Hidden plastic in 5 everyday items

With the growing global awareness of plastic pollution and in light of plastic free July, we thought it would be interesting to research into what products (other than the obvious) might be hiding some pesky plastic. While these items may contain very small amounts of plastic and there is debate on the real effects on the environment, we do know that plastic doesn’t break down, so it is still interesting to note.

Check it out, you might be surprised!

5 everyday items with hidden plastic

1. Hidden plastic item #1 – Tea bags

Most of your humble tea bags have been heat sealed using polyethene to keep the tea bag from falling apart. Additionally, the ‘silk’ type tea bags are mostly made of a type of plastic (not silk as the name suggests!).

Alternative: Loose leaf tea (ideally buy in bulk to avoid outer plastic packaging) or tea’s marketed as ‘plastic free’ for instance brands like ‘Madura’ and ‘Pukka’. Madame Flavour ‘silky’ tea bags are biodegradable and instead of being made from nylon, they are made from an extract of corn. 

hidden plastic tea bags

2. Hidden plastic item #2 – Takeaway coffee cups

This might not be a big secret anymore but just in case you need a quick update here it is…Takeaway coffee cups are generally lined with polyethylene plastic to withstand the heat of the liquid and maintain the structure of the cup. There is also the overall recyclability issue of the coffee cup too.

Alternative: Your best options by far are to enjoy your coffee in the café or use a reusable coffee cup.

hidden plastic coffee cups

3. Hidden plastic item #3 – ‘Foil’ inner packaging

For instance the inside of a chip packet. You could be forgiven for thinking this was actually foil but unless it feels like metal it is more likely metallised plastic film.

Alternative: The good news is that silver (‘foil’) lined packaging can be recycled through the REDcycle programme.

hidden plastic chip packet

4. Hidden plastic item #4 – Fleece clothing

Those lovely cosy jumpers that keep you warm in Winter are made of polyester. The controversy around this synthetic material is that when these items are washed, microplastics can be released into the waterways adding to our plastic pollution and potentially damaging the health of some species. On the flip side though, more and more fleeces and other clothing items are being made of recycled plastic bottles.

Alternative: Wash your fleece in a ‘GuppyFriend™’ mesh garment bag which can capture the tiny particles of plastic (these will be available soon from Patagonia stores), or buy clothing made from natural fibres (cotton, wool).

hidden plastic fleeces

5. Hidden plastic item #5 – Glitter

This seems to be another one that has really come to the spotlight lately.  Most glitter is actually just tiny pieces of plastic (microplastic), and the argument is that eventually it can end up in the waterways (particularly for wash off glitter used in face paints etc) and be damaging to the sea life.

Alternative: We are starting to see more and more eco-friendly glitter alternatives coming onto the market now and no doubt this will only increase in the future. For now check out Eco Glitter and Bio Glitter. (Google search for various suppliers).

hidden plastic glitter

Back in the workplace if you need some advice on your plastic waste and what you can recycle please contact us!