Adventures in baking with a grotty toddler

So the weather here has been grim this week, and the toddler has been struck down with toddler-grot lurgy. He’s been that super fun mix of too poorly to go out to playgroups and cough all over other children (whose mothers would tut at me disapprovingly, no doubt), but well enough to be bored and grumpy at home. So we did BAKING. Because I am a wholesome mummy, and all that.

I’ve been agonising recently about our consumption of snack bars, chocolate bars etc. My husband has crisps and a chocolate bar at work most days, and the small one likes the baby crisps, rice cakes and oaty snack bars from Aldi – he calls them cakies and it’s pretty cute really (other brands of toddler snack are available). All the wrappers can go in our local Terracycle collection. But I had a bit of a revelation this week in response to the news that Burger King are going to stop giving away free plastic toys with their kids meals. They are inviting people to bring back unwanted toys to their restaurants to be melted down to make restaurant items such as new trays and play areas. They’re working with a company called Pentatotnic, who develop closed loop recycling solutions and state that no harmful gases will be released into the environment when these plastics are melted. They claim that using recycled polypropylene to make a tray rather than virgin plastic would result in an 88% reduction in total energy consumption and a 70% reduction in carbon emissions.

I think it’s a brilliant move from Burger King, and I hope other chains follow suit, including producers of magazines and comics for kids which all seem to contain plastic tat. And toddler advent calendars – oh my goodness, the volume of plastic is scary (do NOT get me started on Hallowe’en, either).

But Terraycle are in the playground making game too, and I’m sure other similar schemes exist – and it just got me wondering. How many more playgrounds do we need, and what is the actual end point for this material? It’s being re-purposed, great, but it still exists and will exist for an unimaginably long time. We are pouring more and more plastic into these recycling schemes to assuage our consumer guilt, but what we really need to do is turn off the tap.

So, enter the toddler bake-off. I thought it would be a good thing to do to start home baking more of our treats and snacks, to reduce the waste impact. Plus fun and wholesome and all that. So we made chocolate chip cookies yesterday and we had a lot of fun – the small one spent quite a lot of time throwing flour on the floor and smearing his grubby little paw prints all over Daddy’s coffee machine, but he also did some stirring and mixing (one of his favourite things), a bit of pouring and quite a lot of squidging of dough. And we produced 17 of these bad boys.

And they were YUM.

But of course, the majority of the ingredients came in plastic… It kind of feels like one step forward and two steps back!

Butter – mixed material wrapping, not recyclable. Is there butter out there wrapped in recyclable wrapping? Add to the list of things to research.

Self-raising flour and caster sugar – in paper packaging. Hurrah.

Muscovado sugar – in plastic and cardboard packaging.

Milk – plastic bottle, I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that milk bottles are high grade plastic and sought after for recycling, so hopefully it will end up actually recycled rather than rotting on a riverbank in Malaysia, but still. I can’t face the admin of glass bottled milk at the moment as we don’t use much, but it’s on the endless list of things to investigate.

Chocolate (not in the picture… hmmm…. wonder why not?) – packaging went into Terracycle bag *facepalm*

Pecan nuts – in plastic, not recyclable.

Baking paper – never researched this but I expect it’s got some sort of plastic in it. So what to do…?

I need to research a few options and check out what baking ingredients I can get at SWOP – my Buy Nothing Group co founder is kindly going to give me some jars to fill. SWOP’s range is great but will I expect be more expensive. So I will keep you posted on this little field trip, when we do it.

Step by step, people. Step by step. Flapjacks next week I think. Or muffins. Or flapjacks. Hmmm. And I will go to the gym. I absolutely will. (What’s the carbon footprint of a gym, I wonder? Endless questions).

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