Note: Some Global Plastic Bans/Limits

bags-1Ecology/ environment consciousness/ sustainability can sometimes be disheartening as with knowledge, we become more and more aware of what needs to be done individually and as a collective. However, every progress must be celebrated and marked. So I thought that I would pause the steps and encourage you; me; us in our road to make our world more harmonious with nature.

You all know my hate for plastic bags which end up polluting our planet; around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into just the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds. How sad is that? Happily, a landmark European Parliament ruling in April 2015 means that all member states must achieve an 80% reduction in polyethylene bag use by 2025. While polyethylene can be recycled, waste collection services vary throughout regions and countries, which leads to confusion. It is estimated that 100 billion plastic carrier bags are used across just Europe per year, with 8 billion ending up as litter. Another reason for banning plastic bags is their fossil fuel burden. Plastic is not only made from petroleum-have a look at my post on how plastic is made-producing it typically requires a lot of fossil-fuel-derived energy. Throwing away plastic grocery bags each year means we are drilling for and importing millions of barrels worth of oil and natural gas for a convenient way to carry home a few groceries. Blehhhhhhh. Ergo, here is some HEARTENING INFO on this count:

flag_of_denmark-svgDENMARK: A tax on plastic carrier bags was introduced in Denmark in 1994. The tax had a remarkable effect on the use of plastic carrier bags in supermarkets, where customers buy the plastic carrier bags. In clothing and similar shops however, plastic carrier bags are offered free to customers by the shops, who pay the tax themselves. The introduction of the tax halved the consumption from around 800 million bags to 400 million bags, which amounts to around 80 bags per person annually. The retailer revenue has amplified the effects of the tax.

bangladeshBANGLADESH PLASTIC BAG BAN: In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to actually ban thinner plastic bags. This strict ban was introduced in 2002 after the occurrence of floods in 1998 where it was estimated that up to 80% of the city’s waterlogging was caused by polyethylene blocking drains. FYI, Bangladesh has an annual rainfall of up to 5 meters and holds the world record for the highest rainfall in a single day. Providing sufficient drainage infrastructure is a major challenge for the Government of Bangladesh and urban flooding is common. Plastic bags clog drains and waterways, threatening urban environments and creating severe safety hazards.

ireland-flagREPUBLIC OF IRELAND: The Republic of Ireland introduced a €0.15 tax on March 4, 2002. Levied on consumers at the point of sale, this led to 90% of consumers using long-life bags within a year. The tax was increased to €0.22 on July 1, 2007. The revenue is put into an Environment Fund. Hip, Hip Hurray!

 

flag_of_rwanda-svgRWANDA: In 2004, Rwanda prohibited shops from giving away plastic bags to their customers. The Rwandan government introduced tax breaks that encourage companies to recycle, instead of manufacture, plastic bags — thereby creating a totally new market for environment-friendly bags and as of 2008, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal. Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes that “every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment.” It also underlines each citizen’s responsibility to “protect, safeguard and promote the environment”. I am moving to Kigali!

luxembourg_large_flagLUXEMBOURG: Since reusable long-life bags were introduced in Luxembourg on a voluntary basis in 2004, waste from plastic bags has been reduced by around 85%.

 

 

eritrea-flagERITRA: Eritrea banned the use of plastic bags on January 2005. Since then, “those who import, produce, distribute or sell plastic bags are fined”, said the head of environment wing in the ministry of land, water and environment.

 

ugandaflagimage1UGANDA: In 2007, Uganda introduced legislation to ban the sale of lightweight plastic bags under 30µm thick and taxes thicker bags at a punitive rate of 120 percent. However, this was not very successful ergo in mid-April, 2015, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) banned the use of these popular lightweight bags with immediate effect. The ban covers selling, manufacture and importation.Many retailers at first, did not take it too seriously until mean-looking NEMA officials started knocking on their doors. Brilliant!

belgieBELGIUM: A plastic bag tax was adopted across Belgium on April 27, 2007. Single-use plastic shopping bags will be banned in the Brussels-Capital Region from 1 September 2017, the region’s environment minister, Céline Fremault, has announced. Initially the ban will cover supermarkets before being extended to all retailers in 2018.

 

bwBOTSWANA: Botswana introduced a levy on plastic bags that became effective on March 12, 2007. This led to many retailers charging a fee for plastic bags, further discouraging consumers from using them. But this has had many drawback so as of November 25, 2016, The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, has indicated that the government is planning to ban the use of plastic carrier bags in the country.

flagCHINA: The State Council, China’s parliament, imposed a ban on June 1, 2008 by prohibiting shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from providing free plastic bags that are less than 0.025 millimeters thick. The State Administration of Industry and Commerce also threatened to fine shopkeepers and vendors as much as 10,000 yuan (US$1,465) if they were caught distributing free bags. Since the ban was implemented, use of plastic bags has dropped by more than two-thirds, said the Vice chief of energy-saving and environmental protection department under the NDRC, China’s top economic planner. The limit in bag production saved China 1.6 million tons of petroleum, the NDRC estimated.

35490418z3gp139495701993AUSTRALIA: Although the nation does not ban lightweight bags, the states of South Australia and North Territory along with some cities have independently banned the bag. Coles Bay, Tasmania was the first location in Australia to ban the bag. The introduction of the ‘Zero Waste’ program in South Australia led to its lightweight bag ban in October 2008. The ACT or the Australian Capital Territory banned plastic bags on 1 November 2011. It is estimated that 400 million bags are saved each year.

flag_of_mexico-svgMEXICO: Mexico fines stores for giving plastic bags to their customers since August 19, 2010. Plastic bags were one of Mexico’s biggest pollution problems.

 

 

brazil-flagBRAZIL: A ban was imposed in Sao Paolo state on January 25, 2012.When the law took effect, all grocery stores in the state had to offer customers heavy-duty reusable bags for purchase, biodegradable plastic bags sold at cost for BRL0.19 (US$0.10), or cardboard boxes for free, if the store had them available. Free plastic bags were no longer available. Public statistics show that more than 2.4 billion plastic bags are consumed each month in the state, 90 percent of which end up in the trash. A growing number of smaller cities around the country have embraced similar laws, and a handful of other Brazilian states introduced plastic bag bans in late 2012 that have held firm.

italy-flagITALY: In January 2011, Italy banned the distribution of plastic bags that are not from biodegradable sources.

 

 

 

flag_of_mauritania-svgMAURITANIA: In 2013, Mauritania banned the use, manufacture, and import of plastic bags. In this country, plastic bag manufacturers could be jailed for up to a year.

 

 

flag_of_the_united_states-svgUSA: As of July 2014, 20 states and 138 cities & counties across the U.S. had either bans in place or pending, meaning some 20 million U.S citizens are now living in an area where plastic bags are banned. The U.S alone uses 12 million barrels of oil every year to meet plastic bag demand. Every year in the U.S one hundred billion plastic bags are discarded.

nxz3cq6UNITED KINGDOM: Ever since England started charging 5p ( about US$0.7) for single-use plastic bags, in October 5, 2015, the number handed out dropped to 500m in the first six months since the charge, compared with 7bn the previous year, as per the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). That is a whopping 85% drop! England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy, after successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wales began charging 5p for carrier bags on October 1, 2011, and by July 2012, evidence showed the number of plastic bags given away by shops had fallen by up to 96%. Northern Ireland introduced a similar levy in 2013 and Scotland followed in October 20, 2014, and within the first year, retailers showed that single-use carrier bag usage had fallen by more than 80% since the charge was introduced. This has all meant a decrease in millions of bags in circulation.WHOOT WHOOT!

255px-flag_of_india-svgINDIA: The Centre, on March 18, 2016, notified new plastic waste management rules for the country which will be implemented across the country within 6 months.
Under the new rules, carrying certain dos and don’ts for manufacturers, distributors, municipal bodies and panchayats, the government banned the manufacturing of plastic bags of below 50 microns as thinner bags currently pose a major threat to environment due to its non-disposability. Meanwhile Karnataka became the 1st Indian state with  a fully comprehensive plastic ban on plastic and all plastic and thermacol products. The state notification makes specific mention that plastic, no matter its thickness, will be banned across the State. The notification cites: “No shopkeeper, vendor, wholesale dealer, retailer, trader, hawker or salesman shall use plastic carry bags, plastic banners, plastic buntings, flex, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons, cling films and plastic sheets for spreading on dinning table irrespective of thickness including the above items made of thermacol and plastic which use plastic micro beeds.”
The notification also bars manufacturers from producing the aforementioned plastic products, store or supplying or transporting the same. BRAVO KARNATAKA!

germanflagGERMANY: Germany’s government has signed an agreement with the retail industry to curb the use of plastic bags as of April 24, 2016. A key part of the plan is getting retailers to stop giving away bags for free. Under this deal, customers in German shops and department stores can expect to pay higher fees for plastic bags from July 1. The change also means that retailers offering free bags will gradually be much harder to find.

flag_of_france-svgFRANCE: After pressure from shoppers, the biggest supermarkets in France imposed a ban on free carrier bags. They now charge between 2p and 42p for reusable bags. This has removed millions of free bags from high streets. The city of Paris adopted a full ban, effective on January 2007. Also, France has recently passed a new law to ensure all plastic cups, cutlery and plates can be composted and are made of biologically-sourced materials. The law, which comes into effect in 2020, is part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth – the same legislation that also outlawed plastic bags in grocery stores and markets beginning in July. Although plastic bags are forbidden in other countries — including in some U.S. states — no country seems to have embraced a plastic ban as sweeping as France’s will be. This is part of an ambitious plan that aims to allow France to make a more effective contribution to tackling climate change. FORMIDABLE!

flag_of_tanzania-svgTANZANIA: The government has issued a notice of intention to impose a total ban on plastic bags by the 1st of January 2017 in another sign that it is determined to enforce the law enacted in 2013 to that effect. The Permanent Secretary in the Vice-President’s Office said in a public notice in August 2016 that the government has provided four-month grace period to owners of plastic bags manufacturing factories to take specific steps by investing in an alternative bags and plastic waste recycling facilities.

Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ethiopia and Malawi are other African countries that have limited the use, adopted or announced bans on the use of plastic shopping bags.

To be honest, despite the wonderful intentions, some of these limits and bans have not been very effective as changing people’s mind takes longer than changing legislation. However, hope is always there and I believe that as people become more aware, this type of environmentally harmful plastic will gradually be phased out. So, KUDOS to all the governments/countries/governments and people who are trying their best for a cleaner environment for us and our children 🙂

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Step 10: Cut your water usage

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Gosh, I was getting quite sick of candles (what with the past few posts) so thought I would get back on the warpath with the next and extremely important step towards a sustainable existence – cut your water usage or save water. You’ll save money too!

Fresh water Facts: Only 3% of water on Earth is freshwater, most of which is ice and less than 1% of all the freshwater is available for human use, which means <0.007% of all the water on Earth is available for drinking. Due to the accelerated pace of population growth and an increase in the amount of water a single person uses, many parts of the world are experiencing water shortage which is expected to get worse. This would be detrimental to the human population as it would affect everything from sanitation, to overall health and the production of grain! Due to over-pumping, many countries have had their sources of groundwater almost gone, and depleted aquifers have lead to cutbacks in grain harvest. Global warming will accelerate and aggravate the crisis of fresh water shortage as rapid melting of glaciers will deplete rivers and ground water supply while the rising sea level will invade the underground water table turning it into brine.

Scary, right? So what can we do about it?

There are tons of sites out there with brilliant suggestions on how to cut your water usage at home, from using cistern displacement devices (a simple low cost solution to conserve water in the toilet, saving about a litre per flush) to fixing leaky taps ( that’s about 15 litres of water wasted per day, thank you very much) to getting a water butt to harvest rain water, to installing water metres to buying water efficient stuff…… But here, I’d like to highlight a few which you can start on STRAIGHT AWAY, no installation needed:

The Long shower situation: 1Sit down somewhere before you read this – Did you know that a shower can use up anything between 6 and 45 litres of water per minute. OMG. That’s about 6 to 45 tetra bricks of milk. Gulp! Yes, it is seductive and relaxing to let hot water pelt you but you really must buck up and consider THE waste if you do this every day. Why not reserve a long shower to once a week? Or with a friend (wink wink). Plus long, hot showers just end up dehydrating your skin (you’ll end up looking like a prune in a decade or so) and you are washing good bacteria away. I usually have cold showers from May till October and believe me when I say that they are the quickest, tingliest showers of the year! Very invigorating! The rest of the year, I hop in, soap vigorously, rinse and hop out. I wash my hair once every 5-7 days – I have trained my hair to get disgusting after the 5 day mark by getting it used to not being washed that often. Works well!

fullsizerender-2The ‘Brushing-your-teeth-with-running-tap’ paradigm: I also call this the ‘Are you an Idiot’ paradigm. I mean, seriously, ARE you an idiot? Why one earth would you leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth? Do you keep pouring wine from the bottle even as you are drinking it? Or perhaps your barman just leaves the beer tap running while pouring a drink for you (insert exasperated emoticon here). That’s about SIX litres of water per minute you are running down the drain, bubba. So, lemme re-train you: Load brush, brush teeth, run tap, rinse mouth, switch off tap. End story. It’s not thaaaaat difficult, just a matter of conscious decision making which I am sure you can do 🙂

The ‘Washing-dishes-with-running-tap’ paradigm: fullsizerender-2Also known as the ‘Are you serious ( roll eyes)’ paradigm. As above. STOP IT. Solution?

If you have a single sink: Buy a basin that fits into your sink, soap your dishes, fill said basin with water and rinse the dishes. Alternatively, put all your dirty dishes in the sink and wet and soap them (ooo la la), putting soaped items on the kitchen counter. Once the sink is empty, rinse it, stopper it and fill or half fill it with water and rinse your dishes

If you have a double sink: Do a celebratory jig and then soap your dishes in one sink, fill the other with water and rinse dishes in sink 2.

The Clean clothes complex: fullsizerenderMany of us put clothes to wash as a habit, regardless of whether they are dirty/smelly/sweaty or not. Don’t gasp in disgust but I wear my jeans/skirts/sweaters at least half a dozen times before I put them to wash. T-shirts in summer are put to wash after use, of course! Same re undies, regardless of weather (!). I know people who wash their towels every day; this doesn’t make sense to me unless you didn’t soap yourself when in the shower? So, please re-think before you put an item of clothing for wash – does it need to be washed or can I wear it again? You will save up on electricity, washing liquid, clothes softener, water and, your clothes will last longer and brighter 🙂

The ‘Just-wanna-wash-clothes/dishes-now’ or the OCD complex: A lot of us have this complex maybe because the sweat/dirt becomes a looming monster and needs to be washed NOW! This is definitely the case for those of you who buy expensive exercise wear – have you noticed how these so called breathable (or whatever wonderful advertising hot word is used) clothes seem to trap the sweat and convert it into stench if left in the clothes bin for just ONE day and then releases aforementioned stench the next time you wear it and start heating up? I swear this stench can be bottled and used as a bio weapon! I have gone back to plain old cotton – you can leave a stinky, wet t-shirt in the clothes bin for a year, wash it and no stench! I understand that not everyone has enough clothes or dishes to wait for a full load but….get some at a second hand shop! Stick to natural organic fibres and do your clothes wash when your dirty clothes bin is heaving or your dishwasher full! Once again, you will save up on electricity and water.

Good luck! Be like Yoda, don’t ‘try’, DO!

 

 

(P.S:The thing about wicks)

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My wick(ed) hoard 😉

I promise you that after this side note, I will get back to The Steps. Cross my heart and hope to die…

An essential part of the candles you will be making, hopefully to re-use old jars and tins ( you don’t really need to worry about the protective lining of tins spoiling with heat and leaking BPA/Bisphenol, as most waxes melt at a temperature much lower than the one food in these cans is sterilized at), is the wick. A good wick ensures that the candle burns brightly and well.

To put it simply, you need a cotton ( hopefully unbleached and if organic – Halleluiah!) yarn, you need to soak it ( if you want to colour your wick), maybe braid it if it is too thin and then prime it and Hey presto, your very own home-made wick, stored in newspaper for when needed. You could, obviously, buy a readymade wick but what is the fun there plus who knows what it is made of….

So here is the process in a few easy peasy steps – you could go straight to step 3 if you like:

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Solution with Borax

1.Soak your cotton if you’d like to colour the flame. I soaked about 3 metres, rolled for ease, OVERNIGHT in this solution:

1 Tbs salt + 2 Tbs boric acid (makes the flame deep red) + 1 cup warm water
Choose one of the following for a different color flame:
A tsp of calcium: reddish orange flame
A tsp of table salt: yellow flame
A tsp of Borax: yellowish-green flame
A tsp of potassium sulfate or saltpeter (potassium nitrate): purple flame
A tsp of Epsom salts: white flame
A tsp of alum: green flame

2. Dry the yarn: The next morning, hang the yarn until dried completely – 1-5 days. If the yarn is very thin,  cut and braid the dried strands together as tightly as possible. Remember that a candle will burn longer and brighter with a quality wick. A loose, poorly constructed wick will shorten the life of your candle.

3. Prime your wick: Dipping your wick into hot wax until

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Dipping the wick in hot wax

it is thoroughly saturated will prime your wick. This ensures that your candles will light more easily as well as making your wick water-resistant.

Heat your chosen wax in a double boiler and when melted, use a tweezer to hold the yarn and dip it- who would have thought that a tweezer could be so useful in candle making? Take the wick out of the wax and harden it by dipping it in a bowl of water and then lay it onto a waxed paper or do as I did, hang em to dry like in the below pic:

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Primed wicks hung to dry

I didn’t want to use waxed paper as I am trying to limit waste. But you don’t have to be a purist like me. Anyway,  to encourage stiffness, repeat this process several times. When you are finished, primed wicks can be stored in rolled newspapers.

Trust me, the quantity made will keep you in the candle making zone for enough time to be worth the bother 🙂

 

Candles (..for blackout night)

img_8595I like tuna and I LOVE tuna-mayonaise ( blame the Brit in me) and trust me, you have to have CANNED tuna to make a good tuna-mayo (check out my food blog re tuna mayo). But alas, I stopped eating tuna for a while coz I didn’t know WHAT to do with the cans as throwing them, even into a recycling bin, was just not a satisfying option; this disposable culture we live in is not for me. So, you ask, “What does tuna-mayonaise have to do with candles?” Jeez, didn’t your mum teach you patience? I am getting there!

Back to those tins – one day, it suddenly struck me, as I was running low on tea-lights for my terrace, why not use the empty cans plus also any spare glass jars as candles?13938583_10154513590232652_6554025239192039896_n That was my Eureka moment. So, this is what you do:

1. Choose what sort of wax you would like to work on. My previous post is a good pointer. I usually stick to soya, which is highly recommended for beginners and comes from a renewable source.

2. The hardest bit: Sourcing a good supplier for:

a.The wax : Hopefully organic. I have found a local supplier who, to boot, doesn’t add any plastic packaging as I have expressly requested them not to. This was my Hallelujah moment. img_8497

b.The wick and metal support: These are usually sold at the same place and here you will get info to select the right sized wick ( yup, depends on the type of wax and diameter of container) for your candle.

Alternatively, you can be like me and learn to make your own wicks ( next post).

c. The Essential oils (EOs) or herbs you would like to add to make your candle smell wonderful or be practical ( ie as a mozzie repellent) – hopefully also organic. Get a few but get good quality – you don’t need to open a shop either, you know! Here are some user-friendly EOs for candle making – chosen primarily for tenacity, low risk, and cost-effectiveness:
lemongrass, geranium, lemon-scented eucalyptus, benzoin, patchouli, ylang ylang, lavandin, lime, orange, spearmint, spruce or pine – and clove and cinnamon bark at low concentrations

A general rule of thumb for quantities = 1/4 oz of fragrance oil per pound of wax – and 1 teaspoon of essential oil per pound of wax.
1 teaspoon is about 5 ml essential oil – depending on viscosity.

3. You need a candy thermometer. Why? Here’s why:

You can’t add EO whenever you feel like it. You need to know something called the flash point: The flash point is the temperature at which a substance can catch fire and burn the liquid.

The flash point of an essential oil must be above 65 degrees Celsius (149 Fahrenheit). If the oil is added in the candle below its flash point, then its scent will be preserved almost intact. Here you can read up on flash points for some more EOs.

4. Get a metal pot, to be used only for candle making, and if with a lip, even better. Make sure it holds double the amount of wax you will use and you can use this ‘bain marie’ (inside another pot with water in it) as melting wax directly on the flame can be extremely dangerous. The ideal temperature of melted wax is between 60 – 80 degrees Celsius (140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything above and the wax will ignite in an instant! So be careful there, because wax is highly flammable. Make sure you have some Sodium Bicarbonate on hand in case of a fire.

4. Get some good, eco, heat proof glue to stick the tab/support to your tuna tin or glass jar.

5. You need as many clothespins as candle receptacles.

12472509_10154513592612652_6798341358205927057_nMethod: Start by putting the wick into the tab/support. With a pair of pliers, squeeze the mouth bit tight around the wick. Alternatively, you can pop some glue into the mouth and stick the wick. This way the mouth won’t be deformed and you can reuse the tab once your candle has been used. Or once melted, dip the wick end into the melted wax (only works for beeswax) and place in the center of your container. Press into the bottom of the container. The beeswax will solidify and hold your wick in place. You can also secure the wick by pouring a bottom layer of wax to cover the wick end and allow to cool while you hold the wick in place. This is a rather frustrating wait.

Pose the tab in the tin and cut off the string about an inch above the rim. You’ll see why in a sec.

Now, stick the prepared wick on to your receptacle with a dab of glue. Prepare all your receptacles like this. Done?

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Wait an hour or so, so that the metal support is tightly stuck to the bottom of your receptacle.

Ta-taaan – see why your wick needed to be longer than you expected? You need a clothespin to hold your wick upright while you pour the wax, you see. Else, as you can imagine, it will fall into the wax and that would be a pain indeed.

I have seen people buying wick supports but frankly, a clothespin does as good a job as any and everyone has some in their home. Why buy unnecessary stuff when you can make do (and perfectly at that ) with what you have?

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Put your wax in bain marie to melt. If you add dried herbs, heat it for at least 45 minutes with the herbs to get the goodness and then pick all the bits off – kinda messy and meh.

Control the temperature with your thermometer. If the wax melts at a higher temperature than the flashpoint of your EO, wait till it cools down before adding the EO and mix well either with your thermometer or a glass wand or wooden stick

Now, VERY carefully, pour the wax into your receptacles.

Wait anything from an hour to 24 hrs for your candles to set and take off the clothespins. Voilá!

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Look, I simply re-filled a tea-light I also had.

Now to decorate your candles….fun!

Talking of candles…

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Homemade soya candles in tuna tins with homemade paper and raffia string

Talking of candles, aren’t they romantic and cosy? I mentioned them in point 4 of the last post on electricity – why not try blackout night once or twice a week? Detach from electronics, experience how our forefathers lived AND cut the usage of gas, oil and coal used to make electricity.

But did you know that some candles can also be toxic? I mentioned that in the previous post in a very short sentence so I would like to add more info here on this issue.

Fun Facts: Asia Pacific dominated the wax market in terms of volume and revenue in 2013 and is considered a manufacturing hub for major manufacturing industries across the globe; China is the center of the hub – this is actually NOT a fun fact as you will see later on. As of 2015, Europe and America are the biggest consumers, followed by China.

Now let’s go back to toxicity in candles for which you will have to understand the constituent parts: The wax, the wick and the scent.

The Wax: Candles can be made from many types of waxes which all have pros and cons:

  • Paraffin wax: Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product that is created from the sludge waste when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Most candles are made from this. It emits black soot loaded with highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes. Sheeeeeesh! Problem is that it is cheap and you get it everywhere- Argh!
  • Palm wax: This may be the longest burning natural, vegetable-derived wax. The candles are virtually smoke-free; almost sootless with a cotton wick but since it is a challenging material to work on, these are costly to buy.
  • Soy wax: Soy is a renewable resource and pure soy wax is toxin-free. The candles, which produce little soot, last a long time.
  • Pure beeswax: Burns clean and long and is the all-natural wax from honeybees The candles are virtually drip-free and no artificial scents are needed. However, the candles are expensive 😦 Draaaaat
  • Bayberry wax: This is an aromatic green vegetable wax. It is removed from the surface of the fruit of the bayberry shrub by boiling the fruits in water and skimming the wax from the surface of the water. Its traditional use in candles dates back to the colonial period. However, tis expensive, as you might have guessed. Parp!
  • Mineral oil and resin compounds: This is the better option for people allergic to paraffin. The candles are clean and the higher melting point means less soot and allergic reactions.
  • Mineral-oil based gel: This is an easier material to handle for candle makers as clear gel makes possible various designs, such as floating beads, glitters, underwater scenes etc. However, these candles must be in heat-resistant glass containers as when the candle comes in a fragile glass container, glass shards and melted wax may explode and cause injury – jeez!

The Wick: Another of the main concerns over candles is the wick. Different wicks are used for different purposes and they can be divided into two main categories: cored and non-cored wicks.

Non-cored wicks are usually made of a braided or twisted cotton and considered the safest to burn. Cored wicks are usually made of cotton around a paper or metal core. Zinc, tin, and lead are standard compounds used in its composition. Burning candles with lead-cored wicks is now known to cause lead poisoning, and there are similar concerns about zinc-cored wicks. Australia and the US have banned lead wicks but alas, most candles are curently coming from countries like China where no such regulations exist 😦

The Scent: Top-of-the-range candles are scented with natural perfumes or essential oils. But since they are costly and difficult to add in large quantities, many of the mass-market products contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes that can give off harmful particles when they are heated.

Bearing in mind that candles are often lit in poorly ventilated rooms, such as bathrooms, or during the evening when windows are likely to be closed, the release of chemicals can cause indoor pollution that is potent enough to raise the  risk of asthma, eczema and  skin complaints.

So, you wail forlornly, “what about blackout night? ” Here is my advice: stick to soya or beeswax – you don’t need to bust the bank buying tons of candles – as these two burn long and well, just a few will get you through many weeks of blackout fun 🙂 Ooooh and, why not MAKE your own candles? They can be so much fun plus you can reutilise containers! Next post!

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Glass jars, old tuna tins and any old tin have been used 

Step 9: Cut your electricity usage

fullsizerender-5Did you know that electricity and heat production  contribute to about a 5th of global greenhouse gas emissions? The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Shocking, eh?

So what can we do to help reduce this? Luckily, it doesn’t mean that we have to go huddle in a blanket in the cold or stay in the dark so reeeeelax! Oh and, WE SAVE MONEY! Yes, indeed!

In the short-term, we can do some simple things like:

  1. Switch off lights when not in use. Uhhhhh – sounds easy and is easy 🙂
  2. Use natural light whenever possible so how about you open those curtains/ blinds?
  3. Change your bulbs to CFL or LED ones which are more energy efficient and last MUCH longer
  4. Try blackout night: Why not have a couple of nights a week when you switch off electricity and have just candles burning? Hopefully beeswax or soya flake ones as paraffin ones can be toxic in enclosed spaces (next post). People with small kids might forego this, understandably.
  5. Unplug your appliances when not in use – they still use electricity even when switched off!
  6. Go for energy saving models when buying or replacing appliances
  7. This one I found on wikihow and LOVE it: Reduce your reliance on appliances. In the old days, people didn’t need large appliances to run their households; experiment with ways to use only what you really need. Using fewer appliances can make some tasks more time-consuming, but if you get the whole family involved you won’t be spending too much extra time on chores. And you will get pleasure out of a lot of things the slower way.
    Most people wash their clothes more than necessary; try reducing the number of loads you do each week.
    Hang a clothesline in the backyard and let your clothes line dry instead of using the dryer.
    Wash your dishes by hand (using the water conservation method) instead of using the dishwasher.
    Limit your baking to one day a week, during which you make several dishes within the same period of time. This way you won’t have to heat the oven over and over.
    Get rid of small appliances you don’t really need, like plug-in air fresheners (these are gross and toxic anyway). Open the windows instead!
  8. Insulate your home- this can substantially reduce heating and cooling costs.
  9. Air conditioners and heaters: In winter, heat your home to a lower temperature rather than have a sauna at home – why not wear a sweater instead of a t-shirt and pretending it is summer? And the opposite in summer- either forego the ac (guess this is not doable in a few countries) or have it at a warmer setting like 22-24 degrees celsius.

So, go on, try these at home 🙂 and let me know how you fared.

As far as the long term is concerned, we need to invest in cleaner energies and technologies, write to our representatives/ politicians and governments to push them to pass laws encouraging planet-friendly living, teach our children to have as zero-waste a life style as possible….

What is plastic and how is it made?

 

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Plastics are made from oil. Oil is a carbon-rich raw material, and plastics are large carbon-containing compounds.

Plastics are simply chains of like molecules, called polymers,  linked together. This is why many plastics begin with “poly,” such as polyethylene, polystyrene, and polypropylene. Polymers often are made of carbon and hydrogen and sometimes oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, chlorine, fluorine, phosphorous, or silicon.

The first synthetic plastic was made from the plant material cellulose. In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt, an American printer and inventor, found that cellulose nitrate could be used as an inexpensive substitute for ivory. The mixture could be plasticized with the addition of camphor. Celluloid, as this new material was called, became the only plastic of commercial importance for 30 years. It was used for eyeglass frames, combs, billiard balls, shirt collars, buttons, dentures, and photographic film.

In 1951, two young research chemists for Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Okla., made discoveries that revolutionized the plastics world. Today, the plastics they discovered—polypropylene and polyethylene—are used to produce the vast majority of the thousands of plastics products all over the world.

How does petroleum become plastic?

1. Petroleum is drilled and transported to a refinery.

2. Crude oil and natural gas are refined into ethane, propane, hundreds of other petrochemical products and, of course, fuel for your car.

3. Ethane and propane are “cracked” into ethylene and propylene, using high-temperature furnaces.

4. A catalyst is combined with ethylene or propylene in a reactor, resulting in “fluff,” a powdered material (polymer) resembling laundry detergent.

5. Fluff is combined with additives in a continuous blender.

6. Polymer is fed to an extruder where it is melted.

7. Melted plastic is cooled then fed to a pelletizer that cuts the product into small pellets.

8. Pellets are shipped to customers.

9. Customers manufacture plastic products by using processes such as the following:

Extrusion: Pellets are heated and mechanically mixed in a long chamber, forced through a small opening and cooled with air or water. This method is used to make plastic films.

Injection molding: The resin pellets are heated and mechanically mixed in a chamber and then forced under high pressure into a cooled mold. This process is used for containers like butter and yogurt tubs. (Custompart.net has a great lesson on injection molding.)

Blow molding: This technique is used in conjunction with extrusion or injection molding. The resin pellets are heated and compressed into a liquid tube, like toothpaste. The resin goes into the chilled mold, and compressed air gets blown into the resin tube. The air expands the resin against the walls of the mold. This process is used to make plastic bottles.

Rotational molding: The resin pellets are heated and cooled in a mold that can be rotated in three dimensions. The rotation evenly distributes the plastic along the walls of the mold. This technique is used to make large, hollow plastic items (toys, furniture, sporting equipment, septic tanks, garbage cans and kayaks).

know-your-plastics

Step 8: Bye Bye Aluminium foil & plastic film

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:-O Am I serious? How could I say that about two of the cornerstones not just of storage but of baking/roasting? Waaaaaaaa, you go. Cry as much as you like but ’tis best to forego these two.

Why, you ask, why are you being so perverse? Well, in case you are not much into reading scientific papers, this is the very readable article (written by the lead scientist) on the research done into aluminium leaching into food as it is cooked. For those of you who love research papers, here is the original research which came out in 2012! Seems the media forgot to inform you…..tis obvious that measuring the size of a Kardashian bum was more important (eye rolling).

Re plastic film….I think you have already got my drift about plastic in general, right? From the way it is manufactured and the products used to manufacture it (see next post!), how these products leach into our food and finally, how this material is now polluting our natural habitats, I feel there is nothing more to say.

So, what do we do now? How do we bake, roast, store and do all the marvellous things these 2 materials afford us? You will be happy to know that alternatives do exist 😀

FullSizeRender-2Have you heard of baking paper? It works brilliantly to either put at the bottom of your roasting trays or over whatever you are roasting. I tend to oil my roasting trays really well or use ceramic/metal trays which don’t really need lining, just a bit of elbow grease. Another thing I do is to put bacon over tender chicken breasts or roasting meats, which also beats having to use paper ( or aluminium foil). Voila, problem solved.

Now…how about storing our foods in the fridge, without foil or film- “Is this possible” you asked in hushed tones? Apart from the stainless steel and glass storage containers (see previous post), here are some more ideas:

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Leftover food items can be stored in ceramic bowls with a plate as a lid in case you don’t have glass/stainless steel storage containers or have run out. I cover the yoghurt I make with denim lids from trousers that I hemmed (yay, being short has its uses). Kitchen towels work well as covers of food items too.

How to remove pesky labels and glue from jars

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I like to recycle ie reuse ALL my glass jars when I do buy stuff in glass. But how to remove those pesky labels? A good soak in hot water or hot water and soap helps but in most cases, the glue/gum remains on the glass, doesn’t it? Grrrrr. Nail varnish remover and paint thinner are two VERY unecological ways to do away with the labels – banish the thought! (Can you imagine this chemical gunk going down our drains, into the sewers and eventually into the oFullSizeRender-2ceans?). So I tried salt, thinking that its abrasive nature would help AND, it does to some extent but not enough for that perfect and clean glassy look. So I thought about using the ash I harvest from my barbecues (I actually sieve the leftover coals once they have cooled- is that crazy?) and guess what? Ash and wire wool work wonders and within seconds, the toughest glue/gum comes off without a scratch on the glass! Hallelujah!

If you don’t have recourse to ash, salt will have to do. Scrub away!

I have come up with my own pretty labels to affix to these jars, for the freezer or fridge or plain storage or to fill with oils or as wax or..but I digress.

UPDATE: A word to the wise: a lot of labels are now stickers so, before wetting them or steaming/boiling/grating etc, why not try peeling them off? Believe me, it makes the job a whole lot easier!