S1E1 Plastic Free July (part 1)

Allie, Mel and Rachel get together and set themselves the Plastic Free July challenge. They discuss what they think it will be like and what may be their biggest blocks in achieving this goal.

See how the month went for them in episode 4.

This episode was created in 2018 as part of an eight part series called An Environment For Change. This series was supported by MAINfm and the Mount Alexander Shire Council.


Allie Hanly: You are listening to An Environment for Change, an eight-part series looking at some of the many people in the Mount Alexander Shire who are working to combat climate change and promote sustainable living. These are local people who are working towards changing our habits so we can all move forward into a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable future.

In this series, we’ll hear from local farmers, Boomerang Bags, Repair Cafe, local environment groups, activists, and concerned citizens. You can hear it at 9:00 AM on Monday mornings on MAINfm 94.9 or listen anytime by jumping online to the MAINfm Sound Cloud page. This series was made possible by a community grant from the Mount Alexander Shire council.

Theme music for An Environment For Change plays.

In this first episode of an environment for change. I got together with two women, Mel and Rachel, and we discussed taking on the challenge of plastic free July. I want to apologize for the quality of the sound up front. One of the microphones buzzes occasionally, and it sounds a little tinny, but I’m hoping that you can hear us clearly and will enjoy the episode.

Allie: We are endeavouring to do Plastic Free July, and there is a movement called Plastic Free July, which started in Western Australia in 2011. And apparently these days it’s grown to include millions of people across the world from 150 different countries. So Plastic Free July is a thing now. 

Mel: and it started in Australia. 

Allie: it started in Western Australia, yeah!

So, you can join up on their website, which is plasticfreejuly.org. but you don’t have to, obviously you could just do it. And when you register, they ask you a couple of different questions. Did either of you register? 

Mel: Not yet.

Rachel:  No.

General laughter

Allie: Well, it’s interesting, ‘cause I think people kind of freak out a bit about the commitment to plastic free. What they offer is three different levels. Like you could avoid using single use plastic packaging – so you only get stuff that’s not wrapped in plastic and you don’t accept plastic bags, I guess, at the supermarket. That’s one level.

Rachel:  And no coffee cups.

Allie: Yeah. Well, the next level targets takeaway items. So, bags, bottles, straws, and coffee cups. Yeah. So maybe bags aren’t included in plastic packaging.

Mel:  Which seems weird to me. 

Allie: Yeah. But it’s more like you won’t, I mean, I feel like the plastic packaging is one of the hardest things because you buy something—I  got a piece of technology recently and every single part of that technology in the box was wrapped in plastic. And the filler was this weird sort of plasticky, styrofoam stuff that was all through it. And I’m like, how do I get that technology without the packaging? You don’t. I guess you can get it second hand, but then someone else’s got it.  I don’t know.

And then the third option is to go completely plastic free. And I feel like that’s very challenging. 

Mel: That’s what I thought we were signing up for! Laughter

Rachel: So what does that entail?

Allie: They don’t go into detail. But for example, yesterday I was at shops and I wanted to get some sesame oil and the sesame oil has a glass bottle, which is great, but it’s got a plastic lid.

So, can I never buy sesame oil again? Or do I have to get one with a little metal pull top lid or something.

Mel:  Or you can bulk buy?

Allie: Yeah. But you can’t buy everything. Like not here locally in Castlemaine. You can get a lot from Green Goes (Green Goes the Grocer, Castlemaine organic specialist store) and the health food store. Can you get sesame oil from them? 

Mel: Yep. Toasted and not toasted 

Allie: You know all the options!

All right. So, let’s introduce ourselves. My name’s Allie. And I feel like so far in my life I never use straws, I have a reusable drink bottle so I never buy drink bottles. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t get takeaway cups. I’ve already adopted canvas bags, so as much as possible, unless I’m really caught out I don’t take plastic bags from the supermarket.

So, I feel like there’s a lot of ways that I’m already kind of doing a lot of stuff, but there’s going to be stuff that’s going to challenge me for sure. And I think a lot of it’s like, I was looking at tissues ‘cause I’ve just had a cold and I was like, every box of tissues has got that tiny little bit of plastic on either side where you pull the tissue out. How do you avoid that? I don’t know. Do I use toilet paper from now on maybe? Laughter

Rachel: Go back to hankies?

Allie: Yeah. Hankies! 

Background comments and laughter 

Allie: All right. Mel, you want to introduce yourself? 

Mel: I’m Mel, hello. I think I’m generally pretty good, uh, with the not-plastic lifestyle, I think because I grow a lot of my own food and I don’t have a fridge which kind of cuts out lots of stuff. But I think, yeah, as I was thinking about doing this challenge, haha! it’s all coming out.

The main thing, I was like, “oh, I can’t buy a cask of wine”, that’s like my economical, bulk wine buy!

Background comments and laughter

Allie: You’ll have to get the cleanskins.

Rachel: Aldi, Aldi wine.

Mel: But they’ve got a plastic lid, that’s what I was thinking. And I was like, well, maybe that’ll just be my like…

Allie: Ooh, so ‘cause the screw top lids, they’re plastic, they’re not metal? 

Mel: Well, they’re tin, but I was looking on this…

Allie: Or are they coated in plastic?

Mel: Oh actually, maybe I can get away with it.

Rachel: With a bit of rubber or plastic inside. 

Mel: Yeah, that’s true. For some reason I was in thinking—But  I was like, I’m kind of all right with maybe doing that; buying bottles instead of, but then there’s that interesting thing, because I don’t want to buy endless bottles because, we don’t have any recycling. So then, I reuse bottles for my water and for oil and you know, all these other things, but it’s like far out, how many, how many candle holders, how many? And I don’t want to give up wine.

Allie: Can you cut a deal with someone who does have recycling, ‘cause you live out in the Bush? like out past the zone where you get those services. Could you arrange with someone, like you could come here once a month and drop your bottles in my bin.

Mel: Oh Yeah, Thank you. Thank you but no, actually in Australia, we don’t have any recycling anymore, that’s what I meant…laughter

Allie: Oh right, in general.

Mel: Like we used to send it to China and now they’re not taking it. So now there’s no recycling. 

Allie: It’s a big Australian-wide issue. 

Mel: Yeah, it’s kind of a bigger thing.  But, I mean, you know, also if I buy cask wine then that’s also just going into landfill and that’s just plastic.

So, I think that was, ashamedly maybe, that was my biggest thing. And like, because it’s winter, which means that I can have stuff that doesn’t – I can just put it outside, for the fridge, I was like, oh cheese! and I was thinking about cheese, and I was like I could get it from the grocery store in town or Green  Goes or you know, I get cheese, but wherever I get it, it’s either wrapped in a plastic bag or on a styro, wrapped up in plastic. So, oh maybe I won’t have cheese. 

Rachel: Wonder if they could—I often think about why can’t I just rock up with my own container? And not like, not the things that Green Goes have, but other, you know, other shops and say like, I’m going to the deli and I want my meat. Well, can you just stick it in my container or whatever?

Mel: Yeah, that’s true, because then they’re not unwrapping what they’ve already wrapped. They’re just giving you a… yeah, that’s a good idea. 

Allie: Yeah. I was perplexed about butter because I was like, I don’t know how I will live without butter. But then at the supermarket I found last night – ‘cause I was already starting to go, oh my God, what am I going to do? -that the Black and Gold butter is wrapped in paper and I’m like, okay, great. 

Mel: Of course it is!

Allie: But as a vegetarian, who does it for animal cruelty reasons largely, I’m like Black and Gold butter….oohh, and it’s not like I get organic cruelty-free butter every time, anyway, but Black and Gold I kind of feel like they are probably not going to be happy cows, and it’s cheap and it’s plastic free, so, there is an ethical conundrum for me there. Which way am I going? Like, it’s great to be plastic free, but what about cows? And I do toy with veganism anyway.  

Background comments and general laughter

Allie: But there is this one-month vegan challenge, which I have considered before. And the other thing that I realised I was doing in the lead up to this is going, “oh no! my favourite veggie burgers they’re wrapped in plastic. I’ll just stock up now at the start of the month”.

Background comments and general laughter

Allie: …but I can’t stock up at the start of the month, I’m not going to let myself do that.

Background comments and general laughter

Allie: So, I made myself not do that. Um, Rachel, how about you? 

Rachel: Yeah, hi, I’m Rachel. I’m you know, pretty conscious where I can be, but there’s the occasional, you know, get to the supermarket, “damn, I’ve forgotten the bags” or I’m caught out and I grab bags, and I justify it by saying, that’s a bin liner., but I don’t want to do that anymore. So, yeah, I want to really commit to having the canvas bags all the time with me, being more onto that. In the past, I’ve done a lot of bulk foods and, you know, taking my own containers, but I haven’t been doing that so much lately. And, you know, probably one of the main things is just getting busy with life and work and, you know, small kids and just getting caught out, you know, not prepared enough because I’m time poor or whatever.

Mel: I was going to say it takes so much time.

Rachel: Yeah. So yeah, I really wanted to jump on this because it’s something that’s really important to me to introduce as a way of, so my children just don’t grow up with this unconsciousness of like, “ooh we just buy stuff and throw the packaging in the bin”. I want them to have a really good understanding of, I mean, they already do, you know, they’re like, “why, why is all this packaging?”  But I actually want to be walking the talk so I can tell them that it’s not a great thing to do environmentally – but what are we doing in our house?  

So, I want to, you know, I think probably for a start, I will do maybe the second level of the challenge. And then, you know, from there, we’ll just have more conversations and we’ll start to look at, you know, what are the things that we really love having around like the wine or the butter, or you know for me, it was like yoghurt. I mean, I’ve tried making coconut yogurt and I haven’t been successful, so I’m like, I have to keep buying, this coconut yoghurt! you know, it’s like, okay, this month I’m not going to become a master chef at making my coconut yogurt, but that’s, you know, stuff down the track that we’ll hopefully introduce.

So yeah, I stopped drinking coffee now. I don’t have the takeaway coffee cup issue. And, you know, in the past I used the keep-cup ones. Although I was reading some article the other day about a cafe in Melbourne that weren’t accepting keep-cups anymore because of the potential infection, bacteria, and I was like how much fear do we want to…?

Allie: I think that has always been a problem. I saw an article also, people bringing re-usable bags to the supermarket that have got like, mouse droppings in them and stuff. 

Background comments and general laughter

And the cashiers saying “we can’t use these” you know, and then, I don’t know, just those complications, but I think those issues have always been there for any reusable stuff but people are still doing it. Like it’s still possible to introduce it and have it.

Mel: Well, and it’s just that whole bloody, a whole other tangent, a whole mind frame of, you know, you can’t be, I can’t trust you to be responsible for your own thing, because if something goes wrong, then I need to protect myself because you’re going to sue me. That’s all its about.

Allie: That’s true. Yeah. And how much do we baby our citizens and how much do we let them just grow up and learn that mouse poo ‘aint good for ya!

Mel: in a whisper I haven’t died yet!

Allie: And one thing that I will say is that, I mean, we’re all kind of like perplexed about how are we going to achieve a month without plastic, but a hundred years ago no one had plastic. How are we in a hundred years moved from not knowing what this substance was, to being so dependent on it? It’s so infused in our lives that we don’t know how to actually navigate our world without somehow accidentally or purposefully buying it.

Rachel: How are we going to live in a hundred years? If we don’t do something about it right now, because we’ll be drowning in it. And the ocean will be you know… 

Mel: It’s quite sad.

Allie: Yeah, well, they do talk about how there’s more bits of plastic in the sea -and that probably includes tiny bits of broken up plastic, than there are fish.

Mel: Oh, really? That’s an actual statistic?

Allie: But I don’t, I’m not surprised at that. I don’t know if they’re including microfibers, you know, there were more bits of plastic in our ocean than stars in the sky, if it includes microfibers. 

Mel: It’s so easy to sit here and talk about it and we’ve got to go and do it, but like, you know, I think it’s quite easy for us to get complacent when we get busy, because priorities change and you get tired and like all of this kind of stuff. And it’s just convenience, just in general, not just plastic, but you know, maybe lots of other things as well. And I kind of feel like I’m looking forward to being more aware of how I’m choosing when I’m in those, in those moments of “I can’t be bothered”, you know.

Allie: Yeah, the danger moments.  

Mel: Yeah. And it’s kind of good to get a bit of a kick up the butt. I think that’s kind of why I did it. It was so I think about it.  I think about lots of other things, I’m sure we all do, but yeah, it would be good to think about that. And you know how you were talking about a hundred years ago, a hundred years – Sorry, this is obviously my personal rant – you know, a hundred years ago, the food system was completely different, so, I think everything was a lot more localised. And by that, I mean, actually, literally localised. So, you could go get your milk from the corner store in the glass bottles and you’d return the glass bottles when you were finished.

Allie: Or the milkman would come around. 

Mel:  That’s how I grew up, yeah, exactly. And, you know, and that’s only 35 years ago, not even a hundred. So, you know, you would’ve been able to get your butter wrapped up in paper.

Rachel: Waxed paper. 

Mel: Yeah. You know, you would have had a little village garden where, you know, all of that kind of stuff. So, I kind of, I also probe more of that, bringing that back. 

Allie: Localising the food systems. And I do think also that plastic in a lot of ways was like in the, was it the fifties when things started coming out. And I guess it just was like this great convenience and it made things more hygienic and it made things safer and it made things cheaper too, which is good for the common person. You know, it was a benefit to have these plastic things that made the world more democratic because everyone could save more money and not be as strapped for stuff, you know?

And so now we live in a world where we can all have these things that were once unimaginable luxuries to the common person. But the price of that has been the planet, you know? And so, what I’ve noticed walking around the supermarket is also like, okay, so I can get, say tomato sauce in a glass jar or a plastic bottle, the plastic one’s going to be the cheaper option. And as someone with limited financial resources, it’s not fair to expect everyone to suddenly step up financially to get the expensive stuff that’s plastic free. And, you know, I feel like there’s a thing there in terms of fairness of it.

Rachel and Mel:  Absolutely, totally. 

Rachel: I mean, the other thing is like, you know, sometimes I’m in the same dilemma and it’s like, well, if I get the glass jar, what’s going to even happen to that glass jar? I’ll take it home and I’ll probably make preserves in it. And then I’ll do that the year after and the year after. But the ones that don’t go in, they go into the recycling and then where do they end up? Like, we need options for being able to take that glass jar back and reuse it, you know, to fill it up with that tomato sauce again.

Or, you know, like it’s just not a thing. Yeah. And how do we start to bring the awareness to it that it needs, so that can happen. I mean, it can happen in your local, you know, whole food store, but not with a lot of things.

Mel:. No, Yeah. 

Rachel: There’s only so much you can do that with.

Mel: Well, and then there is also that thing as to the true cost of things. We’re not actually paying the true cost for packaging, for transportation. You know, actually how it’s made, where it comes from. So often jars from Italy are cheaper than Australian-made something. 

Rachel: So, the planet and all the communities are paying for it. 

Mel: Yeah, that whole thing goes into it too. I was kind of thinking, reflecting on it yesterday and today as well. It’s like, wow, I feel, I almost feel a little bit guilty that this is a bit of a challenge because relatively I’m really lucky, honestly. Well, this isn’t about being lucky or not, but you know, I was like this is a challenge for me. Whereas, you know, sisters on the other side of the world are going through totally different things.

Yeah, I think the true cost of stuff isn’t seen. So, you know, I’ve got friends Allie as well, who, you know, totally believe in all of this stuff, but they can’t—they   just buy the cheapest thing that they can for that week to get by.

Allie: Yeah, that’s right.

Mel: There’s no judgment there because, man, you’re doing the best that you can. At least you’re eating. 

Allie: Yeah. That’s right. Exactly. I know. And, I feel like that’s where we can challenge ourselves to do as best we can and what I want to do at the end of the month is check in with you guys again and see how well we did and what surprised us, like what caught us – like we open something and we’re like, “oh damn, I didn’t even think of that!” And then the other stuff where we actually succeeded, but it was bloody hard work. We had to really think our way through, you know, how to solve that problem. I want to ask you guys also at the end of the month, like what you really think you’ve now got in place that you’ll just keep doing and what probably might slide.

General laughter

Mel: oh, I know what I need. I need a friend who can give me a barrel of wine.

Allie: Hey, yeah!!

General extended laughter and comments

Allie: And then you can turn them into chairs and little coffee tables those barrels. You can get those mini-Keg barrels.

Rachel: Maybe we could get a sponsor.

Allie: Yeah!

Rachel: I wonder if we could get Green Goes to bring wine in.

Allie: You should talk to Boomtown and get them to get those little, like, I don’t know, 10 litre size barrels. 

Mel: Yeah! Actually, I wonder if they would. Because when I was in Spain, like, a long time ago, eight, nine years ago. I was staying in a little bario and yeah, there was a little place just across from the street and you’d go up there and you’d take your own container and you’d fill up on wine from there, from their bottle.

Allie: From their massive wooden barrel. Yeah great, good idea.

Mel: Yeah. Great. Actually. Yeah. 

Allie: Good idea, get Boomtown onto it.  Yeah, this is a good thing like Castlemaine is, I think we’re pretty lucky in Castlemaine. 

Mel: I’m going to investigate! that is actually quite exciting, that could potentially be something. Yeah. Cool!

Allie: Totally. I do feel like we’re lucky in this community because there’s so many small businesses that are doing really cool, like it’s kind of boutique cool stuff. Like we’ve got multiple wine makers and bread makers and coffee makers really locally. So, I think compared to a lot of places in Australia, we are really abundant in options, here in Castlemaine in Central Victoria, but I think it’s still going to be a challenge to solve all these problems. I would love to know by the end of the month Mel that you’ve got those guys to do that.

Mel: Haha. Well, I reckon, I also run a small business. So, I understand that the reason why sometimes it seems more expensive is because you have to pay for the true cost of things, that’s why, I guess I understand that. And so, yeah if you took away the labour, ‘cause I’ve worked with them on bottling days and it’s a really big long, hard day. Yeah, and then you’ve got to put the labels on if they don’t have a labelling machine and you know, then they’ve got to pack it, so potentially that could cut down on the percentage of costs.

Alllie: Hell Yeah.

Mel: Yeah, exactly. And then they don’t have to do anything. You just go there. And then you buy it and then you leave. So, they don’t have to do anything. I mean, obviously they have to make the wine!

Allie: That’s awesome.  And then, there’s bottles that you’ve bought from the supermarket with a screw top lid, they are reusable for that reason, not just as candle holders.

General laughter

Allie: Although they do make beautiful candle holders!

Mel: You can only have so many though.

Allie: That’s, right!  Cool, great idea. I think you’re onto something. All right. Well, I think in a month, we’ll check in. We’ll see where we’re at, how well we did. 

Mel: What are we basing our ‘How well’ on.

Allie: Well, just maybe just keep a mental tally of the things that really caught you by surprise that maybe—or the things that you were really happy that was easier than you thought it would be. And stuff like that you were just like, “oh, damn. Oh, damn, oh damn, oh damn, again!!” Laughter.

Mel: Yeah, because I’ve been thinking even labels on jars have plastic on them. 

Allie: Yeah, and tins! I was looking at dog and cat food is another thing that I was going to really struggle with. 

Mel: Yeah, I bought one yesterday, a big one, a whole bag.

Mel: I could use them as bins, but then that’s still one-use plastic, isn’t it? 

Allie: Yeah. And I’m like, okay. So, I can make my dog vegetarian ‘cause that is possible. And I’ve thought about that a lot. I can just get tinned food for both of them, but tins are lined with plastic, even though they’re recyclable. And I guess the other question is like, do we include plastic that can be recycled as acceptable or not? You know, like I bought my drink bottle; it’s a plastic drink bottle, but I’m potentially going to use that for five years. And I’m assuming that kind of plastic is recyclable. 

Mel:  But we don’t have any recycling anymore. 

Allie: I know but in five years we will.  

Mel: OK.

Rachel: So that’s got to last you five years.

Allie: Or I could get a metal one next time, you know.

Yeah, I guess those parameters are what we’re going to set for ourselves, how reasonable or hard it is, and maybe just keep a tally of the things that you’re like, “oh yeah, I bought glass jars, but every time there was a plastic label on it”. So, you know, you did do better than buying a plastic jar, but you know, that’s just something to think about. Oh, and also just those questions of, okay, so will I never have my favourite veggie burgers again? 

Mel: Oh yeah, you know, like good question. 

Allie: Maybe I never will. And I don’t want to spend time making my own veggie burgers, but then maybe I just won’t eat veggie burgers or make a bunch and then freeze them, you know, that sort of thing.

But it would make me sad to never have those veggie burgers again, but that’s the first world problem. Like I have ample food to eat, I can avoid them, and even though I like the taste of meat, I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons. So, this could be a similar ethical choice. Hmm. I don’t know, anyway, that’s stuff to think about at the end of the month, when we talk about how hard it was.

General laughter and comments

Rachel: Yeah. It’s about, it’s like, how comfortable are we making these choices and knowing that we’re going to not be able to have things that have made us feel comfortable or feel okay. Yeah. 

Mel: And I also wonder that there’s a part of me, that’s kind of, you know,  what do you call it when you, um, abstain from something as a kind of like a political thing? You know, if you get enough people to not buy one thing, then…

Allie: Like, boycot?

Mel: Boycotting, that’s the word! Yeah, yeah, that’s it. So, if we got everyone to boycott plastic to a certain degree or certain level. I wonder…the ripples..

Allie: Well, I feel like a lot of manufacturers—the fact that our supermarkets and our state governments are now enforcing single use plastic bags to be eliminated, these are big steps to being taken to that level.

Lucy Young has been working at Plastic Bag Free Castlemaine for, you know, months, and she’s talked to all the shops and asked them all to come on board and a lot have, but there are a few who are holding out and they’ve been holding out until they’ve been forced to. Now they’re being forced to, so now they’re going to do it, you know, and I think it takes those, like the IGA stores are making that happen at a big level, the national organisation is making that happen and the state governments are taking on plastic bag free stuff. So those sort of, that level of action, is really important to reinforce what people are trying to do on the ground level too. 

But, more and more people are getting really aware because of David Attenborough, I think, on the evils of plastic.

Mel: Oh, is he?…

Allie: On the Blue Planet II. It’s a major part of that doco and I think it’s, yeah, I haven’t seen it either, but I’ve seen people responding to it, you know, and I think businesses, especially small businesses, it will take – well, even big businesses, I guess, every business, it’s going to take a while to figure out how to replace plastic.

And so, they might be thinking about it now and trying to, because they know people don’t want to use plastic anymore. 

Mel: Well, I think, people forget the power of people and, we kind of, we forget that we—I don’t know, this is how I feel—that it’s fine to some things that I keep doing, even though it feels like you are banging your head against a wall, you know – people, as people, forget that we actually have power as people and we have the choice.

Allie: I guess that’s what this month is about, isn’t it? It’s about us as consumers learning how to really commit to making that choice, not just going, oh, you know… like I’ve eased into canvas bags instead of disposable bags, just eased into, you know, other elements, like I bought some of those wax wraps, instead of Gladwrap, I don’t use Gladwrap anyway. Often, I put a plate on top of a bowl instead of Gladwrap, and I’m putting into it a bunch of leftovers, you know, sort of eased into all of those things, but there’s heaps of stuff.

This month is going to really challenge me for real to actually really look at what I do instead of taking for granted the little bits and pieces that I let slide through, you know. 

Mel: Me too, for sure. 

Rachel:  Yeah, yeah.

Allie: So, but this is, I guess, what this month is about, activating people to make those consumer choices.

Rachel: Yeah. Definitely being like, you know, other people going, “what are you doing?” And yeah, starting a conversation with someone who thinks about it or might, but then they actually see someone doing it.

Allie: And show those honey producers. I was thinking about my honey, because I’ve got one of those squeeze honeys at the moment and I’m like, okay, I’m going to have to buy honey in a glass jar. And the manufacturers who make them, if they start seeing everyone buying a glass jar instead of the squeeze bottle, they’ll discontinue the squeeze bottle. 

Mel: People power. Yeah. Totally. Because we always, sometimes we think, we forget that we have that power, because they give us things, because we buy them!

Allie: Yeah. 

Mel: And we keep buying them. And it’s like, if people, if we choose not to, then they’re not going to make any money, they just want to make money and don’t really care.  

Allie: It’s true, it’s why Vegemite Kraft Singles didn’t last very long because no one bought them. 

Mel: What were they?

Allie: You know the Kraft singles, cheesy wrapped in plastic, bits of plastic cheese. They make Vegemite flavoured ones.

General chat about the product

Allie: I mean, the cheese is as plasticky as the plastic wrapping the cheese! Yeah. But those sorts of things, again, are cheap food and a lot of people, especially families on a tight budget with kids who just want afternoon tea, and a cheap piece of bread with a cheap piece of cheese under the griller is a good afternoon snack, you know?

And like I buy… I was thinking about bread actually, because I’m, I really love my sourdough bread, but it’s much more expensive than a loaf wrapped in plastic and I guess at Baker’s Delight or other places like that, you could ask them to put it in your own bag or in a paper bag instead of a plastic bag, but the supermarket breads you wouldn’t be able to buy that anymore – like the pre-sliced ones. 

So, you know, there’s a lot of things like that, I think. A lot of people might really want to take on plastic free, but financially it’s just not actually going to be easy.

Rachel: Unless you’ve got the stay at home, you know, presence, whoever that is, the man or the woman or the someone who’s doing all those things around the home.

Allie: Yeah. The stay-at-home spouse.

Rachel: Yeah. Or committing that time in your week to, you know, work a bit less, put the time into making the bread and growing the vegetables. 

Mel: Which saves you money.

Allie: Well, a hundred years ago when we talk about pre-plastic days, that pretty much was the case. You’d have like, the man making the income and the woman staying at home, baking the bread and, you know, growing carrots and stuff like that.

Rachel:  Making cheese, making the yoghurt. I’ve spoken to my mum about it. And so, she grew up on a farm in Western Victoria and her mum, she said, only bought a very few things. There was sugar, I think she bought flour, tea. There was, you know, maybe half a dozen items she went bought and everything else they produced. They were pretty much self-sufficient.

Allie: And tea you’d be buy in a tin, anyway.

Rachel: Yeah, it would have been probably no plastic back then. And the health of those, that generation, it’s probably pretty optimal, and you think about how things would have been produced back then.

Allie: Well, it’s interesting because I think we do have a very long longevity. We have a long longevity now. Like we’re all living much longer, but it’s not necessarily because we’re eating better or living better. We’re not as fit or as healthy, but the medical system is able to keep us alive longer because of medical advances. We can live for much longer in a state that is much less healthy than people used to be.  Anyway, that’s the future, isn’t it.

Rachel: I hope not!

Allie: Oh Man! It’s scary some of the stuff that is coming out, but it’s a whole other topic. 

 Rachel: There’s a lot of topics in there. Isn’t there?

General laughter and comments

Allie: All right. Well, that’s good. We’ll meet in a month I reckon and unpack all that stuff. 

Mel: Great, thanks Allie. I think it’s also something I’m looking forward to for this month, being accountable because we can say things, you know, and go “yeah cool, I’m gonna…” or like, “oh God, I’m going to try”. But I think, yeah, I think it’s good to get a kick up the ass and then to kind of be accountable for it.

Allie: Yeah, it’s good. 

Rachel: Oh, and hey, next Wednesday, the 12th is the Unwrapped Tour.

Allie: Oh, yeah. The Food Garden are running a tour of Castlemaine called Unwrapped. And it’s about plastic freeness. Yeah. 

Mel: So, are they just around shops in Castlemaine, or?

Allie: I think they’re just showing people how to bulk buy. Yeah. That’s the sense I get, but it will be interesting to check in on what you can and can’t bulk buy, around here. I’d like to get even toothpaste – how do you get that in a not plastic tube? I guess it could be metal. 

Mel: You can make your own.

Rachel: Yeah, you can make your own, its really easy.

Allie: And also, toothbrushes. Even if you get a bamboo toothbrush, the bristles are plastic. And one of my challenges for myself this month is I really need a new toilet brush and I’m like, all right, that’s a challenge for Plastic free July. Can I get, even if you get wooden-handled or bamboo-handled ones…?

 Mel: Can you get metal with metal spikes?

Allie: Well, would that just tear your loo enamel? 

Allie: There’s coconut fibre scrubs for the kitchen which are great to replace steel wool, I wonder if there’s an equivalent rough thing that is also soft. There might be bristle brushes, but are they hog hair bristle? Because that’s a vegetarian question for me again. Might be a conflict in my ethics. 

Mel: Yeah. It’s interesting that because even with the bulk buying thing, I’d rather buy Australian than I would overseas. Just ‘cause of…  

Allie:  And if all you can get is Vietnamese almonds then maybe that’s what you get then?

Mel: No, I don’t get them.

Allie: Oh you just don’t get them.

Rachel: What I think would be interesting is to go around and have a look at, okay, so what is the price you’d pay typically if you go to already packaged, versus going and taking your own package for the same volume, if you bought it in bulk. Doing a little comparison list, you know, and if you could see that, would see that actually it’s cheaper in bulk.

Allie: Wonder if we could come back with a couple of ideas, do some comparisons as we go. You can compare wine Mel!

Mel: Oh no, I’d be an alchoholic!! 

General joking comments and laughter

Allie: Alrighty guys. Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you guys in a month, maybe see you before then I hope! It’ll be good to hear what was easy, what was hard, what was surprising, you know, like tissue boxes, you don’t see that plastic until you take off that bit of cardboard.

Rachel: Kind of makes me want to go the whole hog to just go, like, you know, oh man! just to really…

Allie: Really notice. I think that’s why I do want to go the whole hog because of that. And I’m just like, I want to notice, I want to see where all the plastic is. And you see those sort of YouTube videos of people who collect all their plastic for a year and then got this tiny little bag and they’re like, oh, I bought a tech thing and I had to have this thing. That is going to be my biggest fail, because I want to buy some new microphones and some other stuff. And I’m like, oh..

And what about vitamins? Vitamins always come in a plastic jar with a little sachet of like, you know, moisture defeating stuff. 

Rachel: Some jars are glass, but they’re therefore a more expensive option.

Allie: Yeah, that’s it. 

Mel: Sometimes they have plastic lids. 

Allie: Yeah, that’s true. And if I promised myself to reuse that jar, am I just kidding myself? Because I am. I’ve kept those reusable plastic vitamin jars, and I was like, oh, you’ll use them one time I’ll put paint in it and I never did, they sat there for years and if they’re sitting there for years in my drawer, that’s not helping the environment any more than them sitting there for years in the landfill, which they eventually will go to.

Mel: No Allie, maybe.

Laughter and groans

Rachel: Gosh, it doesn’t bear thinking about, then I go, oh, we’re just one little community in one little state in one little country and there is the whole world doing it!

One of my challenges, which I just realised I didn’t say is the family, but then it’s like everyone has to kind of negotiate their little luxury things. I find that really hard, particularly in relationship with my husband, it’s you know, “you want that?” and so then if I’m doing this challenge, part of that challenge is what’s going into my house, you know, it’s really tricky. That stuff.

Mel: Yup. I’m going away on Wednesday for a week to go stay with a very old friend and her family and other friends coming in. Yeah. I kind of know that…

Allie: You can’t ring up and say “hey we’re plastic free!” Well, you can’t dictate to people in your own household. You can’t dictate to your kids or your husband to never buy plastic again—you can encourage it. I guess.

Rachel: And actually, you know, the healthy way is to say, “Hey, you know, get whatever you want. Like, that’s totally fine, I’m not going to stop that or not eat it because you’ve bought it, but this is the choice I’ve made” And then… 

Allie: Do you feel like, have you spoken to your husband about taking on the challenge? 

Rachel: Only briefly. He thinks, I mean, he thinks it’s great, you know, to do this and for the awareness of our kids as well as…you know. 

Allie: It sounds like he might be behind it then and supportive.

Rachel: Yeah, It sort of depends on, you know, how he’s feeling in terms of like time and energy and money and…blah.. But yeah, I’ve done heaps of radical things in the past and sometimes he’s like, yeah, I’m all for it. It’s really great. And then I’m like “What the?”  I’ve taken all the plastic out and we’ve only got all glass now, but the plastic’s started creeping back in.

General group comments and laughter

Allie: I’m like, okay, I’ve got my plastic Tupperware. I’m not going to get rid of that, but I wouldn’t buy it again. The glass ones actually have plastic lids now, or with plastic seals around them.

Rachel: Well, that’s it. So, I just put the beeswax thing on. My Nana had this awesome enamel dish with an enamel lid and I love it. Like, you know, you can get some glass ones like that, that have a glass lid. 

Allie: Enamel’s great, ‘cause that’s hardy and won’t shatter in the bag. 

Mel: And it’s light, and it lasts!!

Rachel: Yeah. It goes on and on. I mean, she would have had that for… she’s 95 now. 

Mel: Wow!

Rachel: She would have had that for like, probably 60 years. 

Mel: Oh, how beautiful. 

Rachel: I love it. 

Allie: I know. It’s really nice isn’t it. I’ve got some crockery and things from my grandma and she got it from someone else in the family—it had lasted all that time. Yeah. See I think that’s the benefit of talking about these things in a little group is that you can come up with ideas that you want to… 

Mel: That wine thing is seriously brilliant. Yeah.

Rachel:  I love that!

Ongoing comments

Allie: We went on to talk about wine for some time, but I’m sure you don’t need to hear all of that. So, after several false endings, that was actually the end of our conversation. 

Tune in on Monday the 30th at 9:00 AM to hear our end of challenge wrap up. Will Mel talk a local supplier into bringing in bulk wine? How will Rachel and her family cope with going plastic free? And will I be able to buy the tech I need, without it being wrapped in plastic and will I have to go vegan?

On that note, I would like to let the vegan and animal rights listeners know that I do actually understand that no dairy is entirely cruelty-free even in the organic and free-range stuff. The system of removing babies from their mothers so that we can have her milk instead is deeply problematic on an ethical front and not to mention what happens to the boy babies.

I would also like to point out that since this conversation was recorded a week ago, till now, when it goes to air, I’ve seen some great solutions put forward on social media. For example, my dilemma about dog food seems solvable as local butchers will let you take your own container. 

So, tune in on Monday the 30th, to hear us talk about how we went this month in our Plastic free July challenge and tune in next Monday at 9:00 AM on MAINfm to hear me talk to Lucy Young about her ongoing campaign to make Castlemaine a plastic bag-free town 

Theme music for An Environment For Change plays.

You have been listening to An Environment for Change, an eight-part sustainability series made possible by a community grant from the Mt. Alexander Shire Council. You can listen to this and other episodes of this series on the MAINfm SoundCloud page. My name is Alison Hanly. Thanks for listening.

Talk to you soon.

Transcription by Robyn Walton

Note: Saltgrass is produced to be heard. Some elements of the podcast may not translate easily to the written word. We have also chosen readability over strict fidelity to the actual words spoken. Human speech relies on tonality, rhythm and emphasis to give meaning to phrases that may seem fragmented on the page. Some mannerisms of speech are also perfectly acceptable to hear, but awkward on the page, eg. repeated words, filler words such as ‘um’ and ‘you know’. As such, we have not transcribed every word and have sometimes altered the text to keep the meaning true, but also be as readable as possible. 

Our transcripts are created using both speech recognition software and human transcribers, and though we do our best to avoid errors they may occur. Please check the audio before quoting in print.

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