Seven plastics hidden around your home

26 March 2019

There are lots of reasons that plastic is a problem. Its production contributes massively to global warming, and there’s so much plastic in the ocean that it’s seriously harming marine life. There are some plastic products that are easy to recognise you’re using and stop buying – plastic bottled water or food wrappers, for example.

But some products contain plastics that are so small you might not even be able to see them. These are called microplastics and because they’re so tiny, you could be using products that contain them without even knowing it. Here are seven plastics you could find hidden around your home.

Chewing gum

We’re all used to seeing chewing gum on pretty much every paving stone of a British high street, but did you know it’s made almost entirely out of plastic? In Britain we get through a massive 100,000 tons of chewing gum every single year, and because it’s made of plastic it will never break down. Lots of this will end up in the ocean (or stuck to the bottom of your shoe!)

Switch up your gum for a plastic free alternative – give Simply Gum or Chewsy a go.

Coffee cups

They might look like they’re made out of recyclable cardboard, but did you know that most coffee cups have a plastic lining? So every time you grab a latte on your way to work, you’re buying more single-use plastic.

We use seven million disposable coffee cups every day in Britain, so imagine the difference it would make if everyone started using reusable coffee cups instead. You can buy them everywhere now, so there’s no excuse not to reuse.

Friends of the earth reusable coffee cup

Tea bags

We love a cuppa in the UK – in fact, we drink around 60.2 billion cups of tea every year. But you might be surprised to learn that about 96% of tea bags are made with polypropylene – a synthetic resin. In other words, tea bags contain – you guessed it – plastic.

To avoid this plastic pitfall, switch to lose leaf tea instead, or start using plastic free tea bags, such as Pukka or Teapigs.


Unfortunately, glitter isn’t made out of magic – it’s mainly made out of plastic, so those tiny sparkles are never going away. It’s now recognised as such a problem that glitter and other single-use plastics have been banned from over 60 UK music festivals, and Lush even pledged to stop using glitter in their products last year.

But if you’re a bit of a magpie, don’t worry! There are lots of new biodegradable glitter products on the market now – try Eco Glitter Fun or Eco Star Dust.

Glitter in plastic pots

Fruit and veg stickers

You might buy loose fruit and veg to save on single-use plastic packaging, but there’s still plastic hiding in your grocery shop. Most of the little labels stuck on groceries are made of, or contain, plastic. Be careful not to throw fruit or veg peel in the compost with the labels left on because they won’t break down.

The easiest way to avoid the labels is to shop at a local greengrocer, or even grow your own fruit and veg. That’s not possible for everyone though, so why not start making an Ecobrick to dispose of all your non-recyclable plastic in an ethical way?

Fleece jackets

They might be snuggly and cosy, but a study found that every time a fleece garment is washed they shed huge amounts of microfibres – which will eventually end up in the ocean. Up to 30% of the plastic that pollutes the ocean every year is in the form of microfibres.

Luckily, there’s a really simple solution – try a Guppyfriend Washing Bag. It catches the micro plastics that are shed from your clothes in the washing machine so you can recycle them when your washing has finished.

Sea salt

There’s now so much plastic in the oceans that it’s not really surprising that it’s found its way into our sea salt. Studies found plastic particles in sea salt in Britain, France, Spain, China and America.

You can avoid this by switching to table salt which is usually mined, but we should also be looking at the bigger picture and trying to stop plastic from ending up in the oceans in the first place. Read our guide to cutting down on single-use plastic for more tips.  

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