Plastic. It’s in our oceans, our rivers, our air, our rain and even much of our food. A study by the University of Newcastle suggests the average person unwittingly eats about five grams – a credit card’s worth – of microscopic plastic particles each week.
And yet, the world keeps making more.
Since 2011, Plastic-Free July has challenged us to spend the month thinking about the role of plastic in our lives and making an effort to reduce our reliance on this – admittedly useful – material.
In that spirit, here are five Australian companies making plastic-free alternatives to everyday items including coffee pods, bin liners, dog-poo bags, panty liners, toothbrushes and single-use cutlery. Switch out your regular brands and never look back.
Reliable data is scarce, but it’s estimated that in Australia, hundreds of millions of coffee capsules are sent to landfill each year. It was this problem that motivated former professional cricketers Ed Cowan and Steve Cazzulino to found Tripod Coffee in 2014.
Tripod’s 100 per cent Australian-certified compostable coffee capsules are made from organic polymer, with paper lids. And they’re fully compatible with Nepresso machines, naturally.
In councils where residents are supplied with bins for food scraps, the pods can be thrown directly into those bins (regular, worm-powered domestic compost won’t generate enough heat to break down the pods). Tripod maintains an open-source spreadsheet so customers can see if their council is part of the food-scrap collection scheme.
Outside these areas, coffee lovers can buy a reply-paid bag for $10 (which can be redeemed for more coffee via a loyalty system) and send their used pods back to Tripod for composting. The coffee itself is sourced from countries such as Mexico, India, Brazil and Colombia. There are a range of blends in various strengths, roasts and flavour profiles, sold at a similar price to Nespresso’s own pods. Tripod is currently selling a discounted sample pack of 60 pods for $39.95, rather than the usual $47.45.
How We Roll
This Sydney-based company sells two kinds of toilet paper: one made entirely from recycled paper, and another made entirely from bamboo, a far more renewable resource than trees. For every box sold, How We Roll also plants a tree through American non-profit One Tree Planted.
But where it’s really doing its bit to reduce plastic waste is with its range of certified 100 per cent compostable bin bags (10-litre, 30-litre or 50-litre) and dog-poo bags, made from cornstarch rather than petroleum. The company also sells bamboo tissues and kitchen towels. Everything is available for one-off purchase, but there are discounts if you opt for recurring, subscription-style delivery.
Aussie Kristy Chong launched this underwear label in 2013 to provide an alternative to disposable tampons and pads. She spent two years fine-tuning the brand’s period-proof design with textile engineers and fibre companies in Australia and the US. The result is a natural, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, breathable fabric that’s turned Modibodi one of the world’s leading period-proof underwear brands.
After undies came leak-proof swimwear, sports leggings and running shorts. (And even a range for men, “whether you’re an occasional dribbler, or recovering post-op”.) The machine-washable undies and garments are made in China from a mix of natural fibres, including bamboo and merino wool.
The built-in, stain-resistant linings are about three millimetres thick and can hold between five and 20 millilitres of liquid (about four tampons worth), depending on the level of absorbency needed. Modibodi offers a 30-day trial – if you aren’t a fan, you can get a full refund on one piece, excluding postage.
The cheapest pair of undies is $25.50, but there are discounts for buying packs of five, seven or 10 pairs. Ultimately, your purchase will save you a trip to the shops for a new box of tampons – not just this month, but for many months to come.
In this country we toss out thirty million plastic toothbrushes a year. Tinkle, a toothbrush subscription service, aims to reduce that alarming number. Its tapered brush handles are made from bamboo, which is fully biodegradable. They stand upright on a flat base, to prevent the handle from getting damp in your bathroom and breaking down before its time. The bristles are made from fully recyclable nylon, but must be picked off first.
The subscription costs $7 for one brush (adult or child-sized), and you can choose how frequently to receive new brushes (between one and four months). Tinkle donates one dollar from each sale to groups and individuals dedicated to climate action. Each brush has a different-coloured base, so you don’t end up sticking someone else’s in your gob.
You can also pair your brush subscription with regular shipments of fluoride or fluoride-free toothpaste tablets/. They’re an increasingly popular alternative to plastic toothpaste tubes. You simply chew the tablet, wet your toothbrush and brush as normal.
Ok. So these knives, forks, spoons and chopsticks are made from plastic – but they’re dishwasher-safe and made to be used for years, rather than once. And they’re 100 per cent polypropylene, which is completely recyclable.
Imran Din, the man behind Just Utensils, hopes we might start to carry our own cutlery, the same way we carry around reusable coffee cups. To that end, each set comes in a convenient little carry case. Colours include beige, green, light blue and pink (matching lunchboxes are in the works).
The idea struck Din just before the pandemic swept through the country. The set is ideal for picnics, and, with regional travel now allowed in most states, they’re perfect for outdoorsy adventures, day trips and camping.
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