Plastic Free – a Very Vintage Cause?

Anything But Plastic Soap Products

I have recently received a lovely little package from Anything But Plastic ( containing smelly’s, all without the need for plastic.  I have yet to try them out, as part of my new challenge to reduce my use of plastic, but it’s got me thinking as to whether the plastic free movement is actually a very vintage cause.  It made me start to think of the 1950s housewife and what she may have been throwing out.

Her day would have started with picking up the milk from the front door step in a glass bottle, a bottle that would be placed back outside to be picked up and reused.  Compare this to my plastic bottle, which may or may not end up in China to be recycled according to the recent newspapers. The porridge oats for breakfast would have come from a card cereal packet.  Perhaps she would have done the washing, using soap powder, instead of the plastic bottle of liquid I tipped into the machine and most definitely, not a micro bead in site.

Later in the day, she would begin to prepare the evening meal.  These days my vegetables will often come in plastic, whereas hers were wrapped in brown paper bags, along with her cheese, meat and bread.  Naturally the brown paper bags are useful for peeling the potatoes into for that home cooked meal and would be compostable at the end. I meanwhile, in a tired moment may have dropped a ready meal, with yet another plastic tray into my basket.  At the end of the meal, she would have tidied away, perhaps putting that leftover piece of cake into a tin, whilst I wrap mine in cling film that would have only just come on to the market in the 1950s.

Palmolive Soap Advert, perfect for your 50s complexion:


Of course, it wasn’t only the kitchen she would have been reducing her waste.  At the end of a long day, washing would have involved a bar of soap and a flannel, compared to ‘disposable’ cleansing wipes that are so popular today.  It soon became apparent that my amount of rubbish as a single woman, was far exceeding her and her family.

The slogan ‘Reuse, Reduce, Recycle’ I think would be one that any 1950s housewife would appreciate, even if she hadn’t realised the environmental need.  I’m not saying that she wouldn’t have used plastic, but how she would have used it would have differed from our single use philosophy.

Make do and mend
Make Do and Mend Poster: Board of Trade

Rationing during the 2nd World War was only just coming to the end in the 1950s, so any housewife worth her salt would have learned the thrifty make do and mend mind-set. After all those years without, it would be difficult to simply throwaway as we do so easily today.

I’m not saying she was perfect despite her smiles and great hair for I suspect her children’s toys may well have had toxic paint.  However, as part of bringing a little more vintage into my life, I’m going to try and have a more vintage rubbish bin and embrace the make do and mend attitude!

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