Your refill and plastic-free shopping has avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic!

We’ve leapt forward into spring and made it through the first 3 months of the year. We wanted to let you know that you guys have avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic in that time!

This breaks down as avoiding 3038 pieces of single-use plastic packaging through refill shopping:

2629 pieces of single-use food packaging (including 100 packets of oats, 49 packets of brown rice, 45 packets of dates and 36 packets of granola!)

287 home cleaning plastic bottles (including 65 bottles of laundry and 22 spray bottles of multi surface cleaner!)

122 bathroom plastic bottles (including 50 bottles of shampoo/body wash and 40 bottles of hand wash!)

On top of this you have also avoided 1623 single use plastic items:

120 plastic kitchen sponges avoided by switching to our natural alternatives

A further 17 bottles of shampoo avoided through switching to shampoo bars

Another 57 bottles of body / hand wash avoided through switching to soap bars

1300 single-use plastic cotton buds avoided by switching to bamboo cotton buds

27 plastic toothbrushes avoided by switching to bamboo

31 plastic tubes of toothpaste avoided by switching to toothpaste tabs or the tooth soap

3 body sponges by switching to loofahs

20 plastic or aerosol deodorants avoided due to switching to our plastic free natural version

At least 6 plastic razors by switching to a safety razor

At least 13 rolls of cling film by switching to wax food wraps

At least 3 plastic disposable coffee cups by switching to a reusable version

At least 5 plastic disposable cutlery sets by switching to a reusable version

At least 21 plastic disposable straws by switching to a reusable version

A huge thank you from us for your support and organisation to switching to refill and plastic-free shopping, its when we do these numbers that we get super excited and motivated about what we do!

These numbers mean even more when you consider that since the beginning of the year there have been 2 known reports of dead whales washing up with substantial amounts of plastic in their stomachs and that a recent report done on British marine mammals found microplastics in each and every one. We desperately need to stop the plastic tide and the easiest way to do that is to avoid it!

Sperm Whale with 22 kgs in Sardinia

Curvier Beaked Whale with 40 kgs in Philippines

British Micro Plastic Study

Image from Stijn Dijkstra

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Spring has sprung! Easter on its way...but without all the waste

We’ve made it through the dark, seemingly endless nights, the mizzle, the storms and the snow to finally reach the special moment of the Spring equinox, where the scales are tipped and daylight hours get longer. A time to celebrate rebirth and renewal with spring festivals not far behind.

In the run up to Easter its estimated that 80 million Easter eggs are sold annually in the UK and with that comes the dreaded packaging! Easter egg makers have come a long way in the past few years, in 2012 a survey found that 62% of an Easter eggs weight was its packaging. Luckily things have switched and the most recent survey revealed that packaging makes up just over 25% - an improvement but still a fair amount of packaging for something that is going to be gobbled up over the Easter weekend!

We were super excited to find Montezumas Eco Egg, with streamlined packaging consisting of just two parts, foil wrapping and a sturdy biodegradable paper outer shell. No plastic window in sight and all fully recyclable! With the foil just bundle it up in a ball and pop into your metal recycling bag and with the card pop in your card recycling, or the wormery! We have the delicious organic dark chocolate and cocoa nibs version in the van, vegan friendly!

Easter without the plastic packaging, making us very happy bunnies!

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Plastic Pollution and Rivers

Today is International Day of Action for Rivers, a day to celebrate our life-giving waters. Unfortunately, our freshwater ecosystems are going through tough times, Anne-Claire Loftus, WWF UK Freshwater adviser, tells us that “freshwater species populations declined by 81% from 1970 to 2012, an average loss much greater than that of species on land or in the oceans.” There are many threats impacting rivers and other freshwater habitats including loss of connectivity and flow reductions due to dams and other artificial barriers; over-abstraction of water for irrigation and other uses; excessive nutrient loading from agricultural and urban areas; siltation caused by land degradation and deforestation; and the impact of climate change. In recent years plastic pollution has also been counted as a possible threat and we thought it was the perfect time to find out how our rivers have been affected by plastic pollution.

1) Our rivers are key sources of marine plastic pollution

News and studies on plastic pollution has mainly focused on our oceans rather than rivers but it looks like this is beginning to change. We found numerous reports in the news with regards to how rivers are contributing to ocean plastic pollution and how they are key carriers of plastic waste from source to our oceans. Two studies, highlighted by Anne-Claire Loftus, estimated that between 1.15–2.41 and 0.21–4.38 million tonnes of plastic waste per year entered the oceans from land via river catchments. Highlighting that rivers are a key area of concern when it comes to plastic pollution. For this reason there are now more studies looking into plastic pollution in our rivers rather than the ocean.

2) Single use plastic have been found to be a core cause of river litter

Thames21 and MCS ran 20 river clean events at Thames tributaries and tidal Thames sites to collect data for their ‘source to sea’ study. Data collected revealed that more than 80% of litter in the Thames, and 78% on its tributaries, is made up of single-use items such as metal drink cans, food packaging and plastic drinks bottles. It also found that the concentration of litter items found per 100m rose as the Thames made its way towards the sea, due to the increased opportunity for humans to influence the ecosystem. The charities supported a move away from single-use saying that “more than 60% of litter would disappear from the Thames basin if we moved away from single-use items.”

A little closer to home we found an article on Cornwall Live written at the end of 2017 about plastic pollution collected from Truro River by Mary Jones who spends her free time kayaking along the river to complete litter picks. On one trip she collected 6 bin bags full of plastic litter, with the most common being food wrappers.

3) Micro-plastics have now been found in our freshwater systems

Micro-plastics in our rivers have more recently been in the news thanks to a new study by Dr Dunn who collected samples from 10 different river, lake and reservoir sites across the UK. He found micro-plastics at each of the 10 locations, ranging from 2-3 per litre to more than 1000 per litre in the worst affected area. On the results Dr Dunn has said “Micro-plastics are being found absolutely everywhere [but] we do not know the dangers they could be posing. It’s no use looking back in 20 years time and saying: ‘If only we’d realised just how bad it was.’ We need to be monitoring our waters now and we need to think, as a country and a world, how we can be reducing our reliance on plastic.”

Micro-plastics come from a variety of sources, as explained in an essay by Scott Lambert and Martin Wagner. They can come from the degradation of larger plastic debris items, such as litter and also agricultural equipment (eg plastic films used for crop production) but can also enter the environment as micro-plastics via wastewater treatment plants and the surrounding environment from a number of sources such as personal care products (microbeads), release of fibres from textiles during the washing of clothes, incidental release (e.g. tyre wear) and release from industrial products or processes. The essay outlines how studies on the potential harm of micro-plastics vary considerably but states that “although science is far from understanding the ecological implications of freshwater micro-plastics; technological innovation, societal action, and political interventions need to be taken to mitigate the plastics pollution, which will – in case of inaction – certainly increase over the years to come.”

What have we taken away from these articles? That although a lot is still unknown we feel strongly that plastic pollution has largely been caused by our disposable attitude towards plastic, a product that does not disappear, only breaks down and spreads further - now having reached not only the deepest depths of our remote oceans but also our remote fresh water channels. Removing plastic waste from seas and rivers will help alleviate environmental issues but to stop the problem we need to reduce our reliance on plastic, looking to avoid it where possible as consumers is a great way to start, something we can do immediately as well as ensuring any waste we do come across is disposed of responsibly so it does not impact our natural environment.

Information from WWF, Scott Lambert and Martin Wagner, The Guardian, The River Trust and Cornwall Live

For more on International Day of Action for Rivers

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World Wildlife Day : Life Below Water

Today marks World Wildlife Day, a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This years focus is on life below water, where there are nearly 200,000 identified species living in our oceans.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Marine wildlife has sustained human civilisation and development for millennia, from providing food and nourishment, to material for handicraft and construction. It has also enriched our lives culturally, spiritually, and recreationally in different ways. However, the capacity of life below water to provide these services has been severely impacted, as our planet’s oceans and the species that live within it are under assault from an onslaught of threats. As much as 40% of the ocean is now heavily affected by the most significant and direct threat of over exploitation of marine species as well as other threats such as pollution, loss of coastal habitats and climate change.

Despite this day being about a celebration of the ocean we also need to be aware of these many threats, of which plastic is a major one, here are some scary plastic facts involving the ocean from The Marine Conservation Society:

  • It’s estimated that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute

  • Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans

  • Plastic has been found in the stomachs of almost all marine species, including fish, birds, whales, dolphins, seals and turtles

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

  • Litter has increased by 135% since 1994, with plastics increasing by a staggering 180%

  • Around 30% of UK beach litter can be directly sourced to the public

On World Wildlife Day we’re asked to do one thing to help reduce the threat to marine species and we think avoiding plastic is a huge step in the right direction. By shopping at refill / zero waste shops you get to avoid a huge amount of unnecessary plastic packaging that may end up in the natural environment causing an ongoing threat to our beautiful oceans.

As well as avoiding plastic you can join the new #generationsea campaign by Surfers Against Sewage. For 2019 they are looking to build a new movement to save our oceans and beaches and want to push for a bold new Environment Bill that will protect our seas. They currently have 3790 signatures and are looking to get to 5000, to sign up click here.

Everyday wildlife protection doesn’t have to be hard. Wildlife conservation is an issue that needs attention every day and although the challenges that our natural environment is facing are complex and can seem huge, every persons small actions add up to a much larger solution.

Info from Wildlife Day, MCS and SAS

Images below from Francesca Williams and SAS

Plastics and Climate Change

Plastics have an interesting and complex relationship with climate change and rising greenhouse gases.

99% of plastics come from fossil fuels and throughout its life cycle it makes a significant contribution to rising greenhouse gases and climate change. Plastic pollutes at every stage; from materials extraction, product production and transportation to disposal.

Plastics currently account for around 6% of global oil demand and are responsible for rising methane emissions from associated gas extraction. Once the materials have been extracted there are then the carbon emissions from production and transportation of plastic. Its been estimated that one 500ml plastic water bottle (about 10 grams) has an average total CO2 footprint of 82.8 grams. For context, the production of four plastic bottles produces approximately the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as travelling one mile in a medium-sized petrol car.

But the story doesn’t end there, a study by the University of Hawaii has demonstrated that many plastics also give off powerful greenhouse gases as they breakdown, which is also contributing to climate change. Of particular concern is LDPE which releases gases at the highest rate and is also the most prevalent discarded plastic in oceans. Its been discovered that the more surface area a piece of plastic has the more gas is given off. So for example a plastic bottle, after years of photodegradation in the ocean will have a surface area thousands of times greater than its original surface area, leading to a greater emission of methane. This means that over time plastics give off more and more harmful gas and are further adding to climate change.

With around half of all plastic production being destined for a single-use item this seems like a terrible use of a limited natural resource and an extremely wasteful addition to greenhouse gases. With around 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans each year this massively adds to the greenhouse gas problem as it slowly breaks down in the environment and starts to release harmful greenhouse gases.

Moving away from single-use plastic will help tackle carbon emissions from both ends. Scarily plastic production is currently expected to triple by 2050 and its predicted that the plastic industry will be accounting for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is something we can reduce and do something about. By reusing what we’ve already got and moving away from single-use, we’ll move to a more circular economy that will help reduce carbon emissions.

Information from 5gyres, brightblue and Parley

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Monday Motivation : Protecting the natural world

A huge source of motivation for us is to protect our natural environment. In recent consumer Western society we have become removed from the natural cycles of life and have lost respect for the Earth and its life giving resources.

Over the course of last year there were a number of studies and articles all highlighting the scary spread and impact of plastics on our natural environment which we hope is slowly rebuilding our connection and respect for the planet and a wish to live in a way that will reduce and correct the harm we have been causing.

We are saddened but not surprised by the results of a recent study of 50 animals from 10 different species that had died from a variety of causes found washed up on the coastlines of the UK. The study of the animals, that included dolphins, porpoises, seals and whales revealed that each one had ‘microplastic’ particles in their stomachs and intestines. The vast majority of particles found were synthetic fibres that may have been shed by clothes or fishing nets. Others were fragments of originally larger pieces that could have come from plastic food packaging and bottles.

Lead researcher Sarah Nelms, from the University of Exeter, said: “It’s shocking - but not surprising - that every animal had ingested microplastics.” She expressed concern that long-term exposure to plastic pollution could damage the health of Britain’s marine mammals: “They eat all sorts but it will reach a tipping point and really affect their health. It’s important to have this baseline study so we can monitor how they adapt – or don’t adapt – to the changes that are coming.”

Globally one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the Ocean every minute and at current rates it will be 2 trucks per minute by 2030 - we have to radically change our habits to stop this from happening. The more people who make the change to package-free / zero-waste shopping the less plastic waste there is and that keeps us going and motivates us to make sure package free shopping is accessible for people to make the switch. Hopefully the reduced demand for packaged goods will also lead to bigger industry change.

Info and image from MCS UK article here , Guardian article here and World Economic Forum here . Full study report here

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Turning off the tap: a look at Antoine Repesse #365 Unpacked

When you use something on a daily basis its hard to imagine its impact over time, especially when it comes to waste as its often out of sight and therefore out of mind.

Back in 2011, photographer Antoine Repesse decided to tackle his waste head on and for four years stopped throwing away his recyclable rubbish. During this time he accumulated over 70 cubic meters of trash including 1600 milk bottles, 4800 loo rolls and 800kg of newspapers. His photography project that followed, #365, Unpacked, became ‘a questioning of a major society issue: the production of waste on a daily basis’, and made our daily waste visible for all to see.

This accumulation of waste seen in his images really does highlight our disconnect between our consumption patterns, our waste produced and the effect it has on the planet.

Luckily we’ve come a long way since Repesse’s project and unlike the subjects seen in his work we are no longer blind to the effects waste is having on our environment and our life source. Thanks to numerous projects since we are now all aware of the damage that has been caused. But there is still a lot to do.

A common argument or concern raised when looking at plastic waste is to blame the authorities for not having enough recycling options in place, but we think there is a bigger issue at play - our mass consumption and its link to our waste. We believe we have to start owning our own waste and look to turn off the tap rather than mop up the mess. Refusing to buy single-use products and buying only what you need are great steps forward in slowing down the amount of waste created and therefore harm to the environment. Turning off the plastic tap will mean there’s nothing to mop up.

You can see more images here

Information from article here

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Plastic Free July

Its July and that means only one thing- the Plastic Free July Challenge - inspiring people all over the world to #ChooseToRefuse. With 31 days in July we've set out 31 ways to reduce the plastic in your life; whether you choose to target takeaway plastic options, single use plastic or to completely avoid plastics altogether these should help you on your way. 

1) If you like to stay hydrated during the day get yourself a reusable water bottle

2) Like a takeaway drink? Think about a reusable cup that you can take with you

3) Know that you're gonna get lunch out? Pack some cutlery, wrap in a muslin cloth for napkin and some containers / paper to wrap items in. Or look to eat in! 

4) Keep a reusable straw handy or remember to say no straw when ordering drinks

5) Get yourself a reusable bag

6) Look around for shops that offer items bulk / loose / unpackaged - farmers markets, greengrocers, butchers, bulk shops to name a few

7) Keep hold of any plastic / glass jars, containers, bottles and reuse when you go on your bulk / loose / unpackaged shopping adventure

8) Invest in or make beeswax / soy fabric wraps to use instead of clingfilm; tin foil and baking paper are other alternatives for storing food

 9) Milk - look into local glass bottle options, or try switching to nut milk and make your own

10) Butter - switch from plastic contained to wax paper wrapped butter and store in butter dish

11) Yogurt - buy options available in glass jars or look to make your own

12) Check your teabags - scarily some brands contain plastic, check packaging or buy loose leaf

13) Ditch the chewing gum - most brands are made with a synthetic rubber made from plastic

14)  Lover of cold, filtered water and normally buy bottled? Get prepared, buy a couple of glass bottles and invest in filter option of your choice (we love a charcoal stick!) and store in fridge - keep a couple bottles on rotation so you always have fresh, filtered water available

15) Give soap nuts a try - a natural biodegradable alternative to laundry liquid, or look for glass / cardboard packaged brands or refillable options

16) Utilise old fabric scraps for house cleaning rags so you don't have to buy new packaged options, or look for unpackaged options available

17) Utilise old cleaning product bottles and try making your own

18) Swap your synthetic kitchen sponge for a natural alternative

19) Avoid bin bags; check to see if you need to use if your bin gets tipped straight into a lorry, you can always line with paper to keep clean

20) Make a switch to hard soap and shampoo to avoid all those bottles in the bathroom

21) Make a switch to hard deodorant or powdered options in non-plastic containers

22) Lookout for toilet roll not sold in plastic wrap

23) Switch synthetic sponges for natural sponges, loofahs, muslin cloths etc for washing

24) Try a bamboo toothbrush (watch out for the bristles though which will still be plastic, ensure you remove before looking to compost)

25) Look into alternative tooth care; toothpaste that's in aluminium tubes or solid options, mouthwash in glass, natural floss

26) Use 100% cotton buds

27) Switch to a metal razor

28) Look into alternative sanitary products; avoid tampons with plastic applicators, find natural organic cotton brands, try a mooncup or reusable pads, there's even pants available now with a built in pad! 

29) Look into alternative body care brands that use non-plastic containers or offer refill / send back packaging, or try making your own

30) Shop local and avoid delivery which normally means excess packaging (although some brands are getting pretty good at offering non-plastic delivery options)

31) Check the clothing that you're buying, perhaps try natural alternatives vs plastic based fabrics 

Good luck with the challenge, remember any bit of plastic you manage to avoid is a step in the right direction so don't overwhelm yourself by taking on too many changes. We've integrated different methods over many years to make sure the changes we make are sustainable and workable for us. 

*You can find out more about Plastic Free July at http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ 

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Why package free?

As you may have seen in the news, TV and social media, levels of plastic waste polluting both land and sea has now become a critical environmental issue. The National Geographic has recently published its June 2018 Plastics issue with some startling facts and figures on plastics which highlight exactly why we want to start offering everyday products package free to the people of Cornwall.

Below are our highlights (or lowlights really) from the issue: 

Single-use, disposable packaging, accounted for over a third of the 448 million tons of plastic produced in 2015, making it the largest market for plastic production. 

Plastic packaging now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally with most of it not getting recycled or incinerated. 

Scientists writing in Nature magazine back in 2013 declared that disposable plastic should be classified as a hazardous material.

The growth of plastic production has outgrown our current waste management abilities, which is why our environment is overflowing with plastic pollution.

Globally roughly 8.8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans annually.

Microplastics have been found everywhere in the ocean that people have looked, from sediments on the deepest seafloor to ice floating in the Arctic. With nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, affected by ocean plastics. 

We don't know how long it takes for plastics to biodegrade: estimates range from 450 years to never. 

There's no denying that these are some scary statistics and its hard to get your head around how we let it get this bad, but the good news is that this is something we can affect. As consumers we have great power; if we all spend wisely and think about what we are buying and avoid single-use plastic packaging where we can then we can make a difference to plastic waste. We don't think plastic is the enemy but our disposable attitude to it is not sustainable, which is why we are looking to offer an alternative way to shop, one that will help reduce the amount of disposable plastic packaging needed.

*Statistics and facts from National Geographic June 2018, Plastic by Laura Parker p40-69

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