The great plastic confidence trick

Lets make something clear, we do not like plastic. We tolerate an amount of recyclabled plastic but strive to get our consumption as close to zero as possible.

We especially don’t like non-recyclable plastic. So you finish your pump bottle of liquid soap what do you do with it? At living gentler we would continue using it via refilling from a refill centre.. But not every does or is able to…

So you want to recycle it? But what about the pump? That is a mix of materials and often includes a metal spring so the bottle goes in recycling and the pump in general waste, not an ideal solution….

BUT WAIT! The chemical companies that make the product have a solution… Why not reuse the bottle and pump? Buy their product in a plastic pouch it results in less plastic waste.

Plastic pounch you can only recycle in certain places

Amazing! One pouch can hold the same amount of soap as multiple bottles… The world is saved! Minimal plastics into the waste stream….

There is an increasing number of products in these kinds of pouches. Liquid soap, washing pods, even quality baby foods and cosmetics…..

But wait! What do we do with these pouches when its empty?

Well its mainly soft plastic so it cannot go in the normal recycling… But look it says its eco and can be recycled (well thats ok then!). In the small print there on the package there is a web address, usually for a company called Terracycle.

It took about ten minutes of clicking through pages to find the location of one of their drop off pounts. The drop off point is effectively the start of the recycling process… Oh joy its 27 miles away in Colchester! Thats a gallon on fuel, an hour and a bits worth of driving, and car parking costs to recycle one pouch…

We also now have to add Cushelle toilet rolls to the contrick, after an all to brief flirtation with paper wrapping they are now rolling out 85% recycled plastic wrap on their products. That in itself is good as it prevents waste to landfill, but unfortunately if you read the small print, this wrap is only recyclable through supermarket carrier bag collection points…. You cannot put it in your household recycling. Two things spring to mind, does anyone know where these collection points are? What happens to the plastic collected? Landfill, incineration for energy, or repurposing / recycling? No one really knows… and are people still using single use carrier bags? and will they remember to take the old wrap to the store.

So this is what really happens….

It ends up in the general waste bin knowing all general waste is either incinerated for electricity production or landfilled.

And thats where this great plastic confidence trick kicks in..

Are we reducing plastic waste using these pouches and recycled packaging? Yes of course.

Are we still guilty of putting plastic into the waste stream? Of course, and this plastic cannot generally be recycled so effectively whilst less waste by volume, it is more damaging waste we are leaving behind.


What can we do?

1. There are mail order companies that supply soap products in pouches online (look around our pages we have trialled some) one company (splosh) will accept returned pouches in their own packaging and recycle them.

2. There is an increase in refill shops, find your local one, support it, and use refillable bottles.

3. Use nonplastic wrapped soap bars, generally the product is more natural and they are either unwrapped or come in a cardboard box…. Imperial leather even make bars for kids in funky colours wrapped in an eye catching cardboard box.

4. Eventually the chemical companies will have lots of local recycling facilities making the process easier but storing them in the meantime is a pain….

We at #livinggentler towers have used returnable pouches, but now favour refill shops and unwrapped soaps…. It is worth checking the Terracycle website, they are an american based global recycling business. They specialise in hard to recycle packaging and products. It is worth remembering not all location take all types of recycling.

But mostly if you can get it wrapped in paper / cardboard or unwrapped that is going to be better than plastic wrapped!