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advice environment Nappies reuse

Using cloth nappies on a budget

Someone putting a pound coin into a pink money box pig

There has been a lot of media coverage recently about people who collect cloth nappies, and focussing on one mum who spent £160 on 2 nappies. Whilst it’s great that cloth nappies are making mainstream media, it is worrying that it is putting families with less disposable income off using them in fear of the cost involved.

A couple of weeks ago I did a cost comparison with the cost using cloth nappies versus the cost of disposables ( Are cloth nappies cheaper? ), but how much do you NEED to spend, in order to use cloth nappies.

Tip 1 – Choose 2 part nappies. The expensive part of making cloth nappies is the PUL (the waterproof bit) so if you are changing the whole nappy every time (as you do with All in Ones and Pockets), your nappies are likely to work out more expensive overall. Two-part nappies tend to work out less expensive as you only change the absorbent bit at most nappy changes. To have 20 nappies, you would need 4-5 wraps and 20 inserts, meaning 20 nappies could cost as little as £140 brand new. 2-part nappies are easier to pass down to several other babies too, as if the PUL wears out, you only need to replace the wrap, not the whole nappy.

Examples – Totsbots Peenuts (£18 for wrap and pads, £7.99 for additional pads), Grovia (Wraps £15, inserts £15 for 2), Ecobebe (£11.50 for complete nappy, £5.50 for replacement inserts)

Tip 2 – Buy second hand. There are loads of preloved groups on Facebook for buying second hand nappies, just type preloved nappies into the search bar. Some people sell second hand nappies on Ebay, but this is technically against eBay regulations and you may find that they won’t help if something goes wrong with the purchase. Freecycle or other pass it on sites also often have cloth nappies, if you are not too fussy about what you get. Things to look out for when buying second hand is whether the elastics and PUL are still going strong. Ask for close ups of waterproofing and leg holes and check them over carefully before using.

Tip 3 – Buy bulk packs and kits. If you know which nappies work for you (and we always recommend you try before you buy loads, whether that is via a nappy library or buying a select few of the ones you’ll thing you’ll like), then buying a bulk kit can work out cheaper eg a single Tots Bots Easyfit is £18, but a birth to potty kit costs £265, and includes 2 packs of liners and some washing powder.

Tip 4 – Consider using flat nappies some of the time. People are often put off using flat nappies (terry squares, prefolds) because the thought of folding them is overwhelming. However, I like to tell people I learnt to fold a terry square when I was four years old, so it can’t be hard. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube for the different folds. Flat nappies are really cheap, even new you are only looking at spending £2 a nappy, and as they dry really quickly, you don’t need quite so many of them.

Tip 5 – see if your nappy library has a relationship with any retailers. We often offer nappy libraries a discount code to allow their customers to buy nappies for a bit less.

What are your tips for doing cloth nappies a bit cheaper?

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environment Nappies reuse

Are cloth nappies cheaper?

I originally wrote a blog post on this a few years ago, but the disposable and the cloth nappy markets have changed so much recently, that it’s worth visiting again.

When I first started running a nappy library and retailing cloth nappies, it was as clear that using cloth nappies would definitely be cheaper. However, disposables have gotten a lot cheaper, especially since Lidl and Aldi have entered the market, meaning it’s not as clear cut as it used to be.

We’ll start with the assumption that the average baby will go through 6,000 disposable nappies a between birth and potty training as that is what research suggests. We will also use the assumption that you only buy 25 cloth nappies.

In Aldi disposable nappies retail at 85p for 24 or £4.39 for 98. Pampers were on at £12 for 52 or £18 for 104 or £8 for 39 for their “Eco” brand. That makes 3.5p per disposable for Aldi newborn 4.4p per bigger size disposable. Pampers are 23p to 17.3p for their normal brand, or 20.5p for their eco brand.

So, the cheapest disposables would cost £240 over 2.5 years, Pampers £1,038 and Eco £1,230.

Cloth nappies

Cheapest option – £100 for a birth to potty terry square kit – 24 terry squares, 6 wraps, bucket, liners.

Midpriced option – Ecobebe from Ecopipo all in two system – 5 complete nappies @ £10.99, 15 Ecobebe inserts @£5, 5 Ecopipo night nappies @£10.49. 3 wraps @ £10.49 = £213.87

Expensive option – 20 Tots Bots Easyfit – £360, 5 bamboozles @ £12 and 3 wraps @£12 = £456.

Accessories – Grow Up Green accessories kit (bucket, 2 x bucket mesh, wet bag, 20 fleece or 200 disposable liners) = £35

Washing – £1.00 for A or A+ machine and detergent = £125

Comparison of costs

So, from the table you can see, if budget brands suit your baby, then disposable nappies are fractionally cheaper. However, as you can use cloth nappies on more than one child and/or sell them on when you are done, then actually cloth would still work out cheaper. You could further save money by buying second-hand, bulk sets and kits and taking advantage of offers and sales. If you were planning on using Pampers or an eco-brand of disposables, you would definitely be saving money using cloth nappies.

Of course, the cost isn’t everything when it comes to using cloth nappies – there’s the environment and the cuteness to consider too. But knowing you aren’t breaking the bank while switching to cloth is always good to know!

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environment recycle reduce reuse

5 reasons why recycling isn’t the answer…

I bought a take out coffee at the weekend. I was manning a nappy info stall at a local nearly new sale, and had had the foresight to take my reusable coffee cup with me. I popped across the road to the well-known coffee outlet and ordered my coffee and handed over my cup. Unfortunately, my cup didn’t fit underneath their machine, so I watched in astonishment as the barista picked up a disposable cup to dispense my coffee and pour it into my reusable cup. I expressed my displeasure – why could she not have used one of their pot cups and put it in the washer? “Oh!” she said, “it’s OK, we recycle the paper cups!”

This attitude seems all pervasive. It seems that we don’t have to worry about what waste we produce because “oh well, it will be recycled.” People are even looking at ways to recycle disposable nappies as a way to remove the impetus to use cloth.

No. Recycling is at best third on the waste reduction pyramid. It comes after REDUCE and REUSE (but others would argue REPAIR and REPURPOSE need to go in there too). Here’s why:

  1. Recycling still uses huge amounts of energy and water. Admittedly, depending on what you are recycling, between 45% and 75% less energy then creating the product new, but still huge amounts of energy;
  2. Recycling doesn’t produce like for like quality. Whilst aluminium can be melted down and just made into more pop cans, most raw materials are acutally down cycled rather than recycled. Recycled glass tends to be slightly coloured and recycled plastic is at best discoloured and at worst is downcycled into something else such as infill for roads or “eco bricks”
  3. Recycling is cost inefficient and largely subsidised by local government (source Popular Mechanics );
  4. We do not have the capacity to deal with the amount of recycling we generate in this country and much is shipped overseas to countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Poland which is a climate change problem (source The Guardian )
  5. Much of the waste we think we are recycling, may actually ending up in landfill either here or overseas. Recyclable waste that is dirty (or “contaminated”) cannot be recycled, so is diverted to land fill.

Now, obviously, I’m not telling you not to recycle. But don’t think of it as your first port of call when choosing whether something is good for the environment. Think first REDUCE (do I need it, do I already have something else that will do the job, can I borrow it?) then think REUSE (take a refillable bottle or coffee cup, reuse a carrier, use a cloth nappy, cloth san-pro) then, and only then, think can I recycle it.

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Why we need Zero Waste Week!

Zero Waste Week logoLast week there was a discussion on a local business forum about the best coffee maker to get for the office. Opinion was divided between various big brands of pod-based coffee machines. I took a deep breath and bravely suggested that none of these were ideal, as they all generated a huge amount single-use plastic waste. Well, you’d have thought I’d criticised someone’s choice of baby name, the reaction I got! It all boiled down to “why should we be challenged on the waste we create?!”

It was ironic that this conversation came just before Zero Waste Week. The point of Zero Waste Week is to encourage everyone to think about the amount of waste they create and think of ways in which they can reduce it, with an ultimate goal of not creating any waste at all. It is a challenge, and challenges are hard!

Sculpture made of WEEE waste
Sculpture made of WEEE waste at the Eden Project

The average UK household produces 1 tonne of waste a year, and alarmingly this amount is increased by 3% every year. We throw away twenty times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. The main reason for the increase is that convenience is prized far higher than sustainability. And yet, it estimated that Britain will run out of landfill in approximately 8 years.

So, this is the reason we DO need to be challenged about the waste we create. I don’t claim to be perfect, I am a long way from being Zero Waste, but I do think about the purchasing choices I make. The waste reduction scale starts with REFUSE, then REDUCE, then REUSE, then RECYCLE and finally landfill, and yet a lot of people think they are doing their best by recycling that which is collected kerb side.

I agree that some of our problems with waste are the cause of companies, who have things such as built in obsolesence, contracts that encourage further purchase etc and these need to be tackled by government and by campaigning, but that doesn’t completely absolve the individual of the need to take responsibility for the products they introduce into the supply chain. I’ve blogged before on easy ways to reduce your waste or even just your single use plastic, but it starts with thinking.

Thinking: “Do I REALLY need this?” “Do I have something else that can do the job?” “Can I source this second hand or borrow it from someone?” “How will I dispose of this when I have finished with it?” “What waste products does this product generate and how will I deal with them?” “How long do I expect to use this product for?” If we all did this, then the amount of waste we produce would reduce, and the land we have be kept for housing, for green spaces, for farming and forestry, not filled with 31 tonnes a year of consumer waste!

So, this Zero Waste Week, what steps are you planning on taking to reduce your waste?

 

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 4

Copy of Copy of Waste Free Lent

Another week has gone by, and the lessons I have learnt again are that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I really do have to get more organised and remember to take food and drink with me when I go out! I have, however, got into the habit of taking a reusable cup with me everywhere I go and find most places are more than happy to use it. In fact, one place I got coffee from offered me a discount on my coffee for providing my own cup – win!

I’m not going to give you a day by day breakdown this week – last week was so manic I can barely remember what I did when, but I will share some wins and some dilemmas!

Wins: I had both a 40th birthday and Mother’s Day to negotiate this week, but didn’t do too badly on the waste production. For the 40th I bought a couple of knitting pattern books (the birthday girl is obsessed with knitting!) and put in a bottle of my home-made redcurrant gin. For my Mum, I bought a selection of posh tonic waters in glass bottles, and again put in a bottle of my home-made red currant gin. So very little waste. I then reused gift bags I had received for my own birthday a few weeks ago.

The bright spring days have highlighted that I have neglected cleaning my windows over winter! The reason for tIMG_20160304_150848his became clear when I tried to find some glass cleaner and discovered I didn’t have any. Now, in a perfect waste free world, I would use white vinegar and water to clean my windows, but I didn’t even have a spare spray bottle to use to do it. I did, however, have some old stock of Eco2Life spray bottles and refills from when I was a Wikaniko rep. Some were glass cleaners, so I opened one and used it. I was impressed and it smelt better than white vinegar too. I have added the rest to my website at a knock down price, in case you want to try them yourself!

Fails: I am really struggling with buying bananas and coffee. My local supermarket only does Fairtrade bananas in plastic bags. I could drive for half an hour to visit a Sainsbury’s, as ALL their bananas are Fairtrade, the loose ones, the value ones etc.. The only low plastic coffee I can find is also not Fairtrade (although I buy most of our coffee in bulk, the lids of the tins it comes in are still plastic). I am passionate about Fairtrade, I believe those that grow my food and drink should earn a fair wage and have access to education and healthcare. Any tips?

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent Week 3

Copy of Waste Free Lent (1)Well, we are almost half way through, and I still feel an awfully long way from being waste free! Lots of people and blogs have given me tips, although a fellow waste warrior and mum and I both agreed there was a dearth of blogs written by parents of children, where all adults work outside the home. Lots of the tips seem to involve having the time to do your weekly shop in half a dozen different shops, whilst making pasta from scratch!

There have been some small breakthroughs this week though!

Monday : One of the reasons I am so bad at taking lunch with me when I’m out at work is the perceived amount of time it will take to make it. Monday, though, I was going to a meeting that required me to bring a dish to share. So Sunday evening I made a mixed salad. I knew one of the delegates was vegan, so wanted to take something she could eat. I shredded a red cabbage, finely chopped some celery and made carrot matchsticks with a julienne maker I’d bought thinking it was a potato peeler! I chucked in a handful of raisins and a handful of mixed nuts. Then I made some jam-jar vinaigrette, which I kept in the jam jar until lunchtime. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes and I’d made a tasty, filling and nutritious lunch that had the added advantage of using up some of the veg in the veg bag!

 

Tuesday : I’d made so much of the salad for Monday, that I had plenty left over for lunch today. It made me realise that I could make a big batch of salad at the start of the week and just add different protein and dressings as the week went on for variety. I also did some baking for a sling meet. I discovered I could get “baking fat” in foil blocks rather than plastic tubs, for less money than the marg I had been buying and with the added benefit of it being dairy-free so our milk allergic and vegan parents could have it to!

Wednesday : I realised that I am going to have to drink more tap water. Most of what I choose to drink comes in plastic bottles, and the glass bottled alternatives are a lot more expensive. In addition, we don’t have a milk man, so I have no choice but to get milk in plastic bottles. I can’t give up the milk in my coffee, but I have given up drinking it as a drink, and if I’m thirsty I have a glass of water rather than squash or juice. This will be better for my teeth as well as better for the environment. I do find water a bit bland though, so think I need to experiment with putting fruit in my water bottle.

Thursday : I failed. I was too chicken to use my reusable coffee cup when I got a drink at the park to keep warm! In large chain coffee shops I can ask no problem, as I know my cup is the right size for their medium coffees and as they sell reusable cups for this purpose, I know they don’t mind. This cafe though is a small family owned one and only do coffees in really small cups, I was worried they’d think I was trying to get more coffee than I’d paid for so didn’t ask! 

Friday : Another drinking cup fail. We went to the cinema, and ordering a drink is just a habit. I need to get out of the habit, but also get a reusable soda cup for when I do just fancy a cold drink out and about!

Saturday/Sunday : It was the middle child’s birthday party and I was trying to learn lessons from the plastic filled party her brother had had. We still had some party bags left from her brother’s party, but got foil covered lollies for the sweets, a slice of birthday cake in napkins left from another party. Then we made headbands from a craft kit as part of the party and they went in! I also didn’t buy plastic “party” tableware. Instead, I got my proper tea service out, with matching tea plates, cups and saucers. The kids thought they were having a real treat and the table looked fab, with no waste!

Waste free birthday tea

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 2

Copy of Waste Free LentIf I have learnt one thing over the last week of trying to live waste free is that I need to get more organised. Being caught on the hop makes for a very difficult time trying to find low waste solutions!

I am also compiling a list of things to buy when my self-imposed spending embargo is lifted. I still believe the best way to reduce my waste is to limit what I buy in general, and to that end I will wait until Lent is over to purchase anything. However, on my shopping list are: a metal razor (for years I’ve wondered how to get away from plastic razors, now I know!), wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, net bags for fruit and veg and a reusable soda cup!

Monday: I was feeling good about the fact that I was in the craft shop and ONLY bought what I needed for Messy Church (I am a craft supplies and stationary addict!). But, I was out longer than intended and had brought no food or drink with me. Luckily, I am a northern lass and managed a Greggs pasty and a tin of diet coke. All recyclable packaging. Hurrah!

Tuesday: I began to realise that habits are hard to break. I took the children out for the day and took a packed lunch, with crisps and cartons of juice. It did at least allow me to have a frank conversation with the children about waste and recycling. We sorted our waste into recyclable and not. The venue had paper and can recycling, and we opted to take our juice boxes home as our kerbside collection recycles tetrapack.

Wednesday: Chocolate bar wrappers and a plastic tray waste as we ate up one of our remaining selection boxes on the drive down to nana’s house. However, I am not feeling guilty about waste created by goods already purchased as waste in the house is still waste and we may as well use the products in the way they were intended!

I also made stock with the remains of the chicken. I have frozen it in icecube trays to replace the plastic intensive “stock pots” I use for slow cooking. Now I just need to work out how to make my own “flavour pots”.homemade stock pots

Thursday: Actually was a waste free day! We had a lovely day out and lunch at a friend’s house. She had made pasta sauce from leftovers and desert was home-made ice cream! A total treat and made me consider a bigger freezer and an icecream maker 😉

Friday: You can’t buy birthday cakes without plastic. I could have made one, but I wasn’t home, so was reliant on the supermarket.

Saturday: Once again fell foul of a badly planned packed lunch. Cakes in plastic packaging. Must do better.

Sunday: Was amazed in the supermarket – needed baking fat. I usually buy Stork and reuse the box, but found I could buy supermarket’s own in butter wrapping. However, I’m not sure “foil” as it is described is better as it is not recyclable. Can anyone tell me what it actually it is?

It’s getting better. Let’s see how much less waste I can produce next week!

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 1

waste free lent blog week 1Just before the start of Lent, I read an interesting article inciting people to give up plastic instead of chocolate. As someone who both worries about the amount of waste I create, and preferring Lenten fasts to make me think, I gave it some serious consideration.

Then I looked around my house and went into blind panic. I read a few blogs on giving up plastic waste and panicked even more. It just seems so hard. I have so  many questions – like how do you wash your hair, let alone dye it, clean your teeth, buy meat, or pasta…

I still wanted to reduce my waste and really think about the waste I was producing though. So here is what I am going to do, post a new thing I did to reduce my waste each day of Lent (40 days if you don’t include Sundays).

So here we go:

Day 1: I hereby undertake to buy nothing new before the end of Lent. I decided this, then went for a meeting with a potential new volunteer in an out of town shopping centre. It was amazing how hard it was to walk past the special offers, and displays. Our whole society is based around encouraging us to buy more, consume more, create more waste.

Day 2: One of my bad waste habits is drinks when out and about. Whether it is coffee in a take out cup, or fizzy pop in a single use plastic bottle, drinking on the hoof is a potential waste minefield. I had already swapped to taking a reusable coffee cup out with me, but today took a sports bottle of squash too. Unfortunately, I also took my toddler, who drank quite a lot of the juice and by mid-afternoon we were both thirsty again. Most of the coffee shops in our town do coffee in washable mugs, but if you want a cold drink you have the choice of disposable cups or single use bottles. I opted for a hot drink to avoid the waste, but unfortunately had to buy a drink in a single use bottle for my son. Must do better next time!

Day 3 – was quite easy to not buy anything, I just didn’t go to the shops! However, I once again struck by how difficult it is to eat meat without producing plastic waste – the bacon at lunch time came wrapped in plastic and the meatballs for dinner were on a plastic tray. I clearly need to have a chat with my local butcher about me bringing my own bags to reuse. Vegetables are easier as I get most of my veg delivered from North East Organic Growers. Although it comes in plastic carrier bags, I send these back to be refilled, so no waste there!

Day 4 – this was a massive fail on the waste production front. My son was having a belated birthday party and I failed to plan for party bags in time. This meant buying plastic bags, and plastic wrapped sweets to put in the plastic bags. In an attempt to reduce the amount single use waste in the bag, the gift I included was a small metal Hot Wheels car. A discount shop had packs of 5 for £5, so not too expensive and more useful that your average party blower or plastic snake! The kids even played with them together at the party, so clearly a win. Unfortunately the pack was also wrapped in single use plastic. Must plan better for my daughter’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  Also did my weekly fruit shop – everything comes in plastic! Resolved to find a way to bring my own bags next week – even if they are reused plastic bags and maybe shop in the my local market rather than the supermarket. Finally I bought a chicken for Sunday dinner. On the whole I buy chicken to have a low food waste week – check out my four meal chicken here (although now my toddler is eating whole portions, it’s more like a 3 meal chicken!). The cashier tried to put the chicken, which was on a plastic tray and shrink wrapped in more plastic into a plastic bag (because the law says she can without charging!). I stopped her, and gave her a reusable plastic bag to put it in, separate to my other shopping!

That brings us to Sunday, and as traditionally Sunday is a day off the Lenten fast (if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday you get 46 – so you take the 6 Sundays off). I shall pause for the week. I haven’t significantly reduced my waste this week, but I have 36 more days to go!

Tips on the following would be appreciated:

  1. How to buy meat without plastic?
  2. Eco party bag ideas?
  3. Drinking cold drinks out and about.

 

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environment reduce reuse

5 Reasons why I love my Mooncup!

Mooncup alternative to tampons
Mooncup

I love my Mooncup. I really do. Completely, totally and utterly love it. I’ve used one for about 9 years now and I hate it on rare occasions when I’ve had to go back to disposable sanitary products.

Some of you may be asking “what is a Mooncup?”. Well, a Mooncup is a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are used instead of tampons to deal with menstruation, but unlike tampons, instead of absorbing menstrual blood, the catch it. They are about the size of an egg cup, made of clinical grade silicone, and sit just inside the vagina. They collect the menstrual flow and when it’s full, you just empty it, rinse it and put it back. Simple!

The next question, I guess, is “why do you love it so much?” and the answers to that one are many!

1. They save you lots of money. I have been using the same one for 9 years (although I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding twice in that time!), so I haven’t had to buy tampons for 9 years. Even assuming I only bought one box of supermarket’s own tampons a month, I would have saved £80ish. £80 is a lot of money!

2. They save tonnes of wasted going to landfill. According to the Women’s Environmental Network, a woman will throw away between 125 and 150kg of landfill in her lifetime. (Source WEN report “Seeing Red”) Imagine if everyone stopped switched to reusables!

3. They are healthier. Tampons can and do cause toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life threatening infection. Although they are bleached white and wrapped in plastic, they are not sterile and cannot be sterilised. Menstrual cups are made of clinical grade silicone and can be sterilised either by boiling or soaking a sterilising solution such as Milton.

4. They don’t dry you out. Tampons are made of fibre and work by absorbing fluid. They don’t just absorb menstrual blood, they absorb all the moisture in the vagina, meaning they can leave you dry and uncomfortable. As menstrual cup’s collect the menstrual flow rather than absorbing them, they are not as drying.

5. Less need to change them. As they are safer, non-drying and hold loads, you can safely leave them in for up to 12 hours.

So there you have it, 5 reasons why I love my Mooncup. What do you think?

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environment reduce reuse

A scatterbrained woman’s thoughts on plastic bags

CREDIT: REUTERS/PETR JOSEK
CREDIT: REUTERS/PETR JOSEK

Just after Christmas I went up to Glasgow to stay with family and went out sales shopping. I was a little surprised when, in Marks and Spencer, I was asked if I wanted a carrier bag for my clothing purchase, and even more surprised when I was charged 5p for it. Surprised, but not cross, quite pleased really.

When I got back to my parents-in-law, I mentioned it to them, and had to smile when both my mother- and grandmother-in-law produced small reusable bags from their handbags. I was impressed. The 5p charge was obviously working.

It made me think. I have the best intentions not to get carrier bags, I have a huge collection of reusable shopping bags. I also have a mountain of single use plastic bags from all the times I have forgotten to take my reusable bags.

The Government estimates that 8 billion carrier bags are given out in supermarkets each year. That equates to 130 per person per year. That’s 57000 tonnes of carrier bags ending up in landfill every year*. Yikes!

In October of this year England will see the introduction of a 5p charge for carrier bags at the supermarket, to bring it in line with the other countries in the UK who already charge this.  The introduction of the charge in Wales resulted in a 79% reduction in carrier bag usage.

My biggest problem is remembering to take bags with me.  If I have a carrier bag with me, I will happily use, and willingly give plastic bags back to retailers in favour of using a bag I already have. Hopefully, a 5p charge will encourage me to make sure I always have bags with me – if not the new legislation could get expensive!

What about you? Do you have any tips on plastic bag reusage for a scatterbrained mum?

*Source – https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-and-managing-waste/supporting-pages/charging-for-single-use-plastic-carrier-bags