3 ways to go plastic-free with a baby
When you become a parent, one thing you will quickly discover is that babies seem to bring a lot of stuff into your life.
Take a quick stroll through Baby Bunting one afternoon and you will discover every conceivable product for baby you could possibly think of (and a lot you hadn’t); there is no end to the paraphernalia.
In my pre-zero waste days, while I was planning my baby shower, I drew up a long list of items (I thought) we needed. This was way before going plastic-free with a baby was even on my radar.
While I did try to be as practical as possible and go for things I knew we would actually use, I must admit that items like a cot mobile and a bath thermometer did get added to the list.
Where is that mobile now? I sold it on eBay after having used it for about three months (when babies start pulling up in their cot, mobiles can become a SIDS risk).
As for the bath thermometer, we used it in the early days but quickly realised dipping an elbow in the bath was just as good at ascertaining the bath temperature. Who knew?!
PLASTIC, NOT FANTASTIC
Unfortunately, a lot of the “must-have” baby items seem to be made of plastic, which makes going plastic-free with a baby somewhat of a challenge.
Baby hairbrushes, nappy disposal bins, toys, mobiles, bottles, pacifiers, teething soothers… most mainstream brands are all plastic.
Seeing how quickly we cycled through these kinds of products in the first few months with our newborn (which were all purchased brand new) I soon realised how wasteful we were being.
Having now attended many a baby shower over the last couple of years I’ve discovered that every mum either receives (or later buys) these kinds of products.
All of them will eventually end up in landfill. That’s tonnes upon tonnes of plastic that will take thousands of years to decompose, and in the meantime, will leach chemicals and contaminate our groundwater.
Not only that, more and more we are discovering how harmful a lot of these plastic products are to our children while they’re using them.
Only a few years ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA (bisphenol A) from being used in baby bottles and sippy cups over concerns about the health ramifications of exposure to the chemical.
Most companies then replaced BPA with bisphenol S (BPS), which is suspected to be just as bad, if not worse.
Plastic-free versus zero waste
Is it possible to go plastic-free with a baby, especially now that there are so many companies catering for the eco-conscious parent.
Finding a balance between striving to be zero waste as well as plastic-free though is a tricky one, as many hand-me-down baby items or products sourced from op shops will be plastic.
Each parent has to find that balance themselves and decide where they’re willing to compromise.
If you’re looking to go plastic-free with your own baby, here are three ways you can start.
PLASTIC-FREE feeding equipment
Sourcing plastic-free feeding equipment when your baby starts solids (at around six months of age) is particularly important, as we now know many chemicals can leach into food (particularly hot/warm food) from plastic containers.
Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest areas to go “plastic-free”.
My son (now a toddler) has always used regular tableware and cutlery (children’s size). So far we have only lost one bowl, which he flung off the side of the highchair rather spectacularly, but that’s a pretty good success rate in my book!
His Green Sprouts glass sippy cup we did purchase brand new and requested the company ship it with as minimal packaging as possible.
The tempered glass is enclosed within a polypropylene outer shield so the liquid does not come in contact with any plastic. I don’t love that the outer shield is polypropylene, but it’s a compromise we have made as there aren’t many glass sippy cups available on the market.
The outer handle and sippy/straw top are made from silicone and are BPA, PVC and phthalate free.
Once the sippy cup is outgrown it can be used as a regular cup, which will extend its usage.
If you’re too nervous about the breakage factor of regular tableware, you can opt for stainless steel or bamboo feeding equipment.
Waste-o-metre: Medium waste. The polypropylene outer shield of the glass sippy cup is recyclable but it did come in cardboard packaging with a small amount of plastic.
Baby and children’s toys are another big plastic heavy area. Pretty much all toys made by a mainstream brand are made from plastic.
My son has a pretty small collection of toys by usual standards, but the ones he does own are either wooden or made from rubber, and he has a certified organic cotton stuffed rabbit, which he takes to bed every night.
He is much more entertained with pulling everything out of our cupboards and drawers, and while this is the case, I don’t really feel like he’s missing out by us not buying him mountains of toys he will quickly grow out of.
When you’re sourcing your own wooden toys ensure you do your research. Many of the cheaper wooden toys are made from MDF and plywoods, which are most often bonded with toxic glues and adhesives. Many are also coated in cheap paints and lacquers, which will off-gas VOCs.
Check to see whether the wooden toy brand you are buying uses sustainable wood, and water, soy and vegetable based paints, adhesives and coatings.
Some great brands that I have found include PlanToys, HABA, Grimm’s, EverEarth, Hape, Hevea and Vuilli (this is by no means an exhaustive list).
Waste-o-metre: Zero waste if you source your good quality wooden toys second-hand from eBay, etc.
Plastic-free bottle teats, pacifiers, teethers
When it comes to replacing plastic bottle teats, pacifiers and teethers for your bub, natural rubber is the safest alternative.
My son never used a bottle or pacifier, but had he needed to, I most likely would’ve gone with Hevea products, as this is what we opted for when he used a teether.
Hevea’s products are made using natural rubber sap and rubber wood, which is biodegradable, sustainable and non-toxic.
Their packaging is FSC certified and they have initiated an upcycling program. You can return used pacifiers to Hevea for upcycling and you’ll even receive a discount for any new purchases you make.
Waste-o-metre: Very low waste.