DITCHING PLASTIC: OUR WEEK OF GOING GREEN

We find out just how difficult it is to avoid single-use plastics in our day-to-day lives

From green fingered neighbours, to shopping locally and caving into the desire for Jaffa Cakes - The Coffee Extract team document their week of recycling wins and fails.

Recycling week will take place this year between 21 - 27 September. As a company that prides itself on its sustainable credentials, many of team responsible for what you read in this e-zine decided to set themselves a recycling challenge.

The rules were simple, no single-use plastics for one working week. Might sound fairly straightforward, but that's five whole days without any plastic bottles, plastic packaging on foods, any packaging with a plastic lining, plastic cutlery/straws or wet wipes, to name just a handful of items. As you will soon discover, some had greater success than others.

Jill Wotherspoon

Head of Marketing

When you decide to set out on a week's long challenge, catching COVID on day one is not the ideal preparation.

As we were housebound, we couldn’t get out to complete the challenge in quite the way we had hoped. That being said, we had done one grocery shop ahead of time, and the whole thing certainly opened our eyes to some new opportunities going forward.

WINS

  • The easiest part of the challenge for us was the avoidance of non-recyclable plastics in most toiletries and household cleaning products. We already purchase and subscribe to a wide range of plastic-free and recyclable products that have significantly reduced our associated plastic waste in recent months. Sourcing these products is easier than ever and I have enjoyed sampling different refills in the search for my favourites.
  • Our bamboo loo roll subscription from cheeky panda is pretty great, delivered in a bamboo box completely free of plastic, exactly when we need it.
  • Dishwasher tabs are delivered to us on subscription in a cardboard box from smol products, while laundry detergent, loo cleaner and many more delights, come in recyclable plastic refill packs from Bower Collective, who send a prepaid return envelope for recycling.
  • As for food, there's no excuse for plastic on most fruit and veg these days. Staples like my daughter’s favourite chunky cod fillets will come in a freezer box from here on in, rather than shrink wrapped in the fresh section. I also enjoyed using store dispensers for the first time as a way of not only reducing plastic but for portion and cost control too.

FAILS

  • After her fever broke and her appetite came back, my seven year old’s yearning for soft fruit, and a need to provide some restorative nutrition all round, meant we succumbed to a Deliveroo grocery order. It transpires there is very little on the grocery order list at any store that isn’t suffocated in plastic. Not quite the way we had hoped the challenge would go.

TAKEWAYS

I’m mindful of the fact that that carboard box deliveries and shipping subscriptions aren’t always the best option from a broader sustainability perspective.

We’ll continue to review our choices, buying more from local stores where feasible. I’ve certainly noticed that the refillable options in many stores, from independents to chains, have exploded in recent months.

We’ll try broaden our horizons with visits to fishmongers, cheesemongers, delicatessens and butchers when we can - with our own storage containers in hand!!

Amy Oroko

Sustainability Manager

WINS

  • During the week I was particularly appreciative of our milk deliveries which are incredibly convenient and come twice weekly in returnable glass bottles from a local supplier.
  • We also benefit from kind green-fingered neighbours who happened to offer us some home-grown tomatoes and blackberries – both of which are quite tricky to source locally without plastic packaging.
  • Having moved slightly further out of the city, I hadn’t visited our nearest Locavore since pre-pandemic, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they have expanded the store significantly and they had loads more loose organic vegetables on offer, many of which had been grown locally. They had also significantly expanded their section of self-dispensing units so that much of the dry goods that you would need in a normal weekly shop – pastas, rice, pulses, spices etc – were available here. There was even a choice of different coffee beans to try!
  • This challenge presented the obvious opportunity to give reusable nappies a proper go as most disposable nappies contain plastic. We have an incredible social enterprise on the southside of Glasgow called Merry-Go-Round that sells preloved children’s items. I stocked up on some second-hand reusable nappies (£7.50 each) to give them a try. I was surprised by how easy-to-use they were and how quickly some of the brands dried after washing.
  • I’ve been using Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes for my daughter at home since she was born but this was the first time I had really committed to also taking them with me when we were on the go as well.

FAILS

  • Buying some of the food products that my daughter is used to having pretty much on a daily basis proved quite problematic. She loves having yoghurt for desert and at present Glasgow City Council is not able to collect this kind of plastic packaging for recycling. In fact, the Recycle Now website currently says that the nearest place where I can recycle plastics such as yoghurt pots is over 5 miles away which just isn’t very practical.
  • My daughter also will often have organic toddler snacks such as rice cakes when we are on the go, but all the packaging for these items is made from single use film plastics which are often hard to recycle.

TAKEAWAYS

The challenge made me very aware of some of the single use plastic I had become more reliant upon since my daughter was born in 2021. As a result of the challenge, I plan to make using reusable nappies and wipes an everyday habit and to plan our weekly meals in a way that will reduce our single use plastic footprint, while making use of more locally grown fresh produce.

Not only that, I am going to contact my local council to ask them about their plans for improving access to kerbside recycling services for single-use plastics that are very difficult to avoid.

Estelle MacGilp

Head of Coffee Sourcing

WIN #1

Buying my fruit at the local green grocer with no plastic in site. It's great to be able to take along your own bag and drop the fruit and veg straight in without any unnecessary wrapping.

WIN #2

I Love donating or buying from this upcycle shop in Milngavie. It's like Aladdin’s cave, full of interesting items old and new. It might not necessarily be directly related to reducing plastic but it's great to recycle anything we can!

WIN #3

It was fantastic to be drinking post-race water out of a carton instead of a plastic bottle at the Paisley 10K.

Alan Beattie

Sustainability Analyst

In my ‘plastic-free’ week I realised it is nearly impossible to buy yourself lunch at a local shop without contributing to single-use plastic waste. It has made me re-evaluate my life choices and I need to finally admit I have a Greggs addiction. My biggest change will be to buy myself lunches with as little plastic in them as possible and take them into work in reusable containers!

WINS

  • I have an existing milk delivery which I get in glass bottles. They come once a week and the bottles are then returned upon the next delivery so they can be cleaned and reused.
  • I have switched to shampoo bars and regular bar soap that comes in cardboard packaging to reduce my reliance on plastic for shampoo and shower gel.
  • I tried to purchase as many plastic-free products as I could in my nearby shops. I was able to buy bread in paper bags, loose fruit and vegetables. I also bought plastic-free tea bags so I could compost them in my council’s compost caddy. My cups of tea are now 100% plastic-free!
  • I used Tupperware boxes to take my lunches in and used cutlery in work.
  • I took all my collected film polyethene bags to my local Co-Op so they can be reused and made into bin liners.

FAILS

  • I was not the perfect week. I did unfortunately have to buy my lunch one day at a local shop which, as a Sustainability Analyst, is shocking!!
  • Also, I bought Jaffa Cakes.

TAKEAWAYS

I also plan to do my shopping in supermarkets that use far less plastic packaging such as Locavore. It is slightly further away than my other shops but in my opinion is definitely worth the journey.

Eduarda Cristovam

Director of Coffee, Quality & Sustainability

WINS

#1 Deodorant

I have change to a metal case deodorant which has paper chargers and no plastic in site.

#2 Removing my makeup

I use bazillions of makeup removal pads and they are made of bamboo, super soft and I can reuse them to my heart’s content – feeling super smug about this one.

#3 Cotton buds

The cotton buds I use are all paper so not a plastic bit in site, not even the box!

FAILS

#1 Sparkling water

My sparkling water obsession means I collected far too many plastic bottles after one week (the photo is only a small sample). A pack of 6 recyclable plastic bottles comes wrapped in a plastic layer which can be recycled with bags at larger stores. A soda stream would be an alternative, but it appears to still be more expensive than buying bottled sparkling water.

#2 Paper tissues

One box is more expensive than buying two so of course I bought a pack of two which comes wrapped in a plastic layer, which can be recycled with bags at larger stores. Like with the water bottles, however, I did not take the time to recycle the plastic outer layers.

#3 Eye liner

I use far too many of these are they are made of black plastic. Too small for me to read anything without glasses and I never attempt to recycle them. I’m now looking for recyclable alternatives.

Roslyn Coombe

Senior Customer Marketing Manager

As probably the most unsustainable person in the company, I knew this was not going to be the most straightforward challenge. Plus, with a 7-year-old's birthday to contend with, there could not have been a trickier week to have to avoid single-use plastics.

WINS

  • I had an amazing fruit & veg delivery from a company called Ashby’s who are based in the West end of Glasgow– and I will use them again. The produce was so fresh and miles better than what you get in a supermarket, albeit more expensive.
  • I did not buy any new clothes or shoes for me or my family this week which (which to most people is normal however for me is a big achievement). We had a wedding to attend and my daughter’s birthday party so I would usually buy us all new outfits – but we all wore again some of our favourite dresses from our wardrobe.
  • I bought Water wipes instead of my usual brand Pampers.
  • I made shopping lists ahead of visiting the supermarket. I usually just walk round the shop and pick up anything that catches my eye and end up with a lot of waste each week.

FAILS

  • It was my daughter’s 7th birthday, and I bought a load of toys which were housed in loads of unrecyclable plastic.
  • I bought bars of shampoo and conditioner instead of the plastic bottles. However, I didn’t like the way they lathered up, so I had to revert back to my plastic equivalents
  • I also purchased and made myself a balloon arch for my daughter which contained LOADS of unrecyclable plastic/nylon balloons. Apparently, these cannot be recycled as their recycled form has no use in the market. After a little research I have found that you can buy balloons made from biodegradable latex – but they were much more expensive and not practical for the amount I needed.
  • Many of the other food and drink items I bought from Sainsburys were in plastic containers: party food, drinks, crisps, biscuits, cleaning products, etc.

TAKEAWAYS

As I mentioned at the beginning, I didn't expect this week to go swimmingly for me. I am, however, actually quite proud of the positive changes I managed to achieve. Some of the small changes that I made to my purchasing behaviour I'll continue with moving forward, including, using fresh milk and fruit/veg deliveries.

David Cunninghame

Content & Social Media Manager

It's 7:15am on a Monday morning. My alarm blares. Bleary-eyed, I haul myself to the kitchen to have my morning porridge. It's now 7:17am, a lengthy two minutes into this 5-day long challenge, and already I have failed.

My porridge oats are contained in single-use plastic bag that is now empty and destined for landfill. Oh, and the fresh fruit I'm having with my breakfast, the film lids of their containers are heading to the same place.

Prior to that morning I thought I was a dab hand at keeping my personal landfill quota to a minimum. Boy was I way off the mark.

The realisation of the amount of single-use plastics I go through in my day-to-day home life was sudden and rather alarming. Single-use kitchen surface wipes, non-recyclable shower gel bottles, a fridge stacked full of fruit, veg, meat and fish all packaged using a litany of single-use plastics. It was everywhere.

So, with that in mind, it was time to get my act in order.

WINS

  • Only purchasing loose fruit and veg from my local supermarket in order to avoid plastics, while simultaneously limiting food wastage due to purchasing smaller amounts.
  • Changing to new brands of shower gel and shampoo that use fully recyclable plastics.
  • Most nightly meals involved the disposal of single-use plastic. To mitigate against this I opted to visit my local green grocers, fishmonger & butchers, where they packaged everything in 'greener' materials.

FAILS

  • Alongside the aforementioned porridgegate scandal, I found myself guilty of visiting a certain Newcastle based bakers for one too many lunches wrapped in plastic (I also suffer from by the same addiction as Alan).
  • Most nightly meals involved the disposal of single-use plastic. To mitigate against this I'll either need to change supermarket or start visiting local fishmongers/butchers, where than can package it in 'greener' materials.
  • As a bit of a clean freak in the kitchen (not so much in the rest of the house), I am guilty of using and disposing of a lot of single-use surface wipes. Time to get a cloth David.

TAKEAWAYS

I'm can almost guarantee that any of you reading this could be doing more to boast your own personal 'green' credentials.

Sometimes this will require more fundamental changes to your normal routines, while some will be easy fixes. What's for damn sure is that each change, no matter how big or small, is worth making.

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