Plastic Trash Challenge

Welcome back to Every Week is Green after a unexpectedly long break! I’ve still been trying to keep up with my green changes despite being off the blogosphere for a while, and I’ve decided to set myself a new challenge for February.

One of my favourite books to read about going green is Beth Terry’s My Plastic Free Life. She gives fantastic depth on what plastic is made from, what all the different types of plastic are, how/if they can be recycled, and why it’s important to start cutting them out of your life. There are also numerous tips about reducing it in different areas (food, cleaning, personal hygiene etc), so it’s a great read if you’re looking for something new and green to try, or if you just need a little motivation.

One of her first challenges is called Plastic Free Challenge. The aim is to collect all of your plastic rubbish for a week (or more) – instead of throwing it away – because this gives you a much clearer picture of how much waste you’re generating. Beth has a blog page about it which you can find here.

I’m keen to know about all the things I’m throwing away, so my aim is to keep all my trash for at least one week, but preferably the whole of February. This will be plastic, cardboard, paper, and anything else that would normally go in the bin or be recycled. This won’t include things like food waste, which it obviously isn’t practical to keep lying around. As Beth says, I’m including anything that I have used, but nothing that my boyfriend is throwing away that I haven’t used – e.g. I’ll include packaging from foods we have both eaten, and that I have eaten by myself, but nothing from foods he has eaten by himself.

I’ll post a photo of my trash at the end of the month – it’ll be interesting to hear what you think! Have you tried doing a similar challenge? Or maybe it’s something you’d like to attempt?

Flossing

So the topic of today’s post presented itself to me a few days ago when I vowed to myself to floss more often, only to pick up my dental floss and realise that it had nearly run out. A bit inconvenient, but I decided I’d have a think about what was best to buy next before I headed down to Boots as usual!

What bothers me most about the dental floss I use is that it comes in a plastic container, which of course has to go to landfill once the floss has run out. Plus the floss itself is designed to be disposed of after one use. Just a quick search on Boots’s website found five pages of floss-related products, the vast majority of which – excepting an expensive Rechargeable Power Flosser – are disposable after one use.

My next thought is – is flossing essential? Unfortunately, as I’m not a dentist, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question, but I have made a mental note to ask my dentist the next time I see her. It would be great to know her stance on it, but then I’m sure that dentists have differing opinions on this anyway. Do you know what yours thinks?

So for now assuming that I would like to keep flossing, what can I do instead? I have found a great article written by Beth Terry of the blog My Plastic Free Life, which runs over a number of options (in this post she also discusses toothbrushes and toothpaste). They are American products, so if you’re not American they might not be available to you, but interesting reading to see the different options out there nevertheless:

Eco-Dent dental floss in a cardboard box

Eco-Dent:My choice, after weighing all the options, is Eco-Dent dental floss. It’s what I’ve been using for the past two years, and I really like it. Unlike any other brand of dental floss I have found, it comes in a recyclable cardboard container. That was the deciding factor for me. While there is a very thin plastic wrapper inside the box and two protective plastic stickers on the outside, the amount of plastic packaging is minimal compared to all other brands.

What’s more, the floss is waxed using 100% vegetable waxes rather than beeswax or petroleum-based wax. The Gentle floss contains enzymes that help break down food particles between the teeth. The Vegan floss does not, as those enzymes are grown on a dairy substrate. Either sounds great, right? Well…

The floss itself is made from Nylon. Plastic. But I’ve compared Eco-Dent to other brands of floss, and to me, it’s the best choice currently offered.

Radius: Radius natural dental floss is made from silk. If you’re vegan, forget it.  If you’re not (I’m not), you still have to consider the packaging. The outer cardboard box can fool you. Inside is a regular plastic dental floss container.

Tom’s of Maine: The floss is made from Nylon with a hard plastic container inside the cardboard box.

DenTek Natural Floss Picks: In addition to their plastic floss picks, DenTek has created an “eco” option: individual disposable floss picks made from compostable starch rather than petroleum-based plastic. According to the company, they will break down in 180 days at a commercial compost facility. And the FAQ on the web site includes a link to instructions for building your own compost bin if you don’t have a commercial facility nearby. It seems like a green idea. But when you dig into the reality of it, you find just more greenwashing.

Bryton picksBryton Picks: Okay, this option just seems weird. I had to post the picture from the site because I couldn’t even figure out how to accurately describe these things. Bryton picks are not floss. Instead, they are made from flexible stainless steel strips that you slide up and down between each tooth. The handle is made from plastic. On the plus side, the device can be cleaned and reused for up to a month, probably longer. But I simply can’t imagine them actually working in the way that dental floss is supposed to work — below the gum line and around the teeth.

I’ll ask my dentist and get back to you.

Glide and other mainstream flosses: They’re made from Nylon or Teflon (worse), come in plastic containers, usually inside plastic blister packs, and are synthetically waxed. So why even consider them?

After doing some reading, I’m really interested in trying the Eco Dent Gentle Floss that Beth recommends. I’ve found it available on Amazon so I might try it (incidentally, I have been feeling unsure whether I want to continue shopping from Amazon so much when I do shop, but that is a big topic so I will save it for another post!)

It’s disappointing that the Eco Dent floss is still made from nylon though – nylon is synthetic, and is made from petroleum products, so you can see why this might be one to avoid. But cutting down on the plastic packaging is a step in the right direction. If you’re more concerned about the nylon, you could try to find a product made of silk (see Beth’s discussion of Radius, above).

How have you got round this problem? Which floss do you use?