The best thing I’ve done for Plastic-Free July 2018 is switch my household to a zero-waste washing-up system. During the seven years that I lived on my own, I probably only changed my washing-up sponge about twice a year. I’d keep them going until they were stained and disintegrating, sitting dismally alongside my ancient, much-refilled bottle of Ecover washing-up liquid. Nowadays, with a partner and young son sharing the house, I try to keep the sink nice and fresh so I change my washing-up sponge way more frequently.
Most household sponges are made from yellow polyurethane foam, topped with a green polyester ‘scrubby bit’. As they are used, tiny pieces of plastic are shed, which enter the water system via the sewers and spread through the environment. Microplastic pollution has been hitting the news in 2018, with plastic samples found in seafood, salt, tapwater, honey and even on remote hillsides. This article from Orb Media paints a scary picture. As my awareness of microplastic pollution grew, I began to wonder what environmentally kind alternatives were available to keep my dishes clean.
I’ve now tried quite a few options and it’s time to share the results:
- If You Care brand 100% Natural and Certified Compostable Sponge Cloths are amazing. Made from 30% unbleached, non-GMO cotton and 70% cellulose, they are certified as home compostable by the Vincotte ‘OK Compost’ logo. They are packaged in a commercially compostable PLA-biopolymer wrapper, which is derived from cornstarch. The cloths are made in Germany, come in packs of five, and are machine washable up to 300 times! These are great for dish-washing and also as a replacement for kitchen roll. You can buy them online from Ethical Superstore*.
- LoofCo make biodegradable scouring pads from natural loofah plants grown in Egypt. Natural Collection sell a range of their wares*. I’ve found them to be pretty tough, and they are available in my two closest health food shops, which is always good.
- Safix scrub pads are made in India from organic coconut fibre. They are non-scratch, and very fast drying due to their loose ‘weave’. I got mine at Frome Wholefoods but you can get them online from In Greens.
- Myriad and Objects of Use both sell a wide variety of wooden brushes with natural bristles. I’ve got a vegetable brush and a rosette pan brush from Swedish company Iris Hantverk, who train visually impaired people to become craftsmen in their workshops. Their dish brushes look great too.
To complete your zero-waste washing-up experience, use a refillable bottle for your detergent! Since Ecover were bought by SC Johnson, I’ve been refilling my washing-up bottle with Bio-D’s environmentally friendly, vegan, UK manufactured washing-up liquid*. If you’ve got sensitive skin, you can even get fair trade natural latex rubber gloves from Traidcraft*.
With a growing family eating home-cooked meals most days, we make a small mountain of washing-up. I daydream about getting a dishwasher one day. If you’re lucky enough to have one already, be sure to use plastic-free tablets. (In case you’re wondering, Wendy from the wonderful blog Moral Fibres recommends Ecoleaf* as the best option).
*If you but anything after clicking a link with an asterisk, you will be helping support The Green Shopper website: I’ll get a tiny commission, but it won’t cost you any extra!