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by Jo Saxton June 30, 2021
Hurray! It’s Plastic-Free July, a great way to create awareness around single-use plastics and plastic pollution.
One of the best places to start if you’re aiming to cut down on your single-use plastic is to take a look inside your household rubbish and recycling bins. (Gross, right?!) Have a good look and make a note of what’s in there most often. Plastic bags? Food packaging? Soft drinks bottles? By reducing your plastic footprint and making some small changes to your habits will have a huge impact.
We’ve designed a calendar for you with '31 tips for Plastic-Free July', with some simple tips and easy eco swaps to help you reduce your plastic footprint. You can download it and print from here.
For a bit of fun, we've designed a fun 'Plastic-Free Bingo' sheet. Why not pop it on your fridge or noticeboard and see how many swaps you can make – no pressure! Perhaps have a competition with your friends and family?! You can download it and print from here. Enjoy!
If you feel a straw is necessary, consider using a reusable straw in stainless steel or glass.
Body wash comes in a plastic bottle but bar soap is available in recyclable cardboard packaging or even completely packaging-free!
Chatting with friends, family or work colleagues about plastic pollution is a great opportunity to share tips and eco products recommendations.
Landfills are crammed with paper napkins, tissues and paper towels. We’re using them at a faster rate than they can biodegrade, plus the amount of trees cut down to provide us with them is staggering! Consider switching to a reusablealternative made from cloth or bamboo could make a huge difference. Plus when they’re dirty, just pop them in the laundry and they are as good as new!
Replace your plastic brushes, sponges and scourers in the kitchen with ones with coconut or plant. Not only will a wooden washing-up brush look lovely in your kitchen, they’re also completely biodegradable. If you prefer to use a sponge, swap to an eco sponge or a cloth, which can be used again and again by simply popping them in the laundry to wash. They can be composted so a great zero waste option.
Consider 'cleaning green'. Ditch all those cleaning products (once you've used them!) and replace with a more environmentally way to clean. Distilled white vinegar, sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, fresh lemons, and Castile soap all make excellent cleaning substitutes.
Re-usable beeswax or eco wraps are fab for covering over leftovers for the fridge, wrapping cheese portions, packed lunches, and so on. In fact you can also use them to wrap soap or shampoo bars when you’re away from home. There are lots of other non-plastic solutions too, including elastic bowl covers made from silicon.
Shaving without plastic happened long before razor companies decided to make disposable plastic cartridges that are razor-specific – what a money maker! A reusable safety razor is not only affordable, but any standard double-edged replacement blades will probably fit.
Glass storage containers and mason jars are the perfect alternative to plastic zip-lock bags. You can buy some very durable ones made of high quality, drop tested, infinitely recyclable glass. Plus they’re freezer safe, dishwasher safe and microwaves safe too.
We all know routinely drinking bottled water is terrible for the planet, and completely unnecessary in most countries with access to clean drinking water. Not to mention, super expensive! Consider a water filter and a reusable bottle instead. You can even buy bottles with filters inside too!
When you go out for a walk, keep a reusable bag in your pocket and try to pick up 10 pieces of litter that you find. I’ll be surprised if you stop though as once you see it lying around, it’s difficult to just leave it there. Warning: it can be addictive!
An ecobrick is a large plastic bottle packed with used plastic to a set density. This process safely secures the plastic and stops it from degrading into toxins and microplastics. Ecobricks are used as reusable building block to produce various items, including furniture and garden walls. Some have been used to build houses!
There are various collaborative ecobrick communities on social media which share tips and building projects which you can get involved. This is a great way to promote a collective responsibility for managing plastic waste, as well as creating a useful product.
For more info on how to build an ecobrick, check out https://www.ecobricks.org/how
There are lots of eco options for gift wrapping, and a rule of thumb is to avoid anything shiny. Kraft paper is a good option which you can decorate with scraps of fabric, raffia or paper cut-out decorations. A great alternative to plastic tape is paper tape or washi style tape. Try using colourful scraps of fabric to wrap the gift which can then be reused by the recipient.
If you’re partial to a beverage on the go, why not carry your own reusable cup. Some places offer a small discount if you bring your own cup too!
Consider making the switch to a bamboo toothrush. The handle can then be composted or reused in the garden. Sadly the bristles are usually made of nylon so these need to be removed before composting.
Choose a plastic-free tooth floss, many of which also come in a refillable metal container. Toothpaste is now available in a metal tube or even in powder form in a recycled glass jar.
Chewing gum is basically plastic with added flavours and colourings. With a gum base, chewing gum is non-digestible and insoluble in water, so you can keep chewing it forever and it will never break down. Gross!
Reusable bags have been around for a number of years now, and most seem to have gotten into the habit of carrying one. A no-brainer really!
There are so many plastic-free choices for personal products, skincare and makeup so shop around. Many deodorants now come in cardboard or in a recycled glass jar. The ubiquitous ‘cotton buds’ for your ears (and a multitude of other uses!) now come in an eco version, with bamboo handles, so that's a very easy plastic-free swap.
For the ladies, try switching to reusable and washable sanitary pads, or a reusable menstrual cup. Not only will you save money, you’ll also help to keep waste out of landfills too!
If you already have plastic bags and containers don’t immediately ditch them! While it’s fabulous that you want to make the effort to reduce your plastic footprint, it’s pretty wasteful to throw perfectly good things away when they can be reused.
Consider using up the single-use plastic items that you have before you make a switch. If you really don’t want to keep them, perhaps donate them to someone who you know will definitely them.
When shopping for fruit and veggies, try to avoid those in plastic packaging or using the flimsy plastic bags provided. Instead, take along your own reusable bags for a zero waste option.
For laundry, you might use one of those big plastic bottles or the pods in a plastic tub. Consider a zero waste option by buying washing powder packaged in a simple paper bag or box, a laundry soap bar, or even take along your own bottle to a refilling station at your local zero waste shop.
There is a lot of debate out there about ‘plastic-free’ teabags and whether they are truly free from plastics. Some do report to be fully compostable but worth doing your homework. A safer bet is to swap to loose leaf tea, which is zero waste and sends nothing to landfill.
There is a lot of choice when it comes to shampoo bars and conditioner bars (and even some combined bars!). Thankfully they’re available for all different types of hair, whether yours is curly, coloured, dandrugg-prone, dry, and so on. They’re the perfect choice for travelling too and can be either stored in a metal tin or wrapped with a beeswax or eco wrap.
Most households get trhough a lot of batteries these day. As the vast majority come with plastic packaging, consider making the swap to rechargeable ones which will reduce landfill too.
It’s easy to grab for a packaged snack when out and about and hungry. But remind yourself that the snack which will take you just a few minutes to eat will take hundreds of years to break down and into microplastics at that. Consider buying snacks in bulk or packaging-free, and dividing them into reusable glass containers or washable mini bags.
Plastic is everywhere, right? Even paper products like toilet paper come wrapped in plastic. Consider shopping in bulk, or choosing loose foods where you can take your own reusable bag. Search for a local zero waste shop or bulk-buy shop.
Plastic bin liners have a devastating impact on the environment, but there are some great alternatives. Try lining the bin with several sheets of newspaper, or using certified compostable bin liner bags. Consider using the bin as a ‘naked bin’, simply washing it out as needed. To reduce smells you can wrap wet stuff in newspaper first before binning. Home composting food scraps will help too.
If you know you’re likely to need to eat on the go, why not carry your own utensils instead of accepting plastic cutlery. You could keep a set in your bag, or leave them in the car. Keep everything hygienic with a stylish fabric cutlery wrap!
Disposable pocket tissues come wrapped in plastic packaging so consider swapping them for cotton handkerchiefs instead.
If you’re a bit crafty, why not make gifts from things around you. Who doesn’t love a handmade, upcycled present made with love? Less plastic and zero waste!
Synthetics are man-made and produced entirely from chemicals to create fabrics like polyester, rayon, acrylic, and many others. The major problem with these fabrics is they do not biodegrade. A polyester shirt, for example, will remain in the same state for hundreds of years. As these fibres are petroleum-based, if they are exposed to the elements the chemicals in them can seep into the soil and damage local ecosystems.
Another issue is that when these products are washed they release microplastics. A single garment can release between 120,000-730,000 plastic microfibers in just one laundry cycle!
Therefore consider choosing natural fabrics, such as cotton, silk and wool, which are made of animal or plant-based fibres.
Who doesn’t love a freebie?! Fun as they are, they’re often just small plastic trinkets that end up as waste in landfills.
You’re never going to implement a new practice every day during Plastic-Free July, nor will you be able to remove EVERY scrap of plastic from your life. Nobody does.
Lasting habits don’t happen overnight so take the time to assess your lifestyle and make just a few changes at a time. Do what you can whenever you can. Each choice you make is a win for your health and for the planet, so give yourself a pat on the back for each success.
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