RWM 2019 WAS RECORD-BREAKING - Look at the show highlights here!

16 & 17 SEPT 2020


The UK's Largest Recycling & Waste Management Exhibition

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16 & 17 SEPT 2020 - NEC, BIRMINGHAM

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A plastic-free day in the life

Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week, made a commendable effort to avoid plastic for 24 hours. Read about her experience below...

When RWM extended the invitation to join them for Plastic Free Day, I couldn’t resist.

The aim of plastic free day is to raise awareness of how much single use disposable plastic we use and then take the pledge to live without any for 24 hours. 

Some of the statistics around plastic waste are shocking. In the UK we’re drinking our way through the contents of 35 million single use plastic bottles and 7 million disposable coffee cups per day. Not the mention the 8.5 million plastic straws (here are some sustainable alternatives to plastic straws) and our appetite for 16 million packets of crisps!

I’m fortunate in that I work from home, so I can control to some extent what goes on. However, the downside is I’m responsible for absolutely everything – there’s no passing the buck for me! 

My morning shower went well using a solid shampoo bar on my hair and home made toothpaste (If you’re time poor, head to LUSH to buy toothy tabs). I haven’t switched to a bamboo toothbrush but I use one where I only have to replace the head, which massively reduces waste. I forgo deodorant as I’m not meeting clients – brave me! Poor husband 😉

But breakfast was another matter. 

I ditched the caffeine habit a few years ago, so don’t have to negotiate coffee pods or plastic milk bottles. But I begin the day with a smoothie and that’s where things started to go pear shaped! I buy frozen fruit in bulk from a local farm and today is the day when I run out of something. Typical! 

I bulk up the calories of my smoothies with yogurt and cream – both of which come in plastic pots. I had a go at making yogurt once but it didn’t turn out well and I was put off for life. I *could* buy milk in glass bottles and make my own yogurt again, but the reality is that I probably won’t.

At work I have to print and send something to a client. My cartridge is running out! I put a new one in and instantly realise I’m left with a horrible piece of plastic full of toxic chemicals to dispose of. I usually throw these in landfill, but today I browse on the internet for solutions. HP tell me that more than 80% of their ink cartridges are manufactured with ‘closed loop’ recycled plastic. They also provide me with a postage paid return label so I can send back my empty cartridge for recycling. I’m beyond delighted! 

Throughout the day I’m faced with all these bits of plastic I don’t usually take much notice of  – toilet roll wrapping, packaging sent to me in the post, food packaging, cat food pouches, later in the day a hanger breaks, emptying my daughter’s lunchbox (confectionary wrappers, a plastic bag she’s picked up from somewhere), a disposable biro that runs out… the list goes on.

While there are solutions to many of these items which I’ve explored before, my biggest realisation from taking part in Plastic Free Day is that I’ve got out of the habit. We all do, right? So today’s experience has got me back on the bandwagon, determined to do more to reduce my reliance on single-use plastics. I won’t be making yogurt any time soon, but I’ll definitely be buying more loose fruits and vegetables when I next go shopping!

Rachelle Strauss is founder of the award-winning Zero Waste Week campaign. She provides householders, businesses and schools with products, talks and workshops so they can reduce waste, save money and preserve resources.