One hand holding a smartphone showing a timer screen and the other hand holding a plastic tub of blueberries

Two friends challenge themselves to avoid everyday plastic

Charlie Gilpin and his friend Will Hearle from Lambeth Friends of the Earth local group decided to do our plastic timer challenge. They're amazed at the lengths they have to go to.
  Published:  26 Feb 2019    |      2 minute read

Charlie says:

"I decided to challenge myself to doing a plastic free February. I went to visit a recycling plant to find out more, and I was shocked to see how much plastic can't be recycled. It just gets put in landfill or burnt.

"Doing the timer challenge has been really positive because it has forced me to study my habits. It's shown me where I can avoid plastic in my life. It's a tangible thing and it makes me feel like I can make a difference.

"The thing that tripped me up was plastic on the inside of a takeaway coffee cup. It was early one morning and I wasn't paying attention.

We cannot recycle our way out of this problemCharlie Gilpin

"I've been carrying around a 'sack of shame' which contains all the plastic items I failed on. It contains the plastic ring which holds together a 4-pack of beer. I found this one really annoying - I chose aluminium cans because they can be recycled, but didn't notice the plastic ring.

Pressure on the producers

"It's everywhere and it's unavoidable. We need to pressure the retailers to stop using plastic in everything."

Charlie (right) and Will & their sack of shame
Charlie (right) and Will & their sack of shame
Credit: Will Hearle

Will says:

"I had to do so much planning and organising because I wanted to do the whole month of February without plastic. I bulk bought things such as pasta and rice that would last a month.

"I've been cleaning my teeth with salt, which is horrible, and using lemon for deodorant which is actually OK. For lip balm I've been using olive oil out of a glass bottle.

"For household cleaning products, I've been using vinegar and water or baking soda; both of these options work really well.

My plastic timer challenge

"So I was so annoyed when I got tripped up just 79 minutes after starting the timer challenge. I went for a run and grabbed a drink bottle out of the fridge without thinking, of course there was plastic on the inside of the lid!

Plastic comes at you from every direction, it's sneaky and you can't avoid it. There are plastic-free alternatives, but they can be expensive and hard to find. Will Hearle

"My sack of shame contains one piece of plastic film and a few stickers from apples. I find these annoying as I chose apples because they are sold individually and not in plastic wrapping.

"If we want to stop this kind of absurdity, the pressure needs to be put on the producers.

"Consumers can make a real difference through their choices, but retailers also need to say they don't want plastic containers any more.

"I think it's really important that the government decides to act on this."