the month where you choose to refuse!
The first day of this month marks Plastic-Free July, and we’re quite sure that you’ll bump into many mentions of this movement on your social media, in advertising and through challenges over the coming weeks. But what lies at the heart of this phenomenon, what is causing the problem and why exactly should we choose to refuse?
Here’s what you need to know.
Plastic was first mass-produced after the Second World War, but during the 60's and 70's its popularity sky-rocketed… it was inexpensive, easily made, versatile and durable. Want cheap, convenient packaging that gives your products a lovely long shelf life? Plastic had the answer.
Except with over 350 million tonnes produced in 2015 (the weight of ⅔ of the world’s humans) (1) and now over 1 million plastic bottles created every day (2) it turns out plastic isn’t quite the answer we needed.
Plastic’s self-same benefits come with a huge cost to the planet and are the reason that so much has built up in our environment. The UN estimates that of the 7 billion tonnes produced so far, less than 10% has ever been recycled :(
Single-use plastic isn’t really just about cotton buds or plastic straws. We now understand the same term applies to any plastic product or packaging that has a limited use. Liquid laundry detergent bottles, roll on deodorant, dishwasher tablet pouches… they are all made from plastics that are rarely recycled, even though they say they are recyclable. Being recyclable just isn’t enough. We need to cut back on plastic all together.
So why can’t we just improve on recycling?
"We still need to know how to dispose of the wretched material, surely if we can invent it, somebody somewhere is going to be able to deal with it, to deal with these mountains of this appalling material." David Attenborough
The issue lies with there being lots of different types of plastic, which can be used in different ways. Most of us now throw our plastic into recycling bins, mixing up all kinds of plastic, some of which can be melted down for re-use, others however could be highly combustible. Identifying and separating out these plastics is not easy, especially if we throw plastic in alongside with paper, tin, glass and organic waste. Our recycling systems alone are simply not up to the challenge we face with plastic.
Reducing both production and consumption of plastic has to take the lead.
What would we love to see happen?
At smol we want us all to get out of plastic, replacing it wherever possible with more sustainable alternatives. That means sustainably produced card or paper, switching to glass or aluminium which are “forever” recyclable and can have several “lives”. It also means cutting back on consumption. For example, many of us run our washing machines on less than a full load; cutting back and only running a machine when full means we consume less product and therefore buy less packaging! (and save on energy bills).
Are we there yet ourselves? No, at smol we’re definitely on a journey.
We are firm believers in smol things make a big difference and this is certainly true when it comes to plastic.
Back in 2018, we launched laundry and dishwash in a child-impeding, 100% recycled plastic pack. Using recycled plastic was a step up from the big brands but wasn’t nearly enough. After 2 years of trial and error we cracked a world first - 100% plastic-free, child-impeding packaging for laundry capsules. As a small independent it’s still one of our best achievements to date and we are incredibly proud of being the first to offer this simple switch.
Our card is FSC (forest stewardship commission) approved and is 100% recyclable and also 100% home compostable. Paper and card is more readily recycled with rates of over 80% in the UK and it takes 70% less energy to recycle paper than it does to make it new from raw materials. (3)
Where we are still using plastic bottles for our liquid products, our plastic is 100% recycled PCR (PCR means Post Consumer Recycled Content). Whilst the bottles are also 100% recyclable, we absolutely prefer to avoid making more bottles and we love it when customers use our Lend a hand return scheme which sees the bottles returned to us for re-use and a pack of laundry capsules donated to The Hygiene Bank.
Ultimately our aim is to purge the plastic for good!
We want to end our use of plastic all together. We’ve got a team working on this and we’ll be switching into an alternative material as soon as we can. It’s a journey!
Sometimes tackling the challenges of the environment and climate change can feel daunting. We can feel powerless and overwhelmed. BUT…..we continue to stand by our motto; smol things make a big difference.
By simply switching to smol, our customers have saved over 800 tonnes of plastic from being produced, which just shows that by simple steps and switches, we CAN all be part of the solution.
This plastic-free July, we’ll bring you lots of ideas (aside from switching to smol) to help you cut back on single-use plastic. We’re all for easy, quick changes that don’t require too much compromise and can save money too.
Here’s 6 tips to get started, some obvious, but we’re still a way from this being our norm:
1. always carry a coffee cup to avoid take-away cups
2. avoid plastic packaging on food where you can - buy loose fruit and veg
3. look for alternative products packed in paper, glass, aluminium
4. swap from disposable items to refills e.g. razors
5. avoid unrecyclable plastics such as films, pouches or multi-layered materials, anything with ‘do not recycle’ on the back of pack
6. remember to separate your plastics properly before putting in the recycle bin
So look out, get involved and let’s all think about what we can choose to refuse and cut back on single-use plastic this July.
For more information, check out https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/