Julie Lowe from Ashton-under-Lyne is passionate about reducing her household waste, especially plastic. In this guest blog post, Julie shares her story with us, as well as sharing her top 5 tips for going plastic free.

We started our plastic free journey by accident. It was a New Year’s resolution in 2019 to always take a bag with me when I went shopping because I was hopeless at remembering them and spent a fortune on 5p plastic bags. I had hundreds at home. I treated myself to one of those bags which fold up small and started to take it with me all the time. We soon realised what an impact it had in reducing our plastic bags.

We then noticed the amount of plastic around our food in the supermarket and invested in reusable, washable bags for our veg. At this point we changed where we did our shopping to a supermarket which did a wider range of loose vegetables.

The supermarket also advertised reusable plastic boxes to take raw meat home in, which we purchased. Our fridge was becoming a plastic free zone, and we were becoming quite passionate about our plastic use, vowing to reduce it even more. We didn’t try to replace everything at once. We did one bit at a time. We changed back to having a milkman and stopped using bin bags (why do you need them if you are recycling properly). I made some mistakes and I still am, but that’s OK because we are trying to change. I once tried to make my own cleaner out of white vinegar and orange peel. I didn’t mind the smell but my family did!

I have had the same three plastic washing up bottles since February 2019. When I’m on my last one I take it to a re-fill shop. We have a few quite near and we plan our visits to them for when we are going in the area to save on our carbon emissions. For shampoo and conditioner I use an old Jack Daniels bottle with an old hand soap dispenser as a lid with a straw. These I get refilled too.

Basket of shopping in reusable bottles and jars

Search for your nearest plastic free shop

Another big change was buying a metal reusable water bottle as up to this point we bought bottled water. Manchester has the best drinking water so all they were selling us was the plastic bottle!

Download the Refill app to find out your nearest free tap water refill point

We used to think we didn’t have enough time to shop on our local market because we were working; how wrong we were?  We discovered it is an amazing place to shop for plastic free. We swapped tea bags for tea leaves and coffee jars for beans which we buy from The Market Grounds on Ashton Market – well worth a visit as the homemade cakes are delicious. All the stall holders have been amazing, not one of them minds us taking our containers to be filled with meat from the butchers. We get our bread, cheese, fruit and veg from the market too.

meat, cheese, bread, fruit and vefetables in reusable boxes and bags

As you know you can’t put plastic bags into the recycling bin and I don’t want to put them in general waste so if we do buy something in a plastic bag (for example, tortilla chips which we haven’t found plastic free and I can’t make them ourselves) we save them up and take them to a supermarket who has a plastic bag drop off.

It’s a bit scary at first to say no thank you to plastic and you feel a bit silly but people are nice and supportive. They think it’s a great idea when you explain what you are doing. We use it as a bit of a game to find a product plastic free and we have encouraging friends who let me know when they have found something plastic free.

If you are thinking about going plastic free, I’d encourage you to have a go, it’s been a fun journey and we haven’t finished yet.

Loose tea in a glass jar

My top 5 tips for starting to go plastic free are:

  1. Research – have a look online what products you can get plastic free. More and more are becoming available every day. Instagram and Facebook are great for this. You can also join plastic free groups.
  2. Always plan what you want to buy before you go shopping and take enough containers. Reuse your jam jars, as they make great containers for lots of things. Make a list. Know what you are going for. You will save money too in the long run because you are not being tempted and only buying what you need, which means less food waste.
  3. Never forget your bag and always take a spare one. There are some great ones for sale.
  4. Don’t be scared to say no to something if it’s in plastic. If you take your own container they are saving money. Use your local market. If you spend £5 a week locally it makes a huge difference to the local economy.
  5. Make sure you know what can be recycled in your bins in your area. I get asked all the time.

To follow Julie’s journey, you can find her on Instagram – @plasticreducer


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