This month we are celebrating Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is a key initiative that aims to raise awareness of plastic pollution and encourages people to reduce everyday single-use plastic. Millions of people across the globe take part every year, with many committing to reducing plastic pollution far beyond the month of July.
In honour of Plastic Free July, we asked local zero-waste shop The Bare Alternative to give us their tips on how to reduce plastic waste in your kitchen.
What is The Bare Alternative?
The Bare Alternative is a zero waste shop bringing affordable, plastic-free shopping to Abbeydale Road and the surrounding community. We offer a wide selection of whole foods and cooking ingredients for making healthy meals, all available package-free, so make sure to BYOC (Bring Your Own Container).
We also sell a range of natural cleaning products and everyday sustainable alternatives (bamboo toothbrushes, steel straws along with other dental, cosmetic and hygiene products) that will help you reduce waste and live a low impact lifestyle.
What was the driving force behind starting up?
My partner heard of the concept of zero waste shops popping up in her home country of Slovakia. Around the same time, Unwrapped in Crookes opened. We loved what they were doing and actually enjoyed the more relaxed process of filling our containers rather than mindlessly filling a trolley in the supermarket. I visited a few other zero waste shops and realised that driving, even the relatively short distance across the city, was slightly defeating the purpose of shopping more sustainably. I thought that it would be great to bring the same shopping opportunities to those living in my community, and opened the shop in November 2019.
This month is all about raising awareness of plastic pollution and trying to reduce everyday single-use plastic. Why do you think it is important to go plastic free?
It’s widely known that only a small fraction of plastic waste that is put in a recycling bin is actually and meaningfully recycled. More so in Sheffield, as we have limited recycling facilities compared to other councils, and the fact that we have the incinerator. I hate to think that plastic waste, much of it that is single-use packaging, only gets used for a small amount of time. There are so many emissions produced in creating it, then transporting it for purchase and then transported again just to be incinerated and create more emissions. I just think it’s crazy.
One way we help people reduce plastic waste here is by supplying our customers with package-free refill items to eliminate this exact type of packaging. We also offer many plastic-free alternatives, but these would be incinerated in the same way at the end of its usefulness, but are overall less damaging to the environment.
Frustratingly, the fact that virgin plastic is cheaper means there is no incentive for recycling to be effective. While it’s a shame to have to require specialist services such as TerraCycle, it does mean that hard-to-recycle waste is actually dealt with effectively. I haven’t even started on the topic of plastic waste in the ocean, but I will save that for another time!
What’s the best way to get started going plastic free?
I always tell people to start small. Plastic Free July is a great opportunity to do this. There’s loads of inspiration on social media during the month and many other places to find a starting point. Not everybody has to, and even can, instantly remove all plastic from their lives and keep it up for a whole month.
This is a great chance to challenge yourself to cut down on items that have excessive plastic. It’s also a chance to find a few changes you can make and keep up with after July. If you continue to make changes after July, by next year you might be ready to take on the challenge of going completely plastic-free for the month. It is a big lifestyle change to become plastic-free. In a similar way to training for a marathon, you don’t go out for a run today and start out doing that full distance. You have to build up to it otherwise you run the risk of not keeping up with it.
Finally, have you got any tips for going plastic free in your kitchen?
Find something that you buy frequently and research if there is a more eco-friendly version of that product available. Our compostable bin liners are very popular – larger bags that fit a general waste bin. They’re slightly more expensive and just as strong as their plastic counterparts, but most importantly, when they inevitably do make their way to the incinerator, they will at least burn cleaner with less emissions.
Another easy win is to try to find plastic-free alternatives and cleaning refills for the kitchen. There are some amazing products on the market now and we recently expanded our homeware offering in the shop. It is worth checking out the range from ecoLiving, who even send everything to us using no plastic packing or tape. Check out the blog on our website for a deeper dive into their products on our Supplier Spotlight, and how we work together to fight plastic pollution.