It’s one of the things that we are asked about most when we chat to people about plastic pollution. ‘It’s all a bit overwhelming, so what can I do to try to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I use?’ Well, we’ve put some tips here all in one place, some easy wins for reducing your single-use plastic footprint!
- Get a refillable water bottle.
Yes, it’s a simple one, but so important. We are lucky enough in the UK to have great drinking water, straight out the tap. There are so many options out there these days, you are spoilt for choice. Our top tip is to download the Refill App, so that you can find your nearest Refill point on your phone in seconds.
- Buy a reusable coffee cup.
Again, there are loads of options out there, and they vary depending on what kind of cup you’d like! Do you want an insulated cup or a collapsible cup? Glass, stainless steel or bamboo? Do some research and think about how you will use it. An added bonus is that you will probably get a discount for using it in coffee shops, which is a win win.
- Take cutlery from home.
Yes, it might feel a bit odd putting your metal cutlery from home in your work bag, but there’s not really a need to buy a fancy set of cutlery. This will help you avoid needing to grab a set of disposable cutlery, and you can just rinse them when you are out or wrap in a napkin to take home with you to wash. There are also a variety of sets you can buy if you don’t fancy taking cutlery from home, that come in little roll packs. But we would always advise not to buy something new if you don’t really need to!
- Reusable bags.
A great way to reduce your plastic footprint is to always remember your reusable bags! If you already have lots of bags for life, just keep using those until they die a death. If you would rather use fabric bags, why not try to get hold of some that have been repurposed with old fabric rather than brand new fabric? Old t-shirts, curtains, duvet covers – they all make great bags! Look at our Boomerang bags for inspiration! Keep a couple in your car, one in your handbag or laptop bag, or by the front door with your keys.
- Beeswax wraps and Tupperware boxes to replace clingfilm.
Hand on heart, we have not used cling film in years. We no longer have to wrestle with trying to get the clingfilm out the box and wrapped around food without tearing it. You can get beeswax wraps in all sorts of places now, they are so good. Just press the wrap firmly down over the dish or cup with your hands and warm it slightly to mould it to fit, it’s that simple. Wash in cool water when finished and store for next time. Tupperware boxes are also great for storing things in the fridge, and chances are you already have lots in your cupboard already.
- Shampoo bars.
There are so many types of shampoo bar these days to suit all hair types. We have found it’s a bit of trial and error finding the right one for your hair, but we got there. KOHA, Bain & Savon, Earth Kind, Kind2 and some of the Lush bars, and we swap and change between them. You can get a tin to store them or just use any airtight container that suits!
- Soap bars for hand and body washing.
There’s something really nice about going back to old school bars of soap! We like some of the small independent soap makers, you can get some amazing fragrances and they look beautiful. They last much longer than liquid soap which is great.
- Reusable straws.
The majority of people don’t really need straws, but sometimes your kids might like to use them or you’d like them for a cocktail night! We love bamboo straws and metal straws for grown up drinks, and you can get really colourful soft silicone straws suitable for kids. They are all easy to wash and reuse for years.
- Washing-up brushes and scrubbers.
You can switch to more eco-friendly, plastic-free washing up brushes and scrubbers that work just as well as plastic brushes. Coconut scrubbers are really tough and do the job well, and you can get bamboo or wooden brushes with replaceable heads too.
- Refill kitchen sprays.
There are some great options for refilling your existing disinfectant kitchen and bathroom sprays out there. Some, like Ocean Saver, come in totally recyclable cardboard packaging, and you simply pop the concentrated ‘drop’ into an existing spray bottle and fill with water. No more need for endless plastic spray bottles, just reuse the ones you already have over and over again.
- Fruit and veg bags.
You can either reuse any existing small bags that you might have for loose fruit and veg in the supermarket or greengrocer, or get hold of some small mesh bags (available in many retailers) specifically for this use. We have some cotton mesh bags with a toggle tie on the top and they are brilliant, we’ve been using them for years.
- Milk from the local milkman.
If you drink milk, consider switching to your local milkman, if you are lucky enough to have one. Not only will he likely delivery your milk in reusable glass bottles on an electric milk float, the mileage footprint of the milk will likely be a great deal less than supermarket milk, and you are supporting a local business!
- Plastic-free periods.
Read on if this doesn’t apply to you, or perhaps you can find out more about plastic-free periods and pass on the info to someone who might like to know more! Disposable tampons and pads usually contain plastic, and considering the average woman may use nearly 10,000 disposable sanitary items over her life time, it’s worth switching to reusable pads, moon-cups or absorbent period pants if possible. It will save money in the long term and help the planet too! There is lots of info on the City to Sea website here – check it out to find out more!
- Washing clothes.
Most washing powders come in cardboard boxes, so consider a switch to one of those. If you are feeling brave or experimental, some people use eco-eggs or soap nuts to wash their clothes. We haven’t tried the latter, but do a mix of using an eco-egg for some washes and laundry detergent if the washing needs a bit more oomf, which cuts down on the amount of detergent we use a lot.
- Plastic-free deodorants.
There are all sorts of brands out there that make plastic-free deodorants, and again it’s a bit of trial and error to find the one that works for you. We love the Wild deodorants, and Earth Conscious, but there are lots available – it’s a good idea to read reviews and see what would suit you best.
Not all teabags are equal! It’s been highlighted in various press over recent years that teabags often contain plastic to help them seal effectivly. This means that not only do these teabags not biodegrade, but that they can release tiny microplastics into your tea – which is off-putting! Thankfully, some brands do not use plastic, and some are starting to switch to be plastic-free. Loose tea is also a great option, we love the kind of teapots you can get with the integrated strainer inside. To date, plastic-free teabags include Clipper, Pukka, PG Tips, Coop Own Brand and more – it’s constantly changing, so see what you can find online.
- Loo Roll.
Loo roll often comes wrapped in plastic, but there are thankfully plenty of alternatives out there. Some of the brands that are plastic free and also comfy on your behind (!) include Cheeky Panda, Who Gives a Crap and Ecoleaf, and there are more brands starting up all the time. Some are made of bamboo or recycled paper too. If you are feeling like you want to ditch the loo roll altogether, you can switch to reusable cloths and wash them. Find out more about this here!
Disposable razors are generally not great for your skin or the environment! There are lots of metal safety razors available out there now, again it’s worth doing some research online before you replace your last disposable. Find some reviews here!
- Plastic-free lotions and lip balms.
So many beauty products are packaged up in plastic. Sometimes they look beautiful, but use different types of plastic component making the package hard to recycle. Luckily, there are more and more of these products being made in packaging that is either easier to recycle or come in refillable bottles and tins. Zero waste shops are great for this, or look online.
- Buying second hand.
We use so much ‘stuff’! We are real advocates for only replacing things when they can’t be repaired or if you have been using disposable items that have expired or run out. One thing to consider when you are buying to replace an item is to ask yourself whether you might be able to find a second hand replacement for it. There are all sorts of marketplace sites out there, as well as local groups and pages on social media where you can source preloved items. This is particularly great for kids toys!
We hope this list is useful and may help you on your journey moving away from disposable plastic in your life. If you have any top tips you think we should add, please pop us an email!
Please note that although we mention certain brands in this article, we are not affiliated to any of them, we just are writing it based on our own experiences.