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Confessions of a Plastic Free July Failure

My name is Polly and I’m a Plastic Free July failure.

This month I’ve bought bread in a plastic bag because I was grocery shopping at 10pm and forgot to buy bread from the bakery in a paper bag. I’ve used breakfast cereal in plastic packaging because we were running late and I didn’t have time to make poached eggs on toast x 4 that morning. And I’ve ripped open a packet of plastic-encased crackers because I burned the popcorn I was making for the tweens lunchboxes.

I failed plastic free July because going plastic free is really hard. And I mean REALLY hard.

And overwhelming. It means being super-organised and changing where and how you shop for just about everything. Heck, it means changing just about every aspect of your life. And not just your life, but the lives of those who live in the same house as you. It only took 4 days for the Tweens to complain of starvation as they cold-turkeyed their way through cracker withdrawal. And believe me when I say the novelty of eating popcorn – never mind making it at 7am – wears off pretty quickly too.

So I didn’t go entirely plastic free this July. But I did what I could, and what I could do really surprised me:

  1. I’ve been using reusable supermarket bags for ages, but now I’ve armed myself with reusable produce bags, reusable bulk bin bags and a couple of cotton carry pouches that live in my handbag for those unexpected purchases.I've been using these produce bags so no more plastic bags for fruit and veges.
  2. I made some simple swaps at the supermarket – like buying mayonnaise in a glass jar, tomato sauce in a tin can and going without a cucumber if I couldn’t find one without plastic wrapping.
  3. I gave shampoo and conditioning bars a go. Now, this was huge for me and my frizzy, curly, do-whatever-the-hell-it-wants hair. I’d always been convinced my mop could only be managed by expensive, palm-oil-filled and plastic-encased salon shampoo. Turns out it can also be managed by still-kind-of-expensive but plastic and palm oil free shampoo and conditioning bars from Ethique. Even the Tweens and the husband have warmed to this new regime in the bathroom, so we’ll be saying goodbye to plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles from here on in.Try using beauty products in bar form to replace shampoo, conditioner and beauty products that come in plastic bottles.
  4. I’m not a huge beauty product or makeup user so it’s wasn’t such a big deal to swap my usual brands of face wash, serum and moisturiser for their equivalents in bar form – again from Ethique. While I did find the moisturiser a little greasy at first, my skin seems to have adjusted – and it looks and feels great, so that’s another change that’s here to stay.
  5. I invested in a bread bin and started buying my bread in a paper bag. It’s not the cheapest way to buy bread. It also doesn’t stay fresh for long and can’t be put in the freezer, but given how quickly a loaf of bread disappears when the Tweens are around, it’s kind of workable.
  6. I’ve been going to a refillery – a store that lets you take your own containers and fill them with everything baking ingredients, dry goods, cereals and snack foods, liquid soaps and household cleaning products. It takes quite a bit of extra time drive the extra distance and a lot of extra effort to remember all the containers that need refilling. And then there’s the extra cost (surprisingly, refilling isn’t always the cheapest option). So far my favourite is Bin Inn who are very quickly starting to own the whole plastic-free shopping space.Refill your own containers at a store like Bin Inn or Good For Refillery.
  7. I’ve been baking to try to distract the Tweens from the fact that there are no more biscuits or muesli bars in the pantry. Again, a fair bit of time and effort involved here but it also gives me the chance to load their snack foods with healthy-ish stuff (shhh, don’t tell them!)
  8. I’ve invested in a whole bunch of reusable food storage things – like reusable sandwich wraps and bags, reusable snap lock bags and honey wraps – great for lunchboxes as well as storing leftovers. In fact the half onion I stored in a honey wrap and forgot about was still perfectly usable two weeks later (as was the honey wrap!)Honeywraps, Kai Carriers and sandwich wraps and pouches are easy ways to get rid of single use plastic from your fridge and lunchbox
  9. Warning – TMI ahead – but I’ve been using a moon cup for the last 12 years (and love it) so no changes needed in that department.

Maybe my plastic free July wasn’t such a failure after all. I’ve made some pretty big changes and while they felt overwhelming at first, I think most the of the changes are here to stay. Because that’s the thing – once you start going plastic-free it’s really hard to go back.

If you’re thinking of reducing your use of plastic, then here’s my advice:

  1. Start with reducing, not removing.
  2. Make a few small, simple changes that are manageable.
  3. Focus on what you are doing – not what you aren’t doing – because every little bit helps.
  4. Check out my post on 9 easy ways to go plastic free.

Saving the planet is a big job, and just like all the other jobs on my To Do list – like adulting,  parenting and earning a living – some days I’m better at it than others. I know I could do more, but I also know the things I can do – that I am doing – make a difference.


  1. Sounds like you did great! Plastic is inevitable in most “conveniences” and truthfully I don’t have the time to go out of my way to buy bulk, bake regularly etc… but every bit counts, right?


  2. jodee says

    I freeze bread in paper bags and I’ve found its fine thank goodness. My big disaster was freezing my raw milk in old wine bottles. I think I overfilled them and they shattered when the milk froze lol. Which refill store so you go too? I too have used bin inn but I find the one my way unfortunately is not very fresh and it’s put me off 😦


    • Good to know Jodee! I have been keeping some plastic bread bags and re-using them for freezing if I need to. I’ve been going to Binn Inn in Onehunga and haven’t had a problem with things not being fresh. I’ve also go to Good For Refillery in Ponsonby, although they don’t have quite the same range – but they do have some great lunchbox snack foods!


  3. I feel your pain, it isn’t easy in this age to go plastic-free. Convenience sometimes prevails! But you’ve made some great swaps and are already doing your bit. Every little helps! xx


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