Hidden Plastics

Jake Stones uncovers the hidden plastics in our everyday items

There’s been a great change in the relationship between humans and plastic. We’ve realised it’s toxic, and we’ve made the conscious decision that we don’t want it in our lives any more. However, as with every break-up, it’s a process – we need to remove its impact and presence from our lives, piece by piece.

I need to tell you something which may come as a shock – plastic has been hiding in a lot of unexpected, day-to-day items, unbeknownst to many of us. However, there are eye-opening and interesting alternatives to all of them, giving you more control and awareness of what you’re buying.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of tea or a coffee while reading a book? Sadly, that takeaway coffee you bought earlier, or that teabag that is sat in your mug releasing your brew, both contain hidden plastics.


Unfortunately, the fact that paper coffee cups can hold liquid for days without disintegrating isn’t the result of the god-like powers of coffee. Instead, it’s the doing of a super-thin layer of plastic found on the inside of the cup. It’s actually so thin that you need a specialist recycling plant to process it – which means most of them end up in landfill. An easy win is getting yourself a KeepCup – an investment, costing just over a tenner. Think of this as a trade-off, as most coffee retailers now offer a discount to those who present a reusable cup when ordering.

I realise that after reading this article you might need to have a cuppa, but within that teabag, there’s a bit of a problem. Basically, to keep the bag sealed, a small piece of plastic is used. I know what you’re thinking – ‘That’s got to be a tiny amount’. And yes, it’s not the largest amount of plastic going, but it’s damn difficult to recycle, and it’ll still take the same amount of time to biodegrade as any other plastic.

If you can, swap to loose leaf tea. Learning to make proper tea is pretty rewarding, and it’s also very therapeutic. You can impress your friends, realise you were in the tutorial levels for tea quality, and you’ll help save the planet, too. Failing that, the popular brand TeaPigs has spent good time informing people of this exact problem and claims that they’re looking to go plastic-free.

Now, this next one could have a bit of an impact on your social life, but hear me out as I have a solution. Chewing gum, although a wonder for the nervous daters and toothbrush sceptics among us, contains a polymer. So yes, it might do good for your teeth, personal hygiene and social life, but you’re ultimately chewing on plastic. Worse still, this isn’t recyclable plastic – I really hope that doesn’t come as a shock. Luckily, Iceland now stock their own plastic-free chewing gum, Simply Gum, meaning you can keep those pearly whites minty fresh, smiling away in the knowledge that you’re looking after the environment.

Also, for those really looking to brush up on this subject, toothbrushes aren’t great for the planet either. They might polish your teeth, but they pollute the wider landscape. Now please, keep brushing your teeth, but switch to a bamboo brush.

Following this trend of personal hygiene, I’ve got two more hiding places to reveal. Firstly, Q-tips. Now, I’m not so sure it’s advisable to be putting anything in your ear – it’s not really how we evolved. However, if you must, then you should be aiming to use biodegradable Q-tips. Plus, if that thing you shouldn’t be sticking in your ear happens to get stuck, then at least you can take solace in knowing it’ll breakdown over time – but seriously, try the cotton and bamboo biodegradable version by Hydrophil (£2.35 for 100, andkeep.com).

Finally, wet wipes and make-up wipes. They might seem like handy solutions to your problems, but they’re hiding a dirty secret – they’re riddled with plastic. Interwoven with the remaining fibres of the wet wipe, this hidden plastic is as tricky as the rest of them to recycle – but don’t despair. Just as I saved your breath, I will keep you clean. There are now lots of reusable makeup cloths on the market (we like dearestfannie.com). They work when exposed to water, and can be washed and re-used. Not only is this a great idea, but it’s going to save you some money in the long run too. All in all, a cleaner way of living.

So, there you have it – plastic has been busy. I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m very glad to have given you the positive alternatives.

Find Jake on Instagram, @stonesjake 

This article first appeared in Issue 1 of Be Kind magazine, published January 2019