With a re­ward­ing pas­sion for re­pur­pos­ing, our new con­trib­u­tor comes up with clever cre­ations on the canal

Canal Boat - - Front Page -

Our new writer re­veals how to re­duce, reuse and re­cy­cle

Ithink boat­ing puts you up close and per­sonal with na­ture in a way that house dwelling does not. Hav­ing to store my rub­bish un­til the next rub­bish point or watch­ing my wash­ing up wa­ter drain di­rectly into the canal makes me acutely aware of what I am throw­ing out. So I try to gen­er­ate as lit­tle waste as pos­si­ble. I’d like to share with you crafty ways I have found or tried out to help with this. Mak­ing some­thing new out of some­thing nor­mally thrown out is deeply sat­is­fy­ing. Join me as I try out new things, re­pur­pose old ones, and at­tempt to make it all fit on a 42½ft nar­row­boat.

In my quest to cut down on the amount of plas­tic I use, the enor­mous quan­tity of pack­ag­ing that seems in­evitable when­ever one steps into any su­per­mar­ket con­stantly frus­trates me. In my line of busi­ness I use a LOT of fruit and some, par­tic­u­larly le­mons, tend to come in those an­noy­ing plas­tic nets that rip my fin­gers to pieces when I tear into them. For some time I have been baf­fled by what to do: shall I avoid buy­ing them and stick to loose le­mons? That is a pos­si­bil­ity, but I use a par­tic­u­lar va­ri­ety of le­mon and these are gen­er­ally not the ones avail­able without the nets. So per­haps I should track them down at a green­gro­cer? Again, pos­si­ble, but tricky when con­tin­u­ously cruis­ing as get­ting to know a lo­cal green­gro­cer is just not prac­ti­cal.

Con­se­quently, I am stuck with them much of the time. We all know the 3Rs: Re­duce, Reuse, Re­cy­cle, right? Well, given that I am strug­gling to re­duce the amount of plas­tic fruit nets I ac­quire, I de­cided to try and reuse them.

Some fran­tic Googling later, I dis­cov­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of turn­ing them into pan scrub­bers. Sounds un­likely, but not only was it sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive, it was un­be­liev­ably easy and cost me noth­ing. It is le­mon mar­malade sea­son in my world just now so on a very wet Sun­day morn­ing I found my­self buy­ing ten nets. Ten. Granted this is a lot, but I reckon in the nor­mal course of events it is per­fectly pos­si­ble to rack up ten nets in an alarm­ingly short space of time.

For a de­cent scrub­ber, eight nets from le­mons seemed an am­ple suf­fi­ciency. We

In my line of busi­ness I use a lot of fruit and some, par­tic­u­larly le­mons, tend to come in those an­noy­ing plas­tic nets that rip my fin­gers to pieces when I tear into them. For some time I have been baf­fled by what to do: shall I avoid buy­ing them and stick to loose le­mons?

will come back to the re­main­ing two so do not dis­re­gard them. Hav­ing re­moved the le­mons by care­fully snip­ping off a metal clasp, I set about weav­ing some string in and out of one of the nets, as close to the re­main­ing clasp as pos­si­ble. Once done, I tied the string into a tight dou­ble knot, snipped off the clasp, and trimmed the loose ends. At the open end, more string was loosely weaved un­til there was a con­tin­u­ous thread run­ning around the open­ing. Then I placed seven other nets into the open­ing and drew the string closed, seal­ing with a dou­ble knot. The loose ends were trimmed and ta dah! How easy was that? How long it lasts re­mains to be seen but as there is no short­age of the wretched nets mak­ing more is not go­ing to be a prob­lem.

Re­mem­ber the two nets set aside? These I re­pur­posed into soap hold­ers for our shower. I have been look­ing for a way to stop us­ing shower gel and sham­poo, both of which al­ways come in plas­tic bot­tles. Andy sug­gested I just go smelly, but this is not par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing. And some­thing I sus­pect he’d re­gret men­tion­ing if I em­braced it. My prob­lem with solid soap in show­ers is mem­o­ries of the days be­fore gel, when the soap would sit, pud­dled, in a slimy dish slowly dis­solv­ing while leav­ing a ran­cid goo be­hind. I am not keen to re­turn to this. So how about this: fruit nets turned into soap bags and hung close to the shower head out of the way of the cas­cad­ing wa­ter? I am try­ing out a sham­poo soap bar so needed one for this and an­other for the or­di­nary soap. The bags were made in an al­most iden­ti­cal way to the outer net of the pan scrub­ber. I used string again to weave as this was all I had, but it would be a nice use of rib­bon if you had any. We had no self-ad­he­sive hooks on aboard Wand’ring Bark so I had to buy some from Tesco’s mean­ing this was not a to­tally cost free make but at 50p for them both, it hardly broke the bank. Best of all though, to use the soap, there’s no need to re­move it from the bag, just wet, lather, and use, all with the net still around the bar: gen­tle ex­fo­li­a­tion along with cleans­ing. Who needs a sep­a­rate bath lily, eh?

A fort­night af­ter mak­ing these I felt a re­view was in or­der. The pan scrub­ber had per­formed re­mark­ably well at cleaning. It was gen­tle enough to use on non-stick pans but strong enough to re­move baked on dirt. How­ever, two weeks was about all it lasted for. But that is two weeks of re-pur­pos­ing some­thing that was des­tined for land­fill and two weeks of not us­ing an al­ter­na­tive shop-bought item. My cur­rent plan is to save all the nets I ac­quire for a few weeks, and then spend an evening mak­ing sev­eral scrub­bers and just store them till needed.

The soap nets have been even more suc­cess­ful. I par­tic­u­larly like us­ing these but af­ter three weeks use, they are just be­gin­ning to wear out. For my next model, I in­tend to use rib­bon at one end, tied in a bow so that I can reuse it for the next one. And the next one. And pos­si­bly the one af­ter that too.

If you have a go at any of these ideas, I’d love to hear how you get on. And maybe, if you have any crafty sug­ges­tions for me try you could get in touch? Next month, we’ll take a look at boat-made soaps, laun­dry de­ter­gent, and fab­ric con­di­tioner. Bet you can’t wait.

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