Cutting down on household plastics, especially single-use plastics is such an important issue with so many ocean waste and recycling issues.
I’m 37 and guilty of god knows how much waste in those years, though I’ve always been eco-minded and diligently recycled, put rubbish in bins, picked up litter left by others etc. But it’s not enough. Our knowledge of the environmental impact of plastics and related nasty stuff like microbeads and “flushable wipes” means we’ve made mistakes a long the way. Huge mistakes.
I’ve tried really hard to do whatever I can in the past year and a half to limit what single-use plastic we have in our house and hope to keep going further. It is overwhelming how much we rely on plastics and yet I think small changes can all add up and some things we can all do to help.
I am aware it isn’t easy for people on low incomes to afford fancy gadgets or shop at farmer’s markets etc, and this is where I really feel all producers, suppliers and supermarkets need to work on all of their packaging and recycling so that everyone can feel they aren’t overwhelmed by plastic packaging rather than it being a privilege.
Hopefully some of the things we have done below are manageable for anyone to make a change:
Tote bags and reusable bags
Probably the most targeted item in recent years, instead of using plastic carrier bags the 5p levy in the UK has encouraged us to use fewer. Having a few fabric totes or any form of reusable bags in the car/your handbags/desk drawer etc hopefully means you aren’t caught without one. Most shops sell them in all sizes & some fold up small enough to go on your keys’ keyring. Also, make the switch and untick that box when grocery shopping online, have it delivered without bags in the crate; the delivery driver will let you take the crate in to your house to unpack and it makes a difference.
Say No To Plastic Straws
Some places are already removing or replacing plastic straws for metal, bamboo or paper ones. I’m not sure on the environmental impact of some of these alternatives so I aim for no straws at all unless necessary. I know however for some it is impossible to not have a straw but hopefully the alternatives are just as suitable if this applies to you (please let me know). You can also buy your own versions of these alternatives so you can ensure you still get a straw even if the business has removed them.
Buy a plastic free starter pack
There are many fantastic businesses starting up to help us go plastic free, one I’ve discovered recently that I can’t wait to order a few bits off is https://andkeep.com/pages/plastic-free-living-collections (not an affiliate link) that do some great starter packs for things like festivals, school lunches, bathroom etc. I definitely want to try the coconut scourers.
Picking loose items in supermarkets & not using the plastic bags
This can be a pain when you don’t want delicate items to squash but those flimsy plastic bags aren’t much protection anyway, we are just brainwashed in to using them. If you have a reusable bag you can pop them in there just fine or use other forms of plastic free bags to take along yourself to fill up with loose items (such as beeswax wraps below or string bags). Obviously this relies on the supermarkets we are using to actually put items loose without packaging on shelves which many don’t, but hopefully this will be changing. If you’re lucky enough to live near where a farm shop or farmer’s market takes place these are excellent places to pick up fresh produce packaging free. The bonus here is you actually only buy what it is you want to use rather than 5 tomatoes when you only will likely use 2 etc.
Beeswax Wraps instead of sandwich bags/cling film
Love, love, LOVE my beeswax wraps, these have replaced our needs to use freezer bags at all and I must get more. My kids love them for wrapping school sandwiches in, they keep cut fruit & veg fresher for longer, they can cover dishes and bowls instead of clingfilm, they can wrap up cheese and other items, etc. You just wash them in cold water with a bit of washing up liquid and then dry them (they dry quickly) and they’re fresh to reuse. Genius!
I know every local authority is slightly different in how they take household recycling but looking properly at your council’s recycling policy to what items can and can’t be recycled (and maybe using this information to change some of the things you use possibly) is important. There are a lot of different labels in the UK for recycling on packaging. Reading and understanding these labels properly is a really crucial thing we probably all fail at; do you keep the lid on for example, or can the label be recycled even if the rest can’t, or do you need to rinse the item first to prevent contamination? This is a brilliant guide to help understand a bit more what the labels mean- What To Look Out For On Labels And Packaging (not an affiliated link).
Use Solid Shampoo bars
Made from goats milk and natural products you can find an array of places that sell solid shampoo, soap and other bathroom items that are handmade and avoid plastic bottles, https://myscentedhome.co.uk/products/rosemary-and-lavender-solid-shampoo-bar for example (not an affiliate link) they post out all their items in recyclable paper packaging.
Own a reusable water bottle, Chilly’s bottle, Keep Cup etc
There are tonnes of reusable bottles for taking water and drinks out with us instead of buying bottled water that then results in a bottle going in to landfill. We have several but I’d like to move on to non-plastic alternatives. Depending on where you stand on reusable plastics (some plastics are frowned upon as they “leak” chemicals in to what is stored in them) you could invest in a metal bottle such as Chilly’s (not an affiliated link) which has the added bonus of keeping cool/hot liquids cool for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. Many pubs, bars, cafes will now happily refill bottles for free with tap water. There are also Keep Cups (not an affiliated link) which use tempered glass and sustainable cork to hold hot beverages, and any decent coffee retailer should have no qualms about filling this for you instead of a plastic lined takeaway cup (some outlets cry health and safety reasons for not doing so but pressure is high for them all to allow this).
I’m hoping to be able to add to this with more ideas as we come across them, but there are alternatives that most people can invest a bit of time in trying and if you want to try to go plastic free then good luck with it, you rock!