Plastic-Free July - Helpful Tips

We're half way through July already but there's still lots of time to take action and reduce single-use plastic.

Here are a few simple pointers.

Plastic - Reduce single-use

'Be part of the solution, not part of the pollution'.

Plastic in the Home

However much we vow to cut down on plastic, our homes are still unavoidably full of the stuff. From the synthetic pillows on our beds to the disposable razors in the bathroom.

But although artificial materials are found in a vast and varied selection of everyday items, increasing awareness has meant there are now more opportunities to avoid excess plastic than ever before: the emergence of re-fill shops and the availability of bulk buy products helping to make buying without plastic both easier and cheaper.

With careful planning and canny shopping we can reduce our synthetic footprint and live a far less plastic existence.

Lets look first in the kitchen...

Wherever possible buy in bulk. The best foods for this are undoubtedly dry goods such as pasta, pulses, flours etc. if you have a refill store nearby,* take your own containers and fill up to store later in glass, metal or bamboo storage jars at home.

Washing up and laundry liquids always come in plastic but by bulk buying or choosing dry powders in cardboard boxes the plastic impact can be lessened.

Try laundry balls made from organic wool or soap nuts that eliminate the need for detergents and fabric softeners altogether.

Swap lightweight plastic pegs for traditional wooden ones that not only last longer but grip better too.

Instead of disposable synthetic washing-up brushes and sponges look for wooden

natural-bristle brushes with replaceable

heads or metal scourers.

Cotton dish cloths last longer and can be used many times then washed on a very hot wash or sterilized in the dishwasher, a better option that polyester J-cloths and plastic sponges.

Natural coir pan cleaners make great

scourers and are less harshly abrasive than most nylon ones.

The bathroom....

Here's a space you're sure to find many plastic items - moisturisers, toiletries, bathing essentials and cleaning equipment to name a few.

Shower gel - almost always sold in plastic but the old fashioned soap-on-a-rope is a great alternative and hangs conveniently in the shower for easy access. Solid shampoo bars are also gaining popularity. Lush and other natural cosmetic companies do a great range, that also come wrapped in paper.

Plastic-free soap in a dish is cheaper than pump-action handwash and shampoos and conditioners can easily be found in large bulk bottles reducing the amount of packaging and the frequency we need to buy them.

Disposable razors are about 90% plastic, made to be used a few times then discarded.

A traditional wet shave razor is not only better for the environment but provides a closer, cleaner shave at a fraction of the cost.

The average toothbrush gets used for 3-6 months and being un-recyclable, is then sent to landfill. Both wooden and bamboo brushes are great alternatives and those with replaceable heads reduce the waste even further.

Swap disposable face wipes for reusable face cloths or washable make-up wipes, and eliminate plastic cotton buds altogether which are at least 60% plastic and used only once and use sustainable bamboo varieties instead.

Reducing the Plastic we Buy

Its hard enough keeping track of the plastic in our home environment but when we're out and about it often seems we have even less control over how much plastic we use.

Out shopping....

Look to avoid the following:

  • Plastic bags -

Plastic shopping bags are undoubtedly one of the top no-nos

for reducing our plastic footprint. Eliminate the need for one by always carrying a cloth bag or at least the sturdy reusable Bag for Life.

Buy your fruit, veg and bakery items loose. If this is not possible, at least be sure to avoid vacuum-packed items which are not only covered in plastic but often sit on polystyrene trays too.

Polythene produce or bakery bags - if your supermarket only sells loose baked or fresh goods in plastic get in the habit of taking your own paper or fabric bags with you or at the very least, a reusable plastic one.

  • Flower bags - do you really need another bit of plastic to carry your bouquet to the car? If possible, buy in the florist and ask them to wrap in paper, or even newspaper if they have none.

  • With food items, look for dry goods such as sugar, flour, rice and salt in paper bags or cereals, crackers and pasta in card boxes. There may be a little plastic window but its a hell of a lot better than a shiny plastic bag and plastic closing tabs to boot!

  • Frozen food is notorious for plastic packaging - almost everything is covered to avoid freezer burn and the moisture produced when transporting.

Reduce your frozen food purchases as much as possible and batch-bake/cook at home and freeze instead.

  • Drinks

Plastic soda and water bottles are to be found littering the streets and waterways all over Britain - and beyond - but it doesn't have to be this way.

Carbonated drinks also come in cans and glass bottles which usually involve no plastic labelling or components at all.

  • Bottled wine is increasingly sold with plastic corks, difficult to detect and hard to avoid. Be sure of what you're getting and look for screw tops. It may feel less authentic but wine experts say the taste is indiscernible.

  • Spirits and bottled beers generally come in - yes - glass bottles (I've yet to see a plastic beer bottle) so are a good choice although mixers such as tonic and soda, are more often than not sold in plastic but can also be found in tins and glass if you search for them.

  • Juice and squash - juices, unless individual snack packs, are usually in cartons. which although plastic-coated inside, offer a better choice than plastic-bottled squashes and cordials such as Ribena. Look for the glass bottled varieties that do still exist.

  • Milk - this is a big one! Unless lucky enough to have milk delivered, almost all milk is now sold in large plastic containers - the days of the cardboard milk carton now seem long gone. This huge plastic vessel is difficult to avoid as milk is a kitchen staple in most households.

We're always trying to find ways to reuse milk cartons so look out for our upcoming 'make' blog. But for the moment there seems little we can do to reduce it.

When enjoying a day out shopping, keep in mind these easy swaps:

Clothing shops

  • Many cheap items of clothing are made from polyester mixes, a fabric formed from plastic fibres. Try and buy natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool, silk, hemp, viscose and rayon (created from natural materials), wherever possible.

  • Avoid the micro-plastics in faux fur. It might seem more ethical than the real thing but the tiny micro-fibres that get shed during washing are disastrous for the environment and the health of our water supplies.

  • Refuse the free plastic hangers - for obvious reasons! And if we don't take them home, the company keeps more and will need to manufacture less for use with the rest of their future stock.

Eating out

Coffee shops and cafes love to coat everything in plastic to keep it fresh and clean. Try and use cafes that are popular and have a fast turnover so food coverings aren't required and preferably order items from deli-style takeaways that make sandwiches etc to order and often wrap in paper, or take your own tub or beeswax wraps for them to fill.

  • Be sure to refuse straws unless they are paper, or carry your own reusable steel, bamboo or glass ones (only for the really die-hard straw fanatics, or maybe your little ones!)

  • Always take your own reusable cup if you're planning a coffee. If that's not possible or you've simply forgotten it, try drinking in - ceramic mugs and cups are the norm this way and taking the time out for a quiet sit down will help you relax and keep your stress levels down.

  • Avoid plastic cutlery - again eat in or if you must be on the move, get in the habit of carrying a set of your own travel cutlery, or a spork (the extremely useful fork and spoon combo that can even be used to spread butter!).

  • If you're buying fast food such as burgers and chips, ask them to forgo the polystyrene carton and take them out wrapped in paper and a brown bag.

  • And when you get all hot and bothered and need a cool drink of water, whip out your reuseable bottle and fill it up at one of the many shops or outlets exhibiting the Refill logo or use the council-installed water points now appearing in many town centres.

*All suggested products are examples only. We are not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the companies or websites mentioned.