Plastic-free swaps & how to reduce your plastic use

As it’s Plastic-free July, I'm giving you some simple plastic-free swaps and tips on how to reduce your plastic use. You can start by looking at ways to live without plastic. This doesn’t mean that you should chuck out anything you own that’s made of plastic. The greenest thing to do is to continue using what you already own. When you need to replace something or buy something new, try to make plastic-free swaps. Here's some easy swaps to get you started on your mission including alternatives for common items you use in your daily life such as food and drink containers, clingfilm, straws, cutlery, cups, shopping bags, shampoo, hair clips, sunscreen, sanitary towels and tampons, and more.

Sunscreen

Shade All-Natural Sunscreen is packaged in a metal tin. It's also 72% organic and made with just 4 natural ingredients and that's it. Organic shea butter, organic coconut oil and sustainable beeswax are blended with non-nano zinc oxide to give you the “safest, broadest-spectrum sun protection”.

Buy from Ethical Superstore

Use soap bars instead of shower gel and shampoo

Replace bottles of shower gel and shampoo with plastic-free soap bars. This swap is more eco-friendly and will also free up more space in your bathroom. Lush sells these and you can also buy them from green online shops including Bower Collective which sells Beco Argan Oil Shampoo Bars. Ethical Superstore which has this Friendly Travel Hair and Body Soap Bar. You can also buy shampoo bars from The Natural Soap Company.

Beauty Kubes are a popular alternative and come in boxes of 27 individual cubes. You use one cube per hair wash which works out equivalent to a 250ml bottle of shampoo. Find out more about this plastic-free swap at Planet Organic.

Plastic-free hair accessories

This is a recent discovery of mine and I absolutely love it. A handmade metal circle hair clip which is secured by just using a metal pin (like a long metal stick). They are available in different sizes depending on the amount and texture of hair that you have or whether you want to secure just a section of hair away from your face.

Not only are these a stylish, plastic-free way of styling your hair, you can also support individuals and small businesses by buying from them on Etsy. I bought my large copper one from Lonely Cove who also makes them in brass and silver. You can also use it as a scarf or shawl clip too.

Reusable shopping bags

With the introduction of the plastic bag charge, there's even more reasons to take your own bags when you go our shopping. There are lots of great alternatives to plastic bags made from various materials.

Cotton bags

plastic-free swaps - turtle shopping bag

Cotton is a popular choice for reusable plastic-free bags as it's a natural fibre that is 100% biodegradable and recyclable. It's strong and durable so great for the weekly shop. This slogan turtle bag features a design by David Spencer and is from Ethical Superstore.

In the 80s I remember my mum used those stretchy cotton string bags. You can get organic cotton versions today. The bags are lightweight and easy to store in your bag or glove compartment but can hold up to an impressive 40kg. Ethical Superstore have versions with long or short handles.

Reusable produce bags for fruit and veg

Produce bags are those flimsy little bags that supermarkets provide for your fruit and vegetables. The first thing to consider when you're buying fresh produce is do you actually need a bag. We find that most items are fine without a bag. If you really need to put your items in a bag, you can buy a set of reusable produce bags which are also breathable and can be used to store your items in the fridge or wherever. You can support a small UK business by buying these from my lovely friend at Handmade Tales on Etsy or Ethical Superstore.

Toothbrush

Bamboo toothbrush - how to reduce your use of plastic

An eco-friendly alternative to standard plastic toothbrushes is one made from bamboo. This Georganics toothbrush is made from sustainable and biodegradable bamboo which is also naturally antibacterial. The bristles are made from BPA-free nylon-6 which is still plastic but this green switch will reduce your plastic use.

Dental floss

It's always seemed to me that dental floss containers were an unnecessary waste of plastic. It's great to see that someone has come up with plastic-free floss in a plastic-free container which you can buy refills for. Georganics dental floss is made from sustainably grown bamboo and comes in a zero-waste glass container featuring a metal dispensing lid which allows you to easily cut the floss to size. The refills are packaged in a biodegradable kraft paper box. Check out plastic-free swaps for dental floss at Ethical Superstore.

Interdental brushes (alternative to Tepe brushes)

I have to use interdental brushes every day so I was really pleased to discover that there are alternatives to Tepe interdental brushes. Eco-friendly options have a handle made from bamboo instead of plastic. The Humble Co. have a range of different sizes and they were actually cheaper than the Tepe versions. Get yours from Holland and Barrett or The Plastic Free Shop.

Have your milk delivered to reduce your plastic use

When I was a child, we always had our milk delivered by the local milkman. Most people now buy their milk at supermarkets but there are still milkmen around. The milk is delivered in glass bottles which are collected and re-used. See if there's a milkman in your area on Find Me a Milkman.

I’ve also discovered that some farm shops now sell milk in refillable glass bottles. The first time you have to buy the bottle and the milk. The bottle is then yours to take back to any place doing milk refills.

The average Londoner buys three plastic water bottles every week, which means 175 plastic bottles per person, per year. Across the UK, the numbers get even more alarming: an estimated 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought every year, contributing to the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.

MCS, March 2018

Don't buy bottled water

This easy plastic-free swap already saves you money too. All you need to do is buy a refillable water bottle and download the Refill app or look for the Refill signs. Refill is a nationwide scheme providing a network of points offering the public free tap water in the UK. The network includes high street retailers, cafes, restaurants, other businesses, museums, and local authorities. The scheme aims to prevent waste created by single-use plastic water bottles, as well as increasing the availability of quality drinking water.

If you end up buying a refillable plastic water bottle, you will still be making a big difference to the amount of plastic you use. Even greener is a water bottle made from another material such as this stainless steel drinks bottle which can be used for hot and cold drinks.

Toilet roll

There isn't really any need for toilet paper to be wrapped in plastic. Get plastic free toilet paper in plastic-free packaging from Cheeky Panda at Bower Collective.

Plastic-free periods

I hadn't really considered how much plastic is used in sanitary towels before and when you think about how many women are at the age of having periods, that amounts to a lot of plastic waste. I now use TOTM organic tampons and sanitary towels. Their products are plastic-free and so is the packaging.

And, of course, I never flush my sanitary items down the toilet as it can cause blockages or end up polluting the oceans. Always bag it and bin it. TOTM (Time of the Month) also sell menstrual cups and if you’re interested in making this plastic-free swap, you can read my review.

Travel mug

How to reduce your plastic use - terrazo bamboo travel mug

Instead of going to your favourite cafe and getting a takeaway tea or coffee in a single-use cup, take your own travel mug. Not only will you reduce your plastic use, you will often find that you're rewarded with a discount too for using your own mug. This eco-friendly Terrazzo travel mug is made from bamboo fibre with a silicone lid and sleeve which means it's a stylish plastic-free swap.

Plastic-free swaps: Use a lunch box

Taking packed lunches to work or on days out, can be a cheaper and healthier option than buying lunch out. Make sure you don't pack your lunch using single-use items though such as cling film, foil and sandwich bags. The greenest option is to use a reusable sandwich box. Many of these are plastic which will still reduce your use of single-use plastic. It's possible to get plastic-free or almost plastic-free lunch boxes too like this A Slice of Green Stainless Steel Doda Leak-Resistant Stainless Steel Lunch Box (Ethical Superstore).

Ethical Superstore has a wide range of lunch bags and boxes including lunch bags made from recycled plastic bottles, stainless steel boxes and a great alternative to clingfilm and foil called Abeego. This is an organic and sustainable food wrap made from hemp and certified organic cotton coated with tree resin, jojoba oil and beeswax.

Tupperware and plastic storage boxes

Instead of buying plastic tubs and jars to store food in, see if you can use a glass jar or bottle from the many that you probably have in your house and would normally recycle. This will save you money too. If you haven't got a jar that will do the job, you might like this Kossi Clear Storage Jar made from recycled glass and a sustainable mango wood top.

Washing-up sponge

LoofCo Washing-Up Pad is a long-lasting 100% biodegradable alternative to plastic washing-up sponges. Made from loofah in Egypt it expands and softens in water making it flexible to bend around rims of glasses, fit into mugs and reach into corners whilst still having plenty of scrubbing power. Buy from Ethical Superstore.

Washing-up brush

A wooden washing-up brush with replaceable head made from plant bristles is one of my favourite washing-up tools. It works well and is one of the most eco-friendly options. You can buy these plastic-free dish brushes from Bower Collective and read my review.

Washing-up liquid refill

Instead of buying a new plastic bottle of washing-up liquid every time you run, you can refill a dispenser with naturally-derived washing-up liquid. Collect your used refill pouches and return them to the Bower Collective for re-use. How much more eco-friendly does that sound? The attractive dispenser will look better next to your sink than a plastic bottle too. Find out more on the Bower Collective website.

Wooden clothes pegs

When your plastic clothes pegs break and you need some new ones, a simple plastic-free swap is these wooden clothes pegs from Ethical Superstore.

Carry your own cutlery and straw

There's been a big campaign asking people not to use plastic straws and many businesses now offer customers paper straws instead. Do you really need a straw? If yes, are you able to use a reusable straw alternative? Straws are made out of all sorts of materials such as metal, glass, silicone, wheat and bamboo. Take a look at the plastic-free straws available from Planet Organic and Ethical Superstore.

Take your own cutlery with you and you won't need to use a single-use plastic knife, fork or spoon. The Bambu Bamboo Spork (Not on the High Street) is a cheap reusable alternative to a fork and a spoon. If you want a proper cutlery set with a knife too, take a look at the Bambaw Bamboo Cutlery Set & Jute Pouch (Ethical Superstore) or this stylish metal Black+Blum Cutlery Set & Case from Planet Organic.

Don't use lighters

If you smoke or use lighters for anything, replace them with matches for a plastic-free alternative instead.

Plastic-free swaps: Your tips for how to reduce your plastic use

I hope this post has given you some ideas of how to reduce your plastic use. If you've got any other ideas for plastic-free swaps, please post them in the comments below. Thanks!


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