Plastic Microbead Ban – and alternatives

plastic free oceans

You may have seen online the petition to get the UK government to consider banning plastic microbeads here. The US has already agreed to ban the production of microbeads in personal care products from 2017.

Microbeads are the tiny particles of plastic that are found in body scrubs, face washes, some toothpastes etc.

They are so tiny that, once they are flushed down the drain, water filtering plants can’t stop them. Unfiltered they end up in the world’s rivers and seas where they don’t degrade. Here they can be ingested by marine life, which is harmful to them and to us (if we end up consuming some of this marine life).

It seems such an unnecessary form of pollution, just to make our teeth brighter or our skin glow.

But there are alternatives…

The very handy Beat the Microbead website here has a great list of products that do and don’t contain microbeads. Since I found out about microbeads I have been searching for alternatives and have discovered Lush’s Ocean Salt scrub which smells of summer holidays and works really well.


What’s more if you collect five of their plastic pots and return them empty to the store you get a free face mask. They recycle all their black pots (see here).  The blog Refuge for Daffodils has also pointed out that at the bottom of each black pot is a number that equates with how many times it has been recycled (10 is the limit). So far I’ve collected two pots that seem to be on life number 2 and 6.


The deadline for the UK petition to parliament is 23 January so please consider signing it. And do look at the list of alternative products as well.

Waste Free Holiday Travel

Last month our family of five travelled through Europe. We went to France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium by rail. We stayed in hotels, hostels, with friends,  and we also spent ten days camping (in a ready erected tent).

As we had made a conscious decision to travel by train  I was also determined to minimise our impact on the environment. I have been trying to reduce my consumption of single use plastic for a while as well as trying to follow some zero waste principles. It seemed that a rail holiday through some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe would be the perfect opportunity to put some zero waste ideas into action. This proved to be a great learning experience for us all.

Below are the things that worked for us – and didn’t

  1. Toiletries. Having discovered Lush last year when taking part in Plastic Free July I  returned to the store to purchase solid shampoo and conditioner bars plus a gentle body and face soap. I also bought my first ever compostable toothbrush:

Zero Waste toiletries: Lush shampoo and conditioner bars; compostable toothbrush

It turned out that, despite reading mixed reviews, the compostable toothbrush was great. This is the second holiday I have packed Lush products and, although they are small and have less of an environmental impact, we did find that they were fiddly to use and the shampoo and conditioner didn’t work well enough for me.

2. Picnic Set. I added to my Zero Waste Travel Kit with a small metal sandwich box and reusable bamboo straws. We also took sporks, napkins and (somehow smuggled through security) a small vegetable knife.

The picnic kit was invaluable. We could put all sorts of leftovers in the metal sandwich box (which had two compartments and a separate smaller tin). As most of our train journeys were at least four hours we got into a routine of buying food before embarking and then making up sandwiches, cutting fruit etc when on board. Some of the food came in plastic wrapping but by making up our sandwiches etc we did save some waste.


3. Water bottles.

Although made of plastic, our collection of water bottles proved to be one of the best buys. The girls each had one of these leak-proof bottles. The top unscrewed and became a small cup. My husband also had a foldable water bottle.

Images waste free travel: reusable water bottles


I used my trusty thermos-type bottle which is also great at keeping drinks cold. I also added some sprigs of mint to the flask to add more flavour.

Drinking out waste free

These were invaluable and probably the best thing we took. Public water fountains seem to be more prevalent in mainland Europe and we were able to fill up everywhere. When we arrived at the campsite in 38 degrees heat we made the mistake of buying a pack of plastic water bottles from the supermarket. But after this we relied totally on the standpipes, which meant we didn’t have to pay out for water at the supermarket or have to carry it back!

Waste Free Travel: refilling water bottles in Milan

4. Onya produce bags and other reusable bags

This was our most successful holiday for using cloth bags. We barely bought a plastic bag (and when we did these became rubbish bags). The Onya produce bags were great for buying fruit and vegetables at the campsite and at other markets. Although most shopkeepers weren’t familiar with them there was never a problem with filling and weighing them.

Plastic Free shopping: net produce bags

5. Recycling. While I’m more of a fan of pre-cycling, or refusing packaging in the first place, I was impressed by the number of recycling options there were on our travels. Having camped in France a couple of years ago where there was barely any recycling facilities I was delighted to see so many bins on our Italian campsite (apologies: I think I became a bit of a ‘bin bore’ on holiday). As you would expect the German trains had some great recycling options and, when staying with friends in Holland, I was amazed by the prevalence of recycling bins at the end of nearly every street.

While I would like to give the impression that we were waste free on our travels this wasn’t strictly true. I had two ‘fails’: when it came to using straws I completely failed to use the bamboo ones as I kept forgetting to take them with me. I also realise I need to get a reusable coffee cup to fit underneath coffee machines as my insulated flask does not do this.

In conclusion I  think we reduced our waste a little while on holiday, and am pleased with our use of cloth bags and water bottles. There were some situations where, due to the heat, children’s appetites and lack of time, we had to use disposable items. If you want to travel completely zero waste I think you have to really plan ahead and it’s hard to do this if you are travelling with limited baggage.


Plastic Free July: what I’ve been doing since

You may remember I took part in the Plastic Free July initiative and tried to reduce/cut out my consumption of single use plastic. This had mixed results and, in my last post on the subject here, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to commit to going plastic free for a whole month again. Now a couple of months have passed I’m able to take a step back and look at those things which I am still doing to avoid plastic waste:

1. Taking lots of reusable bags when shopping, refusing plastic carriers

2. I bought this brilliant leak-proof bottle from Lakeland. I took it on holiday and found it worked equally well for keeping cold drinks cool and – as we were in a wet and windy Scotland – kept hot drinks really warm. Also no leaks!


3. I’ve continued to get our milk delivered in glass bottles, but cancelled the orange juice as it was too pricey. I’m having second thoughts about our veg box as a lot of it isn’t being eaten in our house. I’m beginning to think that shopping at a local greengrocers where I can use either their paper bags, or none at all, may be a better (and cheaper) option.

4. I’ve really enjoyed rediscovering bars of soap. When in Scotland I bought some lovely handmade soaps from the Isle of Mull (I particularly loved the Lavender & Mint one).  I’ve also used Neal’s Yard’s Orange and Geranium soap and plenty of products from Lush, incl soap, body scrub, shampoo and conditioner. My latest discovery is from Faith in Nature. I’m using the tea tree one as a general hand soap and the grapefruit one in the shower. These are well made products and, so far, the soap has not fallen apart as much as the other ones did. I picked these up without any packaging in our local health food store, although I see on the website they come shrink wrapped in plastic, which is a shame.


Faith in Nature grapefruit soap, Lush containers of solid shampoo and conditioner

Buying soap this way is more expensive than a 99p plastic bottle of shower gel. However I love the fact that they produce no packaging (or the cardboard boxes can be recycled/composted). It’s also a nice bath time treat and I believe I’m smelling even nicer!!