Tips for cutting plastic out of your life

1 March 2019

There’s no denying that plastic pollution is a big problem. A recent study found that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled – leaving it to end up in landfill and the oceans. It might seem like an impossible situation, but there are lots of things we can do to help prevent less plastic going into the ocean in the first place.

If all of us make small changes to our everyday lives, it could have a big impact on the amount of plastic in the oceans that’s damaging our marine life. Here are our tips for cutting single-use plastic out of your life.

Home

  • Use dishwasher powder from a cardboard box - you’ll save on all of those individual plastic wrappers that come with the tablets.
  • Make your own cleaning products, that are more environmentally friendly and will save you buying endless plastic bottles.
  • Use matches instead of plastic lighters.
  • Stop smoking! Cigarettes contain plastic filters which often end up in the ocean. Cigarette butts are the number one item collected in beach cleans. And out of the 5.6 trillion cigarette butts made every year, almost two-thirds of these are disposed of irresponsibly.
  • Buy children’s toys from charity shops – you’ll find some good quality toys and you’ll be supporting a charity too.

Beauty

  • Use a lip balm from a tin instead of a tube.
  • Use shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled toiletries. You can also use a bar of soap instead of bottled soap.
  • Stop using face wipes. Many brands of face wipe aren’t biodegradable, so they clog up drains and generally hang around for far too long. You could try a biodegradable alternative, or use cleanser and a flannel instead.
  • Switch up your bathroom plastics for bamboo alternatives. You can get bamboo toothbrushes and even earbuds.
  • Have a plastic-free period. The average woman will use 11,000 sanitary products in her life – many of which contain plastic. There are plenty of brands offering plastic-free products – try Dame or Mooncup.
  • Try a safety razor. They’re made from stainless steel and you can easily get hold of new razor blades online. Once you’ve finished with the blade, it can simply be recycled.

Swap bathroom bottles for soap bars

Travel

  • Take reusables with you, such as a coffee cup or a shopping bag.
  • Take metal straws with you so you can avoid plastic ones, and ask the bartender to leave out the umbrella and cocktail stirrer.
  • Take a reusable water bottle with you to save buying endless plastic bottles. Even if you’ve gone somewhere where the water isn’t safe for drinking, most hotels and restaurants will offer to fill your bottle with filtered water if you ask.
  • Ditch mini toiletries. Rather than buying new mini shampoo and conditioners every time you go away, use the same smaller bottles and decant your toiletries into them – it will save you money too.

Find out more about how you can travel more sustainably.

Food

  • Avoid chewing gum. Many brands of chewing gum contain plastic, so choose your gum carefully.
  • Make your own freshly squeezed juices or eat fresh fruit, instead of buying juice in a plastic bottle or carton.
  • Eat in – save on plastic packaging by eating in rather than getting a takeaway. The same goes for ready meals – most have a plastic film and a plastic lining. Making meals at home can save a whole lot of plastic – and help you avoid too many processed foods.
  • Switch to loose tea – most tea bags are sealed shut using plastic, so switching to loose tea can reduce your plastic waste when you’re having your morning cuppa. Or you could give Pukka Teas a try – they’re one of the only tea bag brands that don’t use plastic.
  • Choose wine with a cork rather than a screw top – bonus points if you can find natural cork that has been sustainably sourced.

Switching to a loose tea is better for the environment and it tastes better too!

Fashion

  • Buy clothes from charity shops – many synthetic materials are made from plastic, so buying new clothes is encouraging even more clothing to be produced. An easy way to break this consumer cycle is to buy garments from charity shops – recycling at its finest.
  • Take a shopping bag with you – even when you go clothes shopping, be sure to have bag with you to put your bargains in.
  • Seek out ethical brands – look for clothing brands with good environmental credentials. Check out Good On You’s website who rate many clothing companies on their environmental impact. People Tree are one of the best performing, but are a little of the Pricey Side, as are Patagonia. Try Marks and Spencer, Zara, and H&M’s Conscious collection for High Street, budget-friendly options.
  • Don’t order online – it’ll save on the carbon emissions of getting your clothes to you, as well as the plastic packaging.

Find out more about how to shop more ethically.

Garden

  • Replace plastic plant labels with wooden ones. It’s really cheap and easy to buy lots of plastic sticks to label your plants with, but it’s much better for the environment to use wooden ones. Why not use lolly sticks to save money?
  • Use a metal watering can instead of a plastic one – it will last much longer.
  • Stop using cable ties – these are one of the worst garden plastics because you can only use them once before they’re thrown in the bin. Try some natural, biodegradable twine instead.
  • Use terracotta pots instead of plastic. Yes, terracotta pots can smash, but plastic pots can crack. Plus, terracotta pots will eventually break down, whereas plastic will stick around forever.
  • Get recycling – a yoghurt pot is ideal for planting individual seeds.

Use terracotta pots for gardening

For more tips on how to live a plastic-free lifestyle visit the Friends of the Earth's website.

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