Categories
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

Categories
Nappies recycle reduce reuse

Are cloth nappies really greener?

 

Grow Up Green (24 of 43)

 

I am frequently asked “are cloth nappies really better for the environment when you take into consideration all the energy you waste washing them?”

The short answer is “Yes, they are.”

A 2008 report by the Environment Agency found that if sensible approaches were taken to washing nappies, using reusable over disposable would reduce your carbon footprint by between 16 and 40%. You can read that report here

To obtain the 40% figure you need to wash at no higher than 60 degrees C, wash a full load (not necessarily of nappies, other items can be washed too) and pass nappies down to subsequent children or sell them on.

This figure only takes into consideration the manufacture and transportation of the nappies, it does not address the landfill issue. It is estimated that 400,000 tonnes of disposable nappies head to landfill each year (source: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/science-technology/st1nappyalliance.pdf). This obviously causes carbon emmission issues as the nappies breakdown, uses up valuable land to fill with rubbish, causes transportation issues of carrying that amount of nappies to landfill and finally the problem of human excreta ending up in landfill where it might pollute aquifers (I address this final issue here). Most cloth nappy users will use their nappies for multiple children and/or pass or sell them on to others when they no longer need them, meaning one set of 24 cloth nappies may have diapered 3 or more children before ending up in landfill (or textile recycling!)

Finally, it does not take into consideration all the chemicals and raw materials used in the manufacture of disposable nappies. For example, one cup of crude oil goes into each disposable nappy, and at a time when we are rapidly approaching (or some might say have passed) the point of Peak Oil, where we are running out of this resource that has many other more useful purposes than to be peed and pooed on, it is a serious consideration.

So in summary, yes cloth nappies really are greener than most disposables – they have a smaller carbon footprint, less waste ending up in landfill and uses fewer of the earth precious resources. So go on, give them a try!

Categories
Nappies reduce reuse

What do you do about poo?

I once asked a Grandma at a baby event if she ever pooed in her bin. The look of shock on her face was a sight to behold and to be honest I did think I’d over-stepped the mark. My question, however, came on the back of her trying to persuade her pregnant daughter not to consider using washable nappies as “she just liked the idea of wrapping it all up and throwing it away.” It hadn’t occurred to her that what that actually meant was putting poo in the bin.

One of the many reasons I like cloth nappies is that the poo is dealt with by the sewerage system. The sewerage system is designed to deal with human faeces and treat it appropriately. Putting poo in the bin, means it ends up in landfill, where any bacteria or viruses can potentially leach into soil and water systems and can cause a health hazard for refuse workers.

Even when using disposable nappies, I still tip the poo into loo before folding it up and putting it in the bin. To me it is just the hygienic thing to do. I have heard it argued that poo is biodegradable and therefore its OK to send it to landfill, it will just biodegrade. However, it is generally wrapped inside a plastic nappy and put inside at least one plastic bag (often more as the nappy is inside a nappy sack, inside a bin bag). The plastic prevents air and light and bacteria necessary for the bio-degradation to take place from reaching the poo. So it fossilizes inside the nappy. In a hundred years time, archaeologists of the future will find bags of preserved dirty nappies in our landfill sites. Delightful!

It doesn’t take much to put the poo down the loo. Whether you choose to reuse or are disposable all the way.

What about you? Do you bin it or flush it?