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Cambridge woman finds that trying to live without plastic is easier said than done

Hilary Tunnicliffe on her plastic free February at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Hilary Tunnicliffe on her plastic free February at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The search goes on for a naked cucumber

Some of the products that Hilary Tunnicliffe has ditched this month. Picture: Keith Heppell
Some of the products that Hilary Tunnicliffe has ditched this month. Picture: Keith Heppell

When Hilary Tunnicliffe decided to go plastic-free for February, she had no idea of the difficulties she would have to overcome to achieve her goal.

Hilary, who lives in Cambridge and teaches at Parkside Federation, was inspired to try the challenge by two of her former school students in a bid to help with world’s waste problems.

But she has discovered that trying to beat the plastic power is far from easy, and says it would be impossible to have even tried had she been a busy working mum with a large family.

One of the biggest bug bears has been the search to buy a ‘naked’ cucumber – a hunt that left her in possession of just two four-inch examples.

She told the Cambridge Independent: “I have been trying to find a naked cucumber for a while. I could only find two tiny cucumbers from an independent shop down Mill Road. I have even been to farm shops looking for naked cucumbers.

“I went to the Gogs and they wrapped my meat up in wax paper. I also found a lovely independent butcher who let me use my own containers.

“I am depriving myself of yoghurt because I cannot find it anywhere without it coming in plastic.

“It is very, very difficult. It is ridiculously difficult in that if I was working full-time, and I had a family to feed, I couldn’t do it.

“When you start investigating it is difficult. I found some orange juice in a glass bottle but it was twice the price of any other orange juice. But I have not had orange juice since January 31. So, it has been a very interesting challenge.”

Despite the problems in tracking down food and drink without plastic wrapping, she is determined that her February experiment will become a lifelong passion.

“It is going to have a lasting effect,” she said. “The advantage has been buying all my vegetables loose – apart from my naked cucumber. I only buy what I need and that is saving me money. Instead of putting a bag of carrots in the shopping trolley, I am spending 23p on enough carrots for my chicken casserole.

“But you can’t get meat loose, very little fruit is loose, and try to get rice if you can. Pasta is impossible, dairy products in general are impossible. I have just bought some expensive cheese from the Gogs because they could wrap it in wax paper.

“It is remarkably tricky but it is changing my shopping habits. I dare not buy anything from Amazon because I don’t know whether it will come in plastic.

“I have failed dismally on two counts, that’s all. I have a gin club delivery and that comes in plastic and I hadn’t thought to cancel that.

“I also have two dogs and for the sake of hygiene, I am still sticking to biodegradable poop scooping bags.”

She added: “You can buy toothpaste in glass jars, and I am making my own hummus. But that means I make my own pitta bread because the stuff from the shops comes wrapped in plastic.

“I will never buy a vegetable in plastic again and on the plus side, I bought four rashers of bacon in my own container whereas before I’d have to buy six and freeze the two I didn’t want to eat or throw them away, so I have saved waste already.”

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