You’ve seen it all over the news and social media lately, it’s a big topic. Going plastic free or being as low waste as possible is an important issue, especially with the impact it has on our planet. Plastic is a big part of our lives and it takes a lot to ditch it completely but more often than not, it’s not getting used to the physical switch which makes low waste a big ask. It’s the cost which the alternative options come at. I’m going to give you a few examples below but if you can think of any more, then I would love to hear from you. I’d also like to hear from you if you find low waste to be cheaper.
My goal with this post isn’t to put people of being plastic free, I just think that we need to be realistic about it. Until eco-friendly alternatives are more affordable, a lot of families just won’t be able to make that switch.
Let’s start with one of the most talked about issues at the moment; plastic straws. For me, this is one of the most simple switches and can be one of the cheapest. I found our 4 pack of Joie metal ones in Asda for £2.50. They sit in my bag and we’ll all use one if we go to a fast food restaurant or for the boys if Fruit Shoots aren’t available. But even with this seemingly simple switch, there are people who can’t make it. For example, people who are disabled or who have sensory issues. Metal or even bamboo straws can be dangerous or even don’t feel right in the mouth, making them not suitable and plastic being the only ones they can use.
Another one is reusable bottles. Buying bottles of water or drink when out and about will usually come in a plastic bottle which we won’t reuse and can be difficult to recycle. I wanted to buy a Kleen Kanteen but for one 592ml insulated bottle, it would cost me £27.95. For one. If I was to buy the same bottle but for children, it would cost £22.95. So in order to get bottles for the whole family, I would have to find over £100. We’re not considered poor or struggling but we don’t have £100 to spend on reusable bottles, especially when 2 Fruit Shoots cost £1 from Tesco.
Cloth nappies is another topic which comes up time and time again, along with reusable wipes. One Bambino Mio all-in-one nappy costs £15.99. Let’s say that you’d need around 10 to have enough on rotation to always have enough clean. That’s nearly £160 which you’d need to find as a new parent, on top of everything else you need. Then there are the cloth wipes. You can make them yourself from old cloth or even tea towels but what about washing? Between the nappies and the wipes, that’s at least an extra wash you’ve got to do every day. That will add extra money onto our electricity and water bills which are already pretty expensive.
The last issue I’m going to talk about is food. We all know by now that supermarkets charge more for some loose food than the ones in plastic. For example, one pepper can cost 50p but you’ll get 3 pre packaged ones for less than £1. A bag of value pasta costs 20p and a loaf of bread is around 55p. See where I’m going with this? I’ve also recently learned that bulk food shops with loose grains and pulses used to be viewed as cheap, the places you’d go if you were struggling. And now because being eco-friendly is “fashionable”, they can charge so much more which makes it unaffordable for a lot of families.
However, if you’re in a position to do more to reduce your waste, than you absolutely should. I think there’s a lot of ways in which most of us can help. Like I said above, reusable straws are available in Asda now for just £2.50 and if you can make the switch, do. I can’t afford a £30 reusable bottle so I compromised and bought a Sistema one. While it’s made out of plastic, it’s stopping me buying the boys drinks when I bring it out with us so I’m reducing my waste in that aspect. I’ve stopped buying single-use plastic bags and if I forget to bring one with me, I’ll buy a reusable one. I can’t afford the likes of Method or Ecover so I get Tesco’s own eco-friendly laundry range which is £4 for their detergent and £1.50 for their softener which lasts a good few weeks.
I agree that we need to do more to save the planet and that we all use far too much plastic. But some people seem to think that switching is easy. “It saves you money in the long run” isn’t helpful to the families who don’t have that money to begin with. “Oh, just make your own almond milk/houmous/CSP”. Almonds are expensive, I can’t make houmous to save my life and I can’t sew (textiles was one of the subjects I refused to do at school.) And if the cost wasn’t enough, there’s the extra time as well. My time is already stretched between the million things I have to do, I don’t have anything extra to make my own products.
If we want to be serious about eco friendly alternatives and reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce, companies need to make these alternatives available to everyone. We all need to raise our voices and let big corporations and even the government know that there is still a long way to go before we can make a significant difference to our planet and until this changes, there’s still going to be a lot of people using single-use items.