Plastic-Free Student: My Plastic Diary - How Much in One Week?

Join our Plastic-Free Student, Evie, as she documents her plastic usage for one week.

I’d like to think I’m “environmentally conscious” - I recycle, I turn off lights when I leave the room, I haven’t taken an Uber to or from Uni in the 3 years I’ve been here, studying Environmental Science no less. But, it wasn’t until I spent a week photographing every single-use plastic I used that I realised just how much I’d been living in a daydream. 

Monday 6th November

Lunch time.
I spent the weekend at home and as a parting gift my mum made me a sandwich, securely wrapped in not one, but two layers of plastic (double-bagging is never a good idea). Also, with my reluctance to accept that Mondays mean having to actually get up I was in a rush and forgot a water bottle leaving me with no choice but to claim the free flavoured water that came with my friend’s salad box.

Whilst at home for the weekend I thought I’d be smart and arrange my food shop delivery. Although it wasn’t so smart of me to forget about the 20-odd carrier bags my housemates and I had been unintentionally collecting since the start of term when the driver asked if I had any to return. 

Later that night I settled down to catch up on the series I had missed and since Bonfire Night has been and gone I’ve promptly gotten into the Christmas spirit. However, my festive cheer was dampened somewhat when I acknowledged the unnecessary amounts of plastic with which Tesco had suffocated my snacks. Netflix and chill? Not so much…

After eating my bodyweight in mince pies, I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth only to be faced with another single-use plastic: my tube of toothpaste. At least this could act as my daily reminder of the plastic world we are living in and to stay vigilant with this journal. Must the environment have to suffer so much for me to maintain good dental hygiene?

 
 

Tuesday 7th November

This morning the toothpaste tube played on my mind, so I found some spare time in my 9am lecture to do some research: according to www.recyclenow.com the stand-up pump toothpaste tubes are recyclable (at the discretion of your local council). Some further research through plastic-free Blogs didn’t give me much hope for an alternative, unless I was willing to start using home-made recipes or to forgo toothpaste all together (I’m not).

My breakfast this morning was jam on toast. My bread wrapped in plastic, which honestly, I was grateful for when the loaf fell out the cupboard and landed on top of my freshly smothered toast.

So, after rinsing off my bread I continued with my day which was considerably plastic free. I headed to university with my washable plastic bottle (thank you Love Island) and was treated to lunch in a restaurant by a visiting family member.

However, when supper-time came around I was confronted with possibly more than enough plastic to make up for that which I had avoided. 

On my menu tonight were tofu burritos:

• Wraps

• Rice

• Olive and tomato pesto

• Spinach

• Tofu

• Seasoning 

• Sour cream and chive

• Cheese

After finishing my dinner, I was full, full of guilt from producing so much plastic waste in such a small time. This was boosted by a shared video from the BBC appearing on my newsfeed of the Caribbean ‘sea of plastic’. Time for bed.

 
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Wednesday 8th November

This morning started better, with cake for breakfast how could it not? No plastic involved as I baked it on the weekend and kept it in Tupperware, plus the news that India’s National Capital Region had banned disposable plastic finally reached me (it happened January 1st this year). Some further research discovered there was still some issues with this ban, it was nonetheless a step in the right direction. 

Read more on Delhi’s plastic ban here :https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/rs-5000-fine-for-possessing-plastic-bags-in-delhi/articleshow/60003336.cms

As a library snack, I had packed a sack of banana chips – even health food brands which sell themselves as having a “love of Mother Nature” seem to be using plastic packaging. So, I wrote Jumble Bee an e-mail expressing my confusion and was quickly responded to. According to Jumble Bee it is very difficult to obtain a packaging that’s both environmentally friendly and retains the quality of the product. However, they are keen to find an alternative and are apparently “in talks” with a developer of a truly degradable technology. 

More snacks seem to equal more plastic for me!

After eventually leaving the library and heading home, I was greeted at the door with a parcel – a plant I had ordered for my room. Although a rather small plant the box it arrived in was quite large, but no worries because the rest of the space was filled with plastic. To be fair, the plant did survive the journey unharmed.

Later, in the shower I noticed I was surrounded with plastic – four of us share this bathroom and the window sill, the sides of the bath all covered in carefully balanced bottles: shampoos, conditioners, body wash, face wash, the lot! I felt like this project was being to turn into a horror movie, imagine the Psycho shower scene but less stabbing and more plastic. Coincidentally, today was also the day that my plastic-free-organic-vegan-friendly deodorant arrived! Perhaps I will be able to cut out one plastic product out of my life, stay tuned to hear more.

 
 

Thursday 9th November

Things seemed to be going well today … a little too good. I stuck with cake for breakfast again, and today I had been prepared with my little lunchbox of food. Then I got home and began to make supper. Tonight, I went for an omelette and I found myself seemingly endlessly removing veg from plastic wrapping – I am definitely going to have to start looking for other sources.

Later, I settled down to watch Riverdale with a nice snack, digestives and a wedge of brie my mum had posted to me earlier in the week. It really seemed that my main source of single-use plastic was food, but what’s a girl to do? I AM HUNGRY.

 
 

Friday 10th November

Again, cake for breakfast. Going plastic free wasn’t so hard when things were already prepared, but if I were in a rush I’m not sure what I could eat. Fruit? But that doesn’t really fill you up. Guiltily, I left the house without preparing any lunch mostly because I just couldn’t be bothered! As someone who is not skilled in the culinary department, the idea of cooking food is just so long and boring. Luckily, 3rd year has had me busy enough to not go out as much so my budget for alcohol has complimented my food budget quite nicely. I headed into Essentials and picked up my favourite wrap and flapjack, I avoided the drink (and its plastic bottle) in the meal deal even though it worked out cheaper with it. I also treated myself to a pastry… but why does the paper bag need a plastic front? If they want to see in couldn’t they just, I don’t know… open the bag?

Later, I filled up on pasta to prepare myself for the night out. As we began drinking I couldn’t help but notice the plastic bottles surrounding me. Even in the club drunk-me noticed too and managed to take a pic, I also managed to break my phone but I digress.

 
 

Saturday 11th November

As usual, I definitely regret buying drinks in the club; not just because I can’t remember the night, or because of the nasty dent it left in my bank balance, but also because I’m contributing to the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enters our oceans every year. 

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Later, after nursing my hangover with copious amounts of water and the remainder of my calzone that I picked up on my way home last night. I ordered myself a Chinese takeaway, sorry to the world and its oceans and all the animals impacted but I just needed a hearty meal to revive me and all my cupboards had at this point was pasta or couscous. 

Sunday 12th November 

I’ve spent the day eating left-overs and thinking about the past week. One thing I have realised over this past week, other than the ridiculous amount of plastic we use daily, is just how hard it is to avoid using it! Plastic-free products are usually more expensive than their plastic-using counterparts and so much harder to find. But also, when we think on the global scale, the UK is undeniably advantaged in regard to tech and investment so could be doing much more to aid the development and production of alternative packaging. Then again, as Jumble Bee said to me: the issue is with the packaging still being fit for use, which at this point in time is not possible with biodegradable options on an industrial scale. If you can, try to switch out single-use plastics with reusable products like water bottles and Tupperware and for the plastic you just can’t avoid remember to recycle!

 

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