As part of our work towards Zero Waste, four of St Nicks staff undertook a Zero Plastic Fantastic Challenge over the 2 months of April and May 2017. You can read up on the rules and what motivated us to avoid single use plastic and use as little non-recyclable plastic as possible over the time period, as well as how our first month went by following the links. In this blog Events Officer Ivana Jakubkova summarises the results and what we have learnt along the way.
1. Sam, Recycling Co-ordinator: Sam instigated the whole thing and is the winner of the challenge with a “sin bin” weighing just 125g. Not that the challenge was about winning prizes, we just wanted to know how easy or not it is to live plastic-free/light but it’s good to acknowledge achievements!
The hardest thing for Sam: “The level of organisation I need. I’m used to being able to just pop into a local supermarket and getting everything I need in one shop. Now I’m having to think ahead and organise when I can get to the local grocers to buy the fruit and veg I can’t get loose in a supermarket.”
2. David, Recycling Officer: David’s “sin bin” weighed just 295g.
The hardest thing for David: “I have had to cut down the amount of money I spend in my favourite local shops as almost everything I would usually buy is packaged in single use plastic. I’m buying much more food items in tins which I feel isn’t as healthy?”
3. Tom, Chief Officer + wife Alison: their combined “sin bin” weighed 775g
The hardest thing for Tom: “Unavoidable usage by other people – for instance our wedding required a large volume of tomatoes. Usually in our veg box they come in compostable boxes and we hadn’t realised that the cheaper, bigger boxes would be made of plastic. I’ve also struggled with knowing how harsh to be with myself and where to draw the line.”
4. Ivana, Events Officer: ashamed to see my “sin bin” weighing 410g
The hardest thing for me: “Stopping my partner from throwing my “sins” away and refusing kind offers of food such as veg which turned out to be cauliflower on a plastic tray covered in cling film… Not having control over my food on holiday also generated quite a few unforeseen sins.”
The main lessons?
At times it felt like we were scaling a huge mountain with plastic items jumping into our “sin bins” if not careful. Occasionally plastic is genuinely the most useful material for making or packaging useful things but often it is hard to see why it could not be either avoided altogether or at least made more recyclable.
From coffee/tea pods to tea in spray form (!) or bottle wrap-arounds, some plastics are not necessary even if recyclable. St Nicks does collect coffee pods (whose inventor wishes he’d never invented them) for recycling by TerraCycle – almost 1 tonne recycled and thus escaped landfill so far! – but we would be even happier if our supporters switched to not using them at all.
Quick plastic-busting tips:
Currently only plastic bottles can be recycled through York’s kerbside collections – if included, other plastic items contaminate the load and may end up in landfill. There are other options: take plastic bags to large supermarkets; hard plastics such as plastic garden furniture, broken indoor and outdoor toys, and plastic boxes can be taken to either Hazel Court HWRC or Towthorpe/Strensall HWRC; mixed plastics including margarine & ice cream tubs, confectionery tubs, rigid plastic food packets & yoghurt pots can be taken to Sainsbury’s on Foss Island Road; and St Nicks collects some extra items which we send to TerraCycle.
The biggest tip: have a go!
Yes, we admit it’s harder than we thought but it’s also highly satisfying when you discover a new plastic-free trick. Switching from plastic-wrapped flapjacks to chocolate bars in paper & foil suddenly feels even better for knowing it helps protect nature and avoids plastics potentially ending up on our plates. Let’s not dwell too much on the fact that most of us are eating too many calories for our own and the planet’s good…
If you need a clear target and want to raise money to fight plastic litter, join the Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge running until the end of June.
Make it a day, a week, a month – how long can you last without single use plastic?
Want to do and know more?
Got any tips you’d like to share or feedback on this post? Please get in touch.