. It’s nice but far pricier than standard pasta.

Entire aisles of the shop seem to be out of bounds. I buy some meat from the deli counter - in a plastic container I brought from home - and serve it up with roast veg from the market.

Not the bread I bought

Day Five - Friday We run out of milk. I get it delivered in glass bottle from my milkman and forgot to increase my order. At the supermarket there's nothing dairy to buy in glass bottles apart from chocolate milk. I end up buying milk in a paper carton, which I can recycle. I have a horrible feeling that it is plastic coated...

Friday is curry night. I rustle a korma up using fish from the supermarket fish counter (I remembered my plastic container again) and some market veg. I can’t buy rice without it being in a plastic bag, so I make roti to go with it.

I go to our local cinema with a friend. All of the snacks are wrapped in plastic, so avoiding single-use plastic is a great way to resist temptation!

Not the curry I made!

The weekend My kids are away for the weekend, so I eat out a couple of times with friends. Otherwise, I do a lot of work on the house and just grab something easy to eat when I can from what I have stocked up.

Where can I get hold of dog treats? Our traditional pet shop that sold dog chews loose closed down a couple of years ago. My local Pets At Home don't have anything suitable without single-use plastic. Much to the amusement of my kids (who had to make their own treats earlier in the week), I cave in and buy the treats for the dog. I go for the make with the smallest amount of plastic, but feel cross that I have to have plastic at all.. I’ve always bought biodegradable dog bags, so that isn’t an issue, luckily

I am also slightly obsessed with ‘my’ resident sparrows and can’t see them starve, so I head back to Hexham Market. The lovely people at Shield Green Nurseries sell me some bird seed in a biodegradable carrier, which I will reuse again and again..

Not my child...or my dog

Finished! That was the week done. My weekly rubbish reduced massively over the seven days from normal. Once you start ruling out items that use single-use plastic, it makes you realise just how much it surrounds us. Throughout the week, I chatted to people running our local shops about #PlasticFreeJuly. They were all making as many changes as they could having been challenged to get rid of at least three areas of single use plastic in their business by Hexham Clean and Green.. It was really heartening.

Having a local market made my week achievable. However, I would have found the week much easier if I’d been able to get to a zero-waste shop like The Simple Weigh. I’ll certainly be stocking up on pasta and rice next time I’m in Hartlepool. In the longer term, I would have run out of household products such as Ecover laundry liquid and this is something I'll be refilling with Lesley. I feel really happy to have dipped my toe into #PlasticFreeJuly. It's really made me think about how and where I spend my money. I will be carrying on with a lot of what I have learned to reduce the single-use plastic in my life.

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