Hidden Plastics?! Yikes! 5 x Plastic-Free Tuesday for the advanced

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A good side effect of ridding my house, fridge and carry-on bag of large chunks of plastics – e.g. plastic bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, food wraps –  is that I am now slowly opening my eyes to all the other pieces of plastics still in my life. Plastic is really EVERYWHERE! Sometimes obvious, sometimes not…

The non-obvious kind of plastic is what I like to call #hiddenplastics! 🙂 I find that in some way these types of plastic might be worse than plain old plastics, as there is very little chance that these bits of plastic will ever be recycled. #hiddenplastics are mostly stuck/glued onto another material, and of very low quality, so they are not likely recycling candidates.

In this post I am sharing my top 5 of #hiddenplastics  encountered so far: coffee bags, tea, dairy products, metal cans and cheese :-(.  I’d love to hear whether/when you realized that there is plastic here too? And whether you have also started to refuse them? Any other finds that are good to know about?

#1: Coffee Bags

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Oh man, plasticized ‘aluminium’ wrap around the ground coffee. It took me a while to figure this out.  Yet, now I’ve seen it, I can’t believe how I did not realize all along that this entire packet is really plastic in disguise…!

Replacement option:  Take a container to a specialized coffee store to buy it in bulk, or get coffee beans and grind your own! If in the Netherlands: try Simon Lévelt. With hipster coffee culture still booming, it should not be too hard to find bulk coffee somewhere 🙂 Also for the non-hipster 🙂 Of course, you might be able to find a place with other wrappers for coffee, e.g. paper, but I have had no luck so far. You?

#2: Tea Bags

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Tea… another tough one! Personally,  I have not managed to find any tea bags which do not somehow have plastic involved.. either the box is packed in plastic, or the individual bags are. This is a classic example of #hiddenplastics if you ask me: plastiziced ‘paper’. I am now convinced that loose leaf tea bought in bulk, is the way to go on this. Also, especially since we already discussed/discovered via the blog that tea bags THEMSELVES might contain plastic (to keep the bag together in hot water), there seems sufficient reason to look for an alternative..

Replacement option: buy loose leaf tea in bulk. Yum! Make your own mixes if you really want to go all out on this 🙂 I can get mine at the market, or specialized tea or coffee shop (again, for the Netherlands, try Simon Lévelt?). You can use a regular strainer or a special tea strainer to soak the tea in the water. Or do as the Chinese do and simply toss leafs into a pot or cup 🙂

#3 : Dairy product containers (milk/yoghurt), incl. lids on glass bottles

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I have literally found no milk in my surroundings which is sold in glass bottles so far, or in bulk for that matter. The plasticized carton is of course a no-no, because.. it’s plasticized carton. Sadly, it took me a while to realize that too (about the second week I did Plastic-Free Tuesdays :-)) . I know the brand of which I purchase the yoghurt has milk in glass bottles as well, I saw this at a shop in the province next to mine (Friesland) when I went camping there a few weekends ago. Unfortunately, not available here yet it seems, so I leave milk mostly now.  Yoghurt in the glass returnable bottle I find a good alternative, even though the lid has #hiddenplastic… Metal lids are often plasticized on the inside, sadly. The producer does not allow people to return the lids for reuse, so they become waste. I still mean to ask the producer why this is.. It was suggested on Instagram that it has to do with the proper closing of bottles after reuse.

Dairy products is one of the things that I have not managed to find a fully plastic-free alternative for. Of course, not eating them at all is an option, but I am not really ready for that yet, I feel.

Replacement: No clue. Any thoughts? Making my own is difficult because of no good option for plastic-free milk.. Nut milk yoghurt does not exist right??

#4:  Metal cans

Another bummer: plastiziced metal cans. Most plastic liners are there to protect the metals from leaking or giving off taste to the product I think. I’ve read that sometimes plastic is burned off cans, so cans can be recycled. E.g. read this ‘Plastic is Rubbish’ post as well, here. I’m afraid we still sneak in cans of beans or lentils especially, though mostly I have started to avoid canned products, also canned drinks. (I already did not eat that many canned veggies, mostly beans). Healthier too,  fresh or dried foods, because the cans are likely to contain many preservatives and additives. Also, especially concerns over BPA being included in the plastic can liners, should make metal cans a no-go. It’s on my plastic-to-work-on list.

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Replacement: buy the contents of the cans fresh or dried, in bulk, at the market, with your own container, or paper bag. I’ve soaked a number of batches of beans now, it’s literally just soaking for at least 12 hours (or multiple 12 hour stretches), and then (pre)cooking them. Or, make your own when it comes to (tomato) sauces. Canned soft drinks are really bad for us anyways, so ditch these all together 🙂

#5:  Cheese

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This final one really gets me, being a fervent cheese eater. Plasticized cheese!

Of course, you sort of know about this – as you probably do with many of these ‘hidden plastics’.. But recently I made the effort to look it up, and indeed; most Dutch-style cheeses are covered with a thin layer of plastic coating to help the cheese mature. Umfph..  Even if it looks waxy, like this cheese, the coating is likely plastic. I checked with this producer and they confirmed.

Replacement: I’ve found one Dutch cheese maker who allegedly makes ‘plastic-free cheese’, called ‘Remeker‘,  because of the very fact that they find it a waste to use plastic! They replace the plastic with ‘butter oil’/ghee. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to check with the market stall who allegedly sells this cheese (they have a long list of sales points). I’m looking forward to try it out. Otherwise, the cheese tip – no punishment either –  is to go French or Mediterranean :-). Feta, mozzarella, French cheeses, they all do not have a plastic coating. Mostly it’s the soft cheeses which come without plastic. Goat’s cheese is another good option too. For me, I can get these cheeses at the market easily, bringing my own container, otherwise at Mediterranean shops. Full disclosure: I sometimes still make allowances for a nice piece of Dutch cheese.  Can’t be perfect always! 🙁

Alright, that’s the (first?) #hiddenplastics list! It can be longer, no doubt. Let me know if you also found any unexpected plastics, and of course, ideally, your alternatives to it!

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About Author

Marlies

Always interested in pursuing a more responsible and sustainable life-style, Marlies immediately got on board with the Plastic-Free Tuesday Project as a regular blogger. Marlies' special mission this year is to stop the use of any single-use or disposable plastics in her daily life, aiming to help the planet a little by being a responsible consumer. Follow Marlies as she explores her city, Groningen, in the Netherlands, from a different, plastic-free perspective, or as she travels around for work and weddings this year. Marlies is in charge of our activities on Instagram.

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