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I tried living plastic free for a week and it’s a lot harder than you’d think

Why don’t they make paper-packaged hummus

Everyone has seen those pictures, the ones of the sea covered in plastic, and animals who have eaten carrier bags and straws. There’s a massive push to eliminate plastic use as much as possible, with the EU even voting to ban single-use plastics last month.

How easy is it though, to live completely without plastic?

Well for a week I was going to have to live without the cheap, disposable shit that most students rely on and see how easy it really is to live completely plastic-free. My aim was to not use a single product made of or packaged in single-use plastic and see how achievable a plastic-free life really is.

Day one

Okay, I can do this. I naively headed on a normally mundane supermarket trip thinking this week would be easy. Well, turns out, food shopping is a lot more difficult when you can't just buy whatever you like. Is this how it feels to be vegan?

I could see immediately that the supermarket was making an effort to reduce its plastic use, as there were huge sections dedicated to loose fruit, with paper bags to put it in. A lot of the loose fruit had already sold out too, showing the popularity of this plastic free movement.

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I had to quickly rethink my meal plan, since instead of buying a bag of small potatoes packaged in plastic, the only alternative was a 7.5kg bag (if there were any loose ones they were all sold out). Remembering I had to walk home, that idea had to be scrapped.

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Thank u, next

A few more minutes and a few more pounds than I would normally have spent, I had managed to do my first entirely plastic-free supermarket trip.

Me: 1, plastic: 0

Day two

My housemate’s cowboy-themed 21st party threw up a bit of an unexpected issue. Where can you get a cowboy hat that isn't one of those plastic glittery ones restaurants give away at kids birthday parties? Well, thank you Unit 's Captain Morgan night.

Proud of my quick thinking and impressed with my costume, I went to get my housemate’s verdict, and was quickly told this was actually a pirate hat, not a cowboy hat.

Maybe the plastic won that.

I did pass up the convenience of using a disposable plastic cup and gave myself an extra 30 seconds of washing up by using a glass instead.

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The only thing less classy than boxed wine is boxed wine from a pint glass

Fortunately, someone managed to find a spare leather hat (don’t ask why) and my costume was restored.

I even skipped the cheesy chips on the way home because of the plastic fork.

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Feeling a bit more legit now

Day three

Shit. I’ve run out of shampoo. The possibility of waiting until the week was over did cross my mind but one look in the mirror quickly changed it again. I looked online and whilst there are some any plastic free options, they wouldn't arrive in time and were mostly significantly more expensive than a bottle would be.

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It didn't take too long though, however, to realise Lush have a whole zero waste range. These 'naked' product include shampoos, deodorants, soaps and even toothpaste tabs.

Being conveniently situated on Exeter High Street meant I was able to make the most of this before the end of the week, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the selection, and especially the smell.

Day four

Predicting that it was probably going to be hard to find something cheap on campus that wasn't packaged in plastic, I had to utilise some serious organisation skills and take a pre-made lunch to the library, wrapped in foil ofc.

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More effort went into the preparation than the presentation OK

I walked all the way there, feeling smug in my successful at attempts at #adulting, only to discover upon arrival that the foil had all come unwrapped. It did give me an excuse to go home early though.

Day five

I had the day off uni, so planned to get a lot of work done, but quickly realised that essay planning is a lot more demoralising when you don't have food to get you through.

I was still managing to only eat what I had brought on day one, but as this was all packaged in paper or tins, it meant saying goodbye to a lot of snacks, as these typically come in a plastic film, or contain plastic in the packaging.

This meant no crisps, breadsticks, and most tragically, hummus.

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The most painful break up of all

Quick meals were predominantly off the cards too, as foods like pasta, ready meals, and a lot of soups all come in *sigh* plastic containers.

While I initially thought this week would be an interesting challenge, I have to admit that it was at this point I started to look forward to it being over.

Day six

My boyfriend came to visit over the weekend, and I was definitely apprehensive about how a restaurant meal would fare with being plastic free. It was the first time during the week that I was in an environment I had no control over at all, and the worry about straws in drinks and plastic sticks through burgers all came to mind, but I actually ended up being pleasantly surprised!

Drinks were brought out without any straws – though some people had paper ones in their drinks so I think the option was available, but only if you asked for it – and there wasn't any plastic holding the food together at all.

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No straws!!

The absence of straws and use of wooden cocktail sticks served as a reminder that the world definitely is aware not only of the reliance we have on plastic products, but of the availability of alternatives for some single use plastics.

For the first time all week, I didn’t feel like I had to worry about what my food came in or if it might be hidden somewhere in its seemingly innocent packaging.

Day seven

Despite nearly being out of food, I put off going to the supermarket until the next day, when I could actually buy what I needed without despairing over what I couldn’t. I decided to make the most of my one remaining day though, and head back to Lush to get some more from their waste free range. It smells really good, okay?

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My housemate's fridge shelf making me infinitely jealous

While making my final plastic-free dinner I do have to say I was looking forward to being able to eat without worrying what it was packaged in. Though I knew what I was doing was good for the environment, it definitely wasn't good for my sanity to obsess over packaging that much.

But when I was looking longingly in the fridge, I couldn't help but think of how unnecessary a lot of the plastic packaging was. It seems like a lot of it could have been replaced by paper or cardboard instead, and that whether the convenience of having single-use plastic is really worth the environmental cost.

This didn't make me change my mind about stopping this challenge though.

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I mean, at least it's being recycled

Concluding thoughts

Living plastic free is hard. Whether you like it or not, plastic is clearly included in a lot more products than we even realise.

For a week, it was doable, but living an entirely plastic free life is a serious commitment. There is a definite price difference in products branded as plastic free and those that aren’t, and plastic containing products can be a lot easier to get hold of.

But, it did feel good knowing that for a week at least I wasn’t contributing to the increasingly damaging effects of plastic pollution on the world. Whilst this week proved that the world is definitely trying to reduce its dependence on plastic, it also proved that there is a long way to go.

The EU’s aim of completely banning single use plastics is definitely a step in the right direction, but for a completely plastic free world there is more that needs to be done in making products more accessible, both in shops, and for those on all types of incomes.

And we should definitely start with the hummus.