I went a week without using single-use plastic and it was more difficult than I thought
I didn’t starve to death!
Recently, the environmental impact of single-use plastic waste has been a talking point. After noticing just how much waste my flat generates, I decided that my plastic use was a problem – so I decided to go a whole five days without using any single-use plastic. Here's how it went.
The week got off to a good start. I picked up a sourdough loaf from the Scotmid bakery, but as the bag to put bread in had a plastic panel, I decided to just not use one.
I then began to consider my toiletry cabinet. The first problem was medicine – I have chronic knee pain, so need to take paracetamol frequently, and unfortunately there are no recyclable pill packets. I also soon realised that all my toiletries were single-use plastic. I already use micellar water as makeup remover, which is better than makeup wipes, reusable cotton pads, and steel straws – but on a mission to clean up my beauty routine, I went to Lush to find some new toiletries. I've tried "toothy tabs" beforehand (disgusting), and their shampoo bars, but they left my hair dry. Plus, money is tight as a student and £7.50 for a shampoo bar seemed too expensive. In the end, I went with some Dove bar soap – sold without packaging and only 80p.
Lidl has a massive array of plastic-free vegetables, which (despite my concern about germs) I packed without any plastic bags. Unfortunately, I couldn't get things like rice and pasta – but I had a plan for these.
Making meals was hard. My Vegemite on toast was fine for breakfast, however, when it came to lunch and dinner, I struggled. I ended up making sweet potato soup for both meals, using the sweet potatoes, garlic, and Bouillon powder in a recyclable pot. Overall, a tasty meal, and within a student budget.
After lectures, I decided to venture into the New Leaf Co-Op, and by god have I missed out on a gem. This environmentally friendly shop has all the bulk-buy food you'll ever need – I picked up rice, past and couscous. It was probably only about 50p more for each product than I would pay at Tesco. I didn't bring my own container, so just used the paper bags they provide. You can even weigh your food at the checkout to save you from printing off a plastic barcode. Absolute gem.
I also picked up a dishwashing brush that you just replace the head of (like a reusable razor). It's not the best at actually cleaning, but is good for scrubbing dishes. You can also refill hand soap, washing liquid, fabric softener, and buy powdered deodorant from New Leaf.
Next, I Amazon Primed myself a bamboo toothbrush, forgetting that Amazon Prime itself is terrible for the environment. Whoops.
My pain decided to flare up on Wednesday so didn't leave my flat -no snack buying for me! I ate leftover pasta for lunch, and a stir fry for dinner. You can buy soy sauce in glass recyclable bottles, and I used the rice from New Leaf. Completely plastic free, and I spent no money!
I started with lunch at Union of Genius, which is expensive but still tasty. That evening, however, I went to Glasgow for a concert. At Waverley, I realised I hadn't eaten anything in five hours. After searching for what felt like an age, I settled on a bottle of recyclable Diet Coke, and some (sadly non-recyclable) crisps. Buying food on the move, I discovered, is almost impossible to do plastic-free. On top of this, at the concert I specifically requested a glass for my water, but it's against policy, so I had to go with a non-recyclable plastic cup. Disappointed, I tried to enjoy the concert despite the niggling feeling that I was destroying the environment.
I realised by this point that cereal, pancakes and anything breakfast-related was out of the question – so Vegemite and toast it was, for the fifth day in a row. I found out a little too late that you can get cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic at big supermarkets with cheese counters – but what uni student can afford to buy fancy cheese? In the end, I settled with Cathedral City. Sorry environment. I had mac and cheese for lunch (the ultimate comfort food), and then bought some snacks for the train, which included a recyclable bottle of Sprite and some crisps.
To finish the week, when I arrived at home, my parents treated me with a takeaway. We always keep all the takeaway boxes to make lunch for work, school and whatever else we need them for, so I didn't actually feel that bad as we weren't using single-use containers.
Overall, this week has made me so aware of how much single-use plastic we actually use. It definitely has its costs to start off with, but you'll save money and the environment in the long run. I will most definitely be going back to New Leaf, and bringing my own non-plastic bags to the shops. I don't think I'll ever be able to go totally single-use plastic free – but I can do my bit.