Cut down on your use of single-use plastics by swapping everyday products for reusable ones.
As part of Plastic Free July, we’ve taken a look at how we can reduce the amount of plastic we use for everyday items. As it turns out, 42% of people say that using products that use sustainable materials are important when it comes to their day-to-day purchases.
It may sound like a costly task but there are some really affordable and easy swaps that you can make to reduce the amount of plastic you buy and subsequently recycle or throw away. Just take a look at our list below!
Sustainable kitchen swaps:
Washing powder can be replaced with soap nuts. Nope, we’d never heard of them either. Essentially they are nuts that make a natural detergent and can be reused before being composted. They also don’t come in a plastic bottle and are better for the environment than washing powder. You can buy them on amazon or make your own soap nuts if you’re feeling really thrifty.
Did you know that most tea bags contain plastic? There are teabags that don’t contain plastic that can be composted or biodegraded. However, they can be pricey and if you drink as much tea as we do at the YES headquarters you may end up spending a small fortune. One cheaper alternative would be to switch to loose tea. This is also a great excuse to buy in a new teapot and drink even more tea.
You can use beeswax wraps instead of cling film. These are plastic free and reusable – but possibly best of all they come in pretty patterns!
Washing up sponges
Plastic sponges for washing up release micro plastics into the environment and are typically only used for a week before going in the bin. One alternative you could try would be a coconut scouring pad which lasts longer, is naturally antibacterial and can be composted once you’re done with it.
Or how about bamboo fibre sponge that can be washed and used again? Or there are sponges made entirely from loofah plants. There are loads of alternatives out there which will have you saving money over the year as well as being more environmentally friendly.
These should be a given by now, but if you haven’t yet invested in a reusable coffee cup or water bottle, now’s the time! You can pick them up for a couple of quid from your local supermarket. Your local coffee shop will serve your drink in your reusable cup, and there are increasingly free water stations so you can fill up your water bottle while you’re out and about. Find out more and download the app to find your nearest refill station.
Yep. You can even buy reusable kitchen towel that can be washed and used again! We know this isn’t plastic but if you think about how much kitchen towel you buy (and ultimately throw away), reusable options such as napkins are much more environmentally friendly. We recommend looking on Amazon and checking the reviews to find the best kind for you.
Sustainable bathroom swaps:
If you use a manual toothbrush you may want to switch to one that is biodegradable as shockingly 80% of our plastic ones end up in the sea! Bamboo toothbrushes are a good swap for plastic ones. They can be composted after use, except for their bristles which are nylon. The Independent has rounded up their favourite bamboo toothbrushes here.
Use an electric toothbrush? There are toothbrush heads that some companies will accept back from you and recycle – like these recyclable toothbrush heads which are compatible with Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Simply post them back to their return address and the company will recycle them.
There’s also a scheme called TerraCycle that you can use to recycle your toothbrush heads, toothbrush tubes and more.
If you wear make up, we recommend switching from make-up remover wipes or using cotton pads to a muslin cloth at the end of the day. You can also buy reusable bamboo make-up remover pads like these, which are good for removing nail varnish as well as make up.
Do you use disposable razors for shaving? Switching to a safety razor can save you money as well being more environmentally friendly. They look a bit scary but there are lots of YouTube videos and articles that insist they are called safety razors for a reason.
Shampoo and conditioner
Bars of shampoo and conditioner are a great alternative to their bottled counterparts. They can be pricey (although cheaper ones are out there) but they do tend to last much longer bottled shampoo.
Switching from liquid soap to bars is a simple yet effective swap. This is a sure way to help eliminate plastic from your bathroom. If you really can’t switch back to soap bars, try buying refills of liquid soap. While these still use plastic packaging, by buying these larger quantities you are buying less plastic than before. You can buy liquid soap refills like these from Tesco, as well as many other supermarkets.
Replace your floss with silk tooth floss. This stuff is a little bit more expensive but it’s both biodegradable and compostable. We like this silk floss example for its pretty (and refillable) packaging but there are lots of options out there for varying prices, so take a look online.
Did you know that the average sanitary pad contains the equivalent of four plastic bags, takes 500 years to decompose and are the fifth most common plastic in ocean? (Note: do not flush these things down the loo!) The good news is that there are alternatives such as reusable sanitary pads and menstrual cups to try.
There are alternatives to disposable nappies such as cloth nappies.
But how realistic are making these swaps? We spoke to Emma, a mum of two from East Hoathly who is on a mission to reduce the amount of plastic her family use.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you some ideas for simple everyday swaps that you can make to help the environment. Of course, anything that can’t be swapped to a reusable or sustainable product should be recycled, where possible.
You can also check out the TerraCycle website which shows drop off points that collect and recycle materials that are not typically collected at the kerbside. The site can help you recycle everything from crisp packets, pet food pouches, toothbrush heads to pens.
East Sussex Zero Waste stores
Bambu Beauty, based in East Sussex (online only)
We Fill Local, Crowborough (mobile refill service)
Have you tried any of these swaps? What do you recommend? We’d also love to hear about local shops in East Sussex that sell these products. Leave us a comment below!
Article updated 8 June 2020.