Taking plastic-free up a notch


IN THE BAG Washing synthetic clothes in a Guppyfriend bag traps their micro plastic fibres and stops them from entering the environment.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

Plastic Free July continues, and we’ve covered some of the easy swaps for food and household items a few times in this column. Some of the harder changes to make can be related to the more personal preferences, like our body care routine and how we dress.

Skin and locks
In the last two years it has become infinitely easier to find plastic-free bathroom essentials. The old-fashioned soap bar can’t be beaten for hands and body, to replace endless bottles of liquid hand wash and shower gel.
Excellent solid shampoo and conditioner bars also exist, though it may take a few trials to find the ones that you love. I have though, and would not go back to bottles of shampoo with chemical ingredients. Generally, less-frequent washing is best for the health of your hair, and it’s easy to make your own dry shampoo from kitchen ingredients for the days between washes (I have brown hair, so I tend to use arrowroot for absorbency and cacao powder to match my hair colour). When your plastic comb or brush wear out, opt for a sustainable wooden one, which are better at distributing your hair’s natural oils from root to tip.

Dental care
With the exception of the nylon bristles, dental care can be plastic free; you can remove the bristles from bamboo or wooden-handled toothbrushes and dispose of them before composting the handle. High-quality toothpaste without chemicals is available in glass jars, and you can even get toothpaste and mouthwash tablets to replace tubes and bottles entirely. Floss made from silk is fully biodegradable; you just have to remember to put it into your compost instead of the bin.

Face care
Many good facial-care products come in glass packaging, which is a better option. Our shop offers a range of organic personal care product refills, and another Mayo company, Herbal Earth, sells refills of her award-winning serums and oils. There are lots of makers of excellent facial products in Ireland, and courses and books to teach you to blend your own if you are so inclined. Plastic-free make-up can be harder to find, but it’s not impossible, and there are brands across Europe that may soon be widely available in Ireland.

Clothing is where plastic fibres sneak up on us, unless we’re willing to check the tag inside the garment before purchasing. Polyester, nylon and acrylic are all types of plastic fibres woven into clothing, often combined with natural fibres like cotton, to make fabrics like fleece.
These are great materials for warmth and waterproofing, but they end up in the environment as microfibres that are shed mostly when they are washed (even if the fabric is made from recycled materials).
The only real solutions at the moment are to choose 100 percent natural fibres like cotton, wool, linen or hemp as much as possible, and to wash synthetic garments in a GuppyFriend wash bag that will capture the microfibres. I wash my polyester blouses and fleece jackets as infrequently as possible, and always in the bag.
These solutions take a little more thought, but each of them are great for helping you cut down on plastic waste and pollution.  

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.