Take on the plastic-free challenge at the supermarket

ONE PIECE AT A TIME: Helen Hughes is taking part in Plastic Free July and went on a plastic-free grocery shop at the supermarket. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

ONE PIECE AT A TIME: Helen Hughes is taking part in Plastic Free July and went on a plastic-free grocery shop at the supermarket. Picture: Belinda-Jane Davis

Plastic. It's all around us and most of the items we buy come wrapped in it.

So is it possible to do the grocery shopping and not come home with any plastic?

Helen Hughes - who has taken on the Plastic Free July challenge for the second consecutive year - gave it a go.

"I was very surprised," she said.

"I was able to find a plastic-free item for most of the things on the list, but I did find it hard in the toilet paper and paper towel aisle was full of plastic. I also had to avoid the frozen section."

Ms Hughes, of Bolwarra, in NSW's Hunter Valley, has been trying to reduce her plastic use for a year now.

She buys most of her vegetables from the Slow Food Earth Market in The Levee, her meat from the butcher (she takes a reusable container) and her bread from the bakery (it comes in a paper bag).

You certainly won't find cling wrap or plastic bags at her place. But that doesn't mean she's finding the plastic-free gig an easy task.

"I use beeswax wrappers and I've got the silicon covers for things - there are so many things you can do," she said.

"I'll put food in a bowl and put a plate over the top of it in the fridge.

"The bathroom and the laundry isn't going as well as the kitchen. I feel I've made good progress in the kitchen."

With most mainstream make-up and body products packaged in plastic - and even razors made of that material - it seemed like a daunting task.

So Ms Hughes took a very simple and basic approach.

"I decided to change out the easier items first, so, for example, instead of a plastic toothbrush I have bought one that has been made from corn starch and can be composted in our compost bin when I'm finished with it," she said.

The liquid soap in a plastic container has been replaced with a good old fashioned soap bar - one that was made from goat's milk.

The face wipes have been swapped for a re-usable cotton face washer.

Ms Hughes has drawn inspiration from social media pages and a book called Quitting Plastic.

"They suggest finishing what you've got and then replacing it with a plastic-free alternative before you move on to the next thing. That way you're not wasting anything," she said.

So what's her advice for others using the pandemic as an excuse to be better to the environment?

"Trying to get rid of single-use plastic is one of the best ways to start. Anything plastic that we do have we try to make sure that it isn't single-use. For example, we wash the ziplock bags and put them on the line and then re-use them several times," she said.