NEWS: The Hidden Truth: Plastic where you'd least expect it

This blog was hard to write because it focuses on the ugly and unavoidable truth, that Plastic really is everywhere, even in the places you’d least expect it. Although hard to write, we felt it was an important one to highlight the extent of the problem we’re facing. 

So let’s start with the cold hard facts….

In 2017, only 46% of UK plastic packaging from all sectors was collected for recycling. Of this, only 34% was recycled in the UK, with the rest exported to other countries for recycling. Since China banned imports of plastic waste in January 2018, some UK plastic waste is now exported to countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The poorer waste infrastructure in these countries means that only around 10% of all plastic waste is recycled, with the rest being landfilled, burned or entering the environment* 

These facts are scary enough! Combine that with some very eye-opening insight from the good people at Friends of the Earth, that highlight just how prevalent plastic is, even in the places we’d least expect it…and the situation starts to look very bleak indeed!  

So here are some startling truths about where plastic is lurking. Each item, if not properly recycled, is likely to end up polluting our soils, rivers and seas, which is not good for us, the animals or the planet. 

So tell us, how many of these did you think contained plastic??

  • Chewing gum - Loads of us love chewing gum. It’s good for our teeth (or so we’re told) and keeps our breath minty fresh. We've been at it for thousands of years. People used to chew on chicle - a gum made from tree sap. These days, we’re more likely to be chewing on a polymer. That’s a plastic made from oil that’s similar to the stuff found in car tyres. Surprising, right? We’re chewing on plastic that can stick around in the environment. Need some good news?... Well, plastic free gum is making its way onto the market. Supermarket giant Iceland, has started selling plant-based gum….go Iceland! 

  • Tea bags - One of life’s simple pleasures, a nice cuppa and a biscuit. But wait…did you know that many tea bag brands use plastic to help seal the bags so they don’t break open in the box or in your nice cuppa chai. It’s only a very thin layer of plastic called polypropylene but it’s there nonetheless. And there is a very good chance it’ll end up in our soil, in our rivers and eventually into our seas. Top Tip: get yourself a tea diffuser, so you can use loose leaf tea and avoid the plastic completely. 

  • Bottle tops - Opting for a nice glass bottle of juice or beer because it’s the greener, more sustainable choice? Well, here’s some bad news, it’s not the bottle that’s the problem, it’s the cap! These bad boys used to be made from aluminium and have a cork liner, however in the 1960 they replaced the cork with, you guessed it….plastic! 

  • Envelopes - the unassuming paper envelope we all thought was a good sustainable, environmentally friendly and plastic-free choice….contains plastic!! Nooooooo…..I hear you cry! Unfortunately yes, most self-sealing and peel-and-seal envelopes contain plastic. It comes in the form of a synthetic latex found in the glue. With some many millions, if not billions of envelopes sent every day, the impact is overwhelming! 

  • Drinks Cartons - ​​It might not be obvious because we generally assume cardboard type products are better BUT…cartons of milk, juice and other liquids are all hiding plastic. They are in fact made from paperboard, aluminium and a type of plastic called polytethylene. Although producers of these cartons claim their packaging is recyclable, the truth is that each time plastic is recycled, the quality of the material gets worse. Recycling keeps plastic in use for longer. But it can only be recycled so many times before it becomes useless. The bottom line is, recycled plastic still finds its way into the environment – just by a slower route.

  • Drink Cans: Now this is definitely a better solution than the plastic drinks bottles, surely!!! Well yes, they are but you’re not escaping the plastic completely. In fact, every single drink can on the market is lined with a plastic resin, called epoxy.  This is needed to stop the drink within corroding the aluminium.  Wired reports in a rather startling article that “without that [expoxy] shield, a can of Coke would corrode in three days“. Roughly 80% of that epoxy is bisphenol-A or BPA for short.  BPA has been associated with a myriad of negative health implications.  

  • Till Receipts: There’s no respite at the checkout as even the tills are out to get us – most receipts can’t be recycled thanks to being printed on mixed paper, or printed with ink containing toxic BPA.

Want to do something about this problem. Check out the Friend’s of the Earth Petition that demands a new law to end plastic pollution.

Want to find innovative ways to cut down the amount of single-use plastic in your home? Check out our blogs for some more interesting tips, sign up to our newsletter for regular insights and shopping tips straight to your mailbox. 

Finally check out our Shop for all our plastic-free and vegan home cleaning products and household goods. 

*References taken from the Greenpeace plastics report 2020