5 hidden plastics you might not know about

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Most people have realised that plastic is harmful to the planet. It can take centuries to break down and releases harmful pollutants into our oceans and on land.

You might be doing your bit by swapping plastic bottles or coffee cups for reusable alternatives, but did you realise that you could be unwittingly adding to plastic pollution by using items that contain tiny microplastics – often invisible to the naked eye?

Check out our list of everyday items than contain hidden plastics and read our suggestions for greener replacements.

#1 Tea bags

tea bag

There’s nothing more British than a calming cuppa. But did you know that your daily cup of char could contain billions of microscopic plastic particles? Though they appear to be made of paper, some tea bags contain the plastic polypropylene - which is unlikely to degrade for hundreds of years. According to Canadian researchers, some of these plastic tea bags shed high levels of invisible microplastics into water. Not really what you want to be quaffing on a daily basis! Look out for plastic-free tea brands – there are now a few on the market – or use loose leaf tea, which can be thrown on the compost heap after use.

#2 Chewing gum

chewing gum

This may leave a bad taste in your mouth… When you’re chewing on most conventional gum, you’re essentially chomping on plastic. Though ingredients vary according to brand, environmental group Friends of the Earth say that chewing gum is likely to be derived from polymer – “a plastic made from oil that's similar to the stuff used in car tyres”. Gulp. The good news is, you can buy plastic-free chewing gum that is naturally plant-based, vegan and biodegradable, online and in certain shops. Now that’s something to chew over.

#3 Sanitary wear

sanitary pad

You’re probably not surprised to read that the UK gets through more than 4.3 billion disposable menstrual products a year, but were you aware that sanitary pads can contain up to 90% plastic? The string in tampons, and applicators, are typically made from plastic too. Luckily, several brands have cottoned onto the problem and created sustainable alternatives to both plastic tampons and sanitary pads. Where plastic-free isn’t possible, companies are working on alternatives that are made from sustainable materials, like organic cotton, and less wasteful options such as tampons with reusable applicators. A quick online search will reveal the brands leading the way when it comes to eco-friendly menstrual products.

#4 Clothes


You might not realise it, but the clothes you are wearing probably contain plastics. In fact, 64% of new fabrics contain plastic in the form of polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide according to Friends of The Earth. These garments shed millions of invisible microfibres in the wash, which can leach into our sewers, polluting our rivers and oceans and ultimately ending up in our food chain. A new study by the University of Newcastle in Australia has found that, on average, the amount of microplastic particles ingested by a person each week equates to eating a credit card. Suddenly lost your appetite for shopping? Though it’s not feasible to make massive changes overnight, more sustainable clothes made from natural fibres such as cotton offer a greener alternative to those made from synthetics, and can now be purchased on the high street at reasonable prices. 

#5 Baby wipes


Many parents believe that their baby wipes contain little more than water and skin soothers, but 90% of UK wipes contain polluting plastic, including plastic resins like polyester or polypropylene, which don’t fully biodegrade. Wet wipes end up in sewers, polluting land, rivers and oceans, or in landfill, where they can last up to 100 years. They are also behind 93% of blockages in UK sewers, causing infamous fatbergs and are changing the shape of UK riverbeds. Luckily, not all wipes are created equal. Pura’s wipes, made from sustainable plant fibres, are 100% plastic-free, 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable and biodegradable. So they degrade in weeks rather than years! Pura also offers certified Fine to Flush wipes, which can be thrown down the loo without harming the planet. So, you don’t have to ditch wet wipes, just choose them wisely. 



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