I have been putting off buying those products where I know with a little bit of planning I can get them loose or not wrapped in plastic. But this means that occasionally I run out of the odd ingredient. Rice was one such item as Plastic Aware Facebook followers will know. But rather than capitulate and buy a plastic wrapped packet, I reached into the darkest corner of my kitchen cupboard to see what I could find as a substitute. Pot barley (of rather dubious origin) was the answer. With some help from the Internet I worked out how to cook it up and served it in place of rice. It was not risotto, but it was not bad. It made me wonder what other ingredients I might have in my cupboard that were not yet fulfilling their culinary destiny.
On a separate day I came across a tin of chickpeas and I realised that I had the ingredients needed to make falafel. I am going to share these because I am really quite proud of how good the final result tasted for such a banal collection of ingredients. In addition to the tin of chickpeas, the recipe required two slices of stale bread, a couple of garlic cloves (we love our garlic) a bit of parsley (just enough in the garden) and whatever curry-type spice you have (optional). Whizz these up together (although I think the 21st century expression is ‘blitz’). Then squeeze small handfuls together to make six or eight falafel. Fry in generous amounts of oil. Serve with some “ribbons” of courgette and carrot (colours courtesy of Living Larder) and topped with some yogurt mixed with more chopped garlic (mmm….) and you have the result in the picture above. But, as you already know, this is not a recipe blog.
It is not just kitchen cupboard where you will find unwanted or unused products. Push bikes and mobile phones are two of the surplus items you will find launguishing in outbuildings or drawers in many households. But are they really doing any harm? Yes, is the simple answer. All the stuff that we keep in our lives that we are not using mean that they are lost to the economy. These items are not being used by someone else and they are not being recycled or refurbished as resources to make new products. Simply storing stuff in our homes means we end up buying and using more resources (plastic or not) that we – or other people – don’t need to.
Years ago when I used to travel on sleeper trains in parts of Europe you would be given an “overnight pack” including a towel, flannel and various “throwaway” products including a flimsy toothbrush and a tiny tube of toothpaste. I was travelling with my own more robust versions of these things so didn’t need to use them. But rather than throw these freebies away, I kept them and carted them around with me whenever I moved house. But when I ran out of toothbrushes during the Plastic Challenge I realised that I could simply use them. The sleeper train toothbrush may not appear as robust as my regular version, but I have been using it for over a week and it still seems to be doing a fine job. And it puts off the day when I need to buy a brand new one.
And I also took the time to erase the data off a couple of old mobile phones and gather them together with some earphones I never use (I have the wrong shaped lobes). I took them to the electronics shop CEX. They were willing to pay good money for them and we had a top notch dinner out on the money that we got. Meanwhile someone else was able to use my old phone cutting out the need for another new product.
So if you are struggling with the Plastic Challenge and pulling your hair out about how every item is covered in single use plastic, give yourself a break. Start with a little life laundry and put a few resources back into the economy or start using the things that have been in your home for years. You will feel much better. And if you have already done this and have nothing going spare in your cupboards or drawers then you have my endorsement to feel smug, you are doing brilliantly already.