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I'm a Barbie Girl ... It's fantastic, made of PLASTIC

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December 31st , pontificating on the year gone by and looking forward to the new one, I found myself, like so many others with the image of that dead baby whale seared on my brain and resolved to go PLASTIC FREE … I’m already massively conscious of plastic waste, living on a boat makes you think hard about waste disposal … and also I have done the Beach Clean-Up (in some pretty remote places) and been stunned by the amount of plastic that washes up … so how hard could it be?

whale

 

As I stepped out onto my front deck to fill my coal scuttle (yes, I burn some coal … it’s the only way to keep the stove ticking over at night, right?) … from the PLASTIC sack of coal, I realised being completely PLASTIC FREE was going to be tricky … instant RESOLUTION FAIL

And waking the following morning and blundering through to make that first cup of ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE coffee from a laminated mylar PLASTIC pouch … I realised it was going to be nigh on impossible … RESOLUTION FAIL

So, modified resolution … I will run a PLASTIC FREE BUSINESS..  

First deliveries of the year from the wholesalers arrive … of course I selected my wholesalers carefully for their ethical and environmental policies, because I am such a goody two shoes  … and instantly I am engulfed in plastic bags, pouches, bubble wrap (though it is the green stuff), sellotape, polystyrene … RESOLUTION FAIL

Modify resolution ….. Make sure everything I sell is in PLASTIC FREE PACKAGING … after I have used up current supplies … they have already been made so might as well use them, right?

Two years ago I started using cellophane bags instead of plastic grip-seal bags for my herbs and spices. UK made proper cellophane, biodegradable, compostable, sustainable, relatively low transport costs … blah blah … and not those naughty CELLO bags that are actually polypropylene.

spice blends

They were a lot more expensive, at least four times the price of grip seal plastic. I had to change my work pattern as these were not 100% airtight, so filled bags could not be stored for long, and they were much more labour intensive to fill. Sales fell massively and waste increased massively … neither good for a small business. Customers didn’t like the bags; they said they didn’t like the feel … too flimsy and not re-sealable. Also, the bags quickly started to look crumpled … some customers are astonishingly heavy handed.

Then a friend was folding her business and offered me her leftover stock of mylar pouches. Now these are truly the devils work, almost impossible to recycle being composed of several layers of mylar, plastic and metal that will never ever decompose. But, they had already been made, so might as well use them, right? …. Sales soared, customers loved them. They were eye-catching, sturdy, protected the contents from moisture, sunlight, contamination, withstood rain. I could bag up and store bulk supplies, …. Life was good, business was booming … but my conscience was uneasy

spices

I bought some more …. Hangs head in shame … I went back to grip seal, just for the Christmas silly season, right?  … And they are not really SINGLE USE right? … And I need to earn money, right? And actually, even after the baby whale, most customers were not bothered when asked ….. And almost all the other herb and spice companies, even the “organic” ones use those pouches, right?

Well, supplies of the devils mylar pouches are almost used up, so now I am PLASTIC FREE BUSINESS what are my alternatives? Hallelujah … there are now FULLY BIODEGRADEABLE sturdy re-sealable pouches on the market!!!

Except they are made of corn starch, which requires sunlight and moisture to decompose, so once they are in landfill or the sea they don’t …. The COOP is getting rid of its “biodegradable” carriers because of this …. And also the have some pretty toxic chemicals in, like cobalt (and who is mining that?) … and also they require a lot of fossil fuels to produce; is it ok to use so much energy to make a biodegradable bag??? … Gosh … there is a lot of GREENWASH to wade through

Leaving those concerns aside, I tried some, customers liked them, they were expensive (10p more for each bag) but consciences were clear.. Well, clearer

But I found they did not store so well (I buy in bulk) and did not perform well on an outdoor market stall being exposed to the very things that make them start to break down … moisture and sunlight

Why not use recyclable glass jars or tins I here you say? … Very bulky for my limited storage space and high transport costs, but I am looking into it

bath teas

So, MODIFY RESOLUTION … go PLASTIC FREE where practical??? It’s not good enough really, is it? Be a REDUCED PLASTIC business? Have a PLASTIC FREE aisle? 

I know this all feels like First World angst, but our choices do impact on the whole world and the people in it. So this year my resolutions … my business objectives … have now changed … and my work schedule, prices and stock will also change as a consequence;

  1. Some products will have to go as there really is NO viable plastic free packaging alternative that can cope with my selling environment. I will move over to paper, glassine/cellophane and recyclable containers where I can
  2. There will be some plastic in my supply chain, I accept this, customers can choose
  3. I will continue to research packaging alternatives and lobby for better recycling facilities
  4. I will have to get a job to supplement my income as I won’t earn enough as a REDUCED PLASTIC business which will make cruising harder and further reduce my trading
  5. Continue to grow my online sales as it is much easier to be plastic free in that selling environment (but let’s not think about all those white vans burning diesel to deliver my stuff, right?)

That’s all folks

TTFN

Bunny the Barbie Girl

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