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Effective Swaps To Reduce Your Plastic Waste (In Order Of Difficulty)

Reduce Plastic

At the end of last year, I participated in ‘No Plastic November’. I’m a little late in sharing how I got on but really wanted to continue to implement changes and learn a little more beforehand. I soon learned that a no plastic month was near impossible, considering how little preparation I had done. Despite the set-back and the feeling that I’d already failed throughout Novembers first supermarket trip, I was determined to cut down as much as possible. Since November, I’ve continued to make changes and have considerably reduced my plastic waste. Here’s how you can reduce yours too (in order of difficulty, beginning with the easiest).

1. Put yourself on a plastic bag ban

Plastic bags are the most obvious thing to cut out if you want to reduce your waste. I know that the majority of people already reuse their bags when supermarket shopping, but more can still be done. If your plastic bags break then make sure that you’re recycling them correctly- larger supermarkets host specific bins for them in their lobby. Equally, if you completely run out of plastic bags, consider hessian or cloth alternatives as they’ll last much longer and are easier to recycle.

I find it helpful to keep a couple of bags on hand in both my car and handbag to avoid being caught out.

2. Ditch the straws

If you need (or just like) to use straws, there are plenty of glass or metal alternatives. These can be used over and over again. I personally prefer either compared to the paper alternatives which go soft quite quickly. A good habit to pick up is to actively ask for no straw when at a restaurant.

I’ve seen quite a few people complaining about the movement to ban plastic straws and I’m not sure why it’s causing such an issue. We all know that there are bigger problems to tackle too but straws are an easy thing to cut out for the majority of people. It’s a simple place to start.

3. Bigger is better

Sometimes plastic just can’t be avoided. Its use in the world as we know it is overwhelming and legislative changes are one of the only types which will yield enough power. I’m also very much of the opinion that at an individual level, small changes are better than no changes at all.

While I’d argue that we should all do our bit, I’m not zero waste. Neither is my aim to convert anyone in such a dramatic way. Buying larger quantities of things will save on waste. So for example, one large tub of yoghurt will produce less waste than a multi-pack of individual portions.

4. Swap to bars of hand-soap

I hate bar soap that leaves your hands feeling squeaky and dry. Switching to it was something I didn’t think I’d get on with at all, but after trying Simply Soaps, I’m a convert. Throughout November I used their Geranium and Rose bar.  It comes in 100% compostable packaging, which does no environmental damage.

I’ve since also branched out to other bar hand soaps which are something I’ll continue to use. Local health stores usually sell hand soap without any wrapping and sometimes TK Maxx sells it in paper. Despite not feeling quite as moisturising as liquid soaps, they do the job, smell nice, and leave my hands feeling just fine. A lot of people dislike bar soaps for hygiene reasons which I completely understand. I host normal liquid soap anywhere we might have guests and bar soap in the private bathrooms- even cutting back in this way reduces waste.

5. Use reusable bottles

The plastic bottle waste statistics are staggering, watch A Plastic Ocean to find out more. I’ve never been someone who enjoys tap water (I can really taste the difference) so I was worried about how I’d get on with a refillable bottle. Luckily my workplace has a water dispenser which contains filtered water, so I use it to fill up my Chilly’s bottle, which sees me through the week. Over the evenings and weekends, I drink tap water mixed with cordial (bought in glass where possible) or squash. Last year my monthly plastic waste would contain upwards of 30 plastic water bottles, so switching to a reusable one has really made a difference (and saved me money).

6. Buy no-plastic fruit & vegetables

Quite a few varieties of fruit and veg are available to buy loose at supermarkets. Use paper bags provided or take your own mesh bags if your local store only provides plastic. There really is very little benefit to buying them in plastic, in fact, it swelters some fruit (like bananas).

7. Check the packaging- Favour tin, cardboard or glass

Recently I’ve been writing beauty product empties posts and by keeping the packaging to photograph, I’ve realised just how much waste my beauty products create. As much as I want to help the environment and do my bit, I really feel that with respect to recyclable packaging: its brands that need to do more and better. I have found ways of recycling some packaging more effectively which I’ll cover in a more in-depth post.

Recently I have been opting for tin or glass over plastic where possible (for example tin lip butter over chapsticks). I’ve also discovered some great ethical beauty brands like NEEK. Opting for better packing at the supermarket is self-explanatory.

Effective changes can be made by simply being aware and consciously avoiding plastic where possible.

 

Plastic Waste Reduction

8. Swap to bars of shampoo

I was really worried about how my hair would get on with bar shampoo, but needn’t have been. I swapped to the Lush Shampoo Bar in November and although its a little more hassle, my hair gets on with it well and it’s not overly difficult to use. At the minute I use a combination of shampoos and switch between this and others. My own strategy doesn’t eliminate plastic, but it still helps to reduce it.

9. Shop in store

I’m a serial online shopper and am also lucky enough to receive PR packages: unfortunately, I waste a lot of packaging. Although I reuse it where I can (and some is recyclable) I do feel guilty. Shopping in store where possible reduces plastic packaging waste (as long as you’re taking note of tip number 1).

10. Use a travel mug

Using a travel mug tends to be more difficult than using a reusable bottle, as they require more maintenance. I leave the dregs of any hot drink and travel mugs are more liable to drip. I do use one where I can and also opt to ‘drink in’ whenever I have the time. Sometimes it’s also a case of questioning whether you really need to spend the best part of a fiver on a Starbucks or whether you can manage until you get home.

11. Check the labels

Not using plastic altogether is the ultimate goal, but if you can’t achieve that, you can at least buy plastics that are recyclable. Aunt Bessie’s packaging is one of the only frozen foods that I’ve been able to find that is recyclable. We’ve also switched to toilet paper made from recycled materials (Waitrose own) and the wrap of that is recyclable too. Other swaps include buying cans of drink in cardboard boxing rather than plastic wrap, but the list goes on.

12. Re-purpose what you can

Becoming aware of how much we waste really can push us to be more resourceful. A lot of packaging can be repurposed- break the ‘just throw it away’ habit.

13. Swap to bars of conditioner

My instinct to put conditioner bars next to shampoo bars in level of difficulty was strong, but it just isn’t the case. I switched to the Lush conditioner bar but I find the shampoo version much nicer to use. The shampoo lathers nicely so you can tell that the product is working, whereas the conditioner just doesn’t feel effective enough for me. I used it throughout November and saw no difference in the health of my hair, so it might be psychological. It is, however, enough for me not to want to repurchase this particular one again.

14. EcoBrick

EcoBricking is a technique that’s relatively new to me. Basically, you tightly pack all non-recyclable plastics into a plastic bottle, which forms a variation of a brick. Once your bricks have been made, you have to either use them yourself or drop them off at one of the few drop-off points. For this reason, I was a little hesitant to begin Ecobricking, but I have now and hope to update you on my progress.

 

Reduce Plastic

The following two vary in difficulty depending on how strict you are in enforcing them:
15. Recycle everything you possibly can

Most of us recycle plastics, but there’s so much more that can be done. Cats Protection work with TerraCycle and raise money from waste that’s not typically recycled. They collect empty Colgate dental care products and crisp wrappers amongst other things- there’s a full list here. By saving your rubbish, you’re not only helping the planet, but also a worthwhile charity.

16. Use tubs more

I have a strict no clingfilm policy. Any foods I want saving are stored in a tub. I also use them to take food to work in. If you’re really on the ball, you can take them to supermarket counters and they’ll be able to save wrapping your meat, fish, cheese etc. in plastic. There are also independent stores that promote zero waste by stocking product that you can take away in no packaging. My local health store stocks dry foods and a variety of soaps and hair care which you can fill up your own jars from.

 

Another way of reducing waste is to support blogs, so thanks for being here! I’ve always been a fan of magazines and once religiously digested my ELLE subscription on the day it came, but online reading is just less wasteful. Whilst some magazines coat their deliveries in compostable plastics, so many choose not to. For more great sustainable living advice you can also check out 7 Little Things You Can Do To Help The Planet by the lovely Kathleen from Made In The 1990s.

A lot of swaps can be made from engaging in common sense and really thinking about the consequences of our buying habits. The sad truth is that a lot of environmental impact comes from prioritising convenience over conscience. Together and one step at a time, we can make a positive change.

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69 Comments

  • Reply Demi

    Ooo, love this. Although, I always re-use my plastic bags but I’m definitely going to ditch the straws!

    Demi | http://demibang.com/

    March 7, 2019 at 6:07 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! A lot of people do now which is great! x

      March 8, 2019 at 10:14 am
  • Reply Aaliyah

    This is a really helpful post! I’ve been trying a lot to reduce my plastic use but it’s really hard when literally everything we buy has some sort of plastic involved. I tried paper straws and hated them but the metal straws are so much better! Great post x

    March 7, 2019 at 6:11 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so! I agree- the biggest change will have to be legislative but by avoiding it where we can we can still make a positive impact! x

      March 8, 2019 at 10:16 am
  • Reply Aimsy

    Its mind boggling how much plastic is used in things you don’t realise isn’t it?! I always try to use reusable cloth bags and lush products – shampoo bars are amazing! There are a few hair masks that you melt down and can be sored in a tub so you get a few uses out of it. Might be a better alternative to the bar conditioner?

    Great thought provoking post. Deffo makes you think about the plastic you use!

    Aimsy xoxo
    https://www.aimsysantics.co.uk

    March 7, 2019 at 6:17 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      It’s scary isn’t it? Ooh those sound promising- thank you for the recommendation I’ll definitely look into those! x

      March 8, 2019 at 10:22 am
  • Reply Simon Holding

    This needs to be taken so seriously by everyone – when you venture to a recycle centre (aka – the tip) – just the sheer amount of rubbish in each massive skip takes your breath away……if not the smell ! It’s not sustainable. And you hear about the plastic in the sea etc etc.

    Steps are being taken, but more needs to be done. Obviously the more people in the world, increases consumption. It’s got to be a wake-up call, surely ?!?!? We cannot just keep putting this off ?!?

    We as a family try our very best to reduce our waste, we need to do a bit better. Everything gets recycled as far as possible, reused or not purchased.

    What do you all do ?

    March 7, 2019 at 6:18 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so too. I completely agree- we’ve been taught a consumer mindset of replacing rather than mending or even just replacing for the sake of it and it’s definitively catching up to us. It makes me sad that we’ll be the last to suffer after poorer countries and wild/marine life though.

      March 8, 2019 at 10:04 am
  • Reply Sahara

    I didn’t know No Plastic November was a thing! That’s so cool, and a great way to start small in eliminating the amount of plastic we use daily – not even sure where I’d even begin to prepare for a full month of no plastic. I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to bring my own bag while grocery shopping, but still have way to go to eliminate using plastic bags completely.

    YES STRAWS! I have metal straws and always reach for them. I usually make sure I’m drinking enough water throughout the day by drinking a bottle with a straw in one hand and typing with the other. Have you seen what happened with Jack Harries at the Petroleum Conference in London? He makes a good point that we should be doing everything we can to ensure we everything we use/do is eco-friendly (any change is better than no change!), although the massive corporations are really the main players.

    Getting a Brita has been life changing – I try not to grab for plastic bottles, but sometimes the metal reusable bottle can be a bit heavy to carry around running so I still need to work on that!

    I actually haven’t heard of bar shampoos or conditioners before – definitely going to search for some now!

    Sahara
    http://saharas-dreams.blogspot.com

    March 7, 2019 at 6:27 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I don’t think it’s huge but as eliminating plastic is something I’m striving towards I really wanted to get involved! No I haven’t seen that but I’ll definitely look it up now- thank you! I’d really recommend the Lush shampoo bar- it’s so easy to use and they have a variety for different hair types! x

      March 8, 2019 at 10:45 am
  • Reply Katrina Frances

    This is a great post for anyone that wants to reduce their plastic usage!
    I have been using a Lush Shampoo bar for years and recently swapped to bars of hand soap.
    I need to invest in a Chilly’s bottle for work and uni x

    March 7, 2019 at 7:11 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! Chilly’s bottles are amazing- I was reluctant when I saw the price but I’ve used it every day since I’ve had it and it keeps water so cold! x

      March 8, 2019 at 10:02 am
  • Reply Sophie Wentworth

    I love the suggestions here. It really bugs me how much is wasted on food packaging here and how little we as consumers can do to change that. I wish I could do the whole food market thing to reduce that but sadly there aren’t any in my area. These are all such great changes. A couple I hadn’t previously considered either that I’ll be trying to implement. Water is a big issue for me as I hate the taste of tap water too! x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

    March 7, 2019 at 7:36 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! It really bugs me too- I’ve signed quite a few petitions to get it looked at! There aren’t any in my area too- we have market days in the towns but most of that is likely to be imported too. I’m glad I’m not the only one- I drink a lot of squash instead of water to counter it! x

      March 8, 2019 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Vicky

    I love this post. This is something I am trying to be so aware of at the moment. I’ve started using reusable straws, which are amazing. But still need to change a lot of stuff. Enjoyed reading this, thanks for the tips x x

    March 7, 2019 at 8:01 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! I think that we’re all becoming more aware of the effects of how we live at the moment and it’s great that we’re starting to make changes x

      March 8, 2019 at 9:52 am
  • Reply Becca

    I loved reading this!! I try to do the majority of these and I like to think it’s made a bit of a difference, even if it’s a very tiny one!

    Becca / becc4

    March 7, 2019 at 8:53 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thanks so much! I’m a firm believer in every little helps and individual change on a large scale can definitely have a huge impact x

      March 8, 2019 at 9:44 am
  • Reply Lizzie Bee

    Gosh this is such a handy guide! I really needed this as I’ve been worried about the amount of plastic we have in the house. We do our best to keep on using things until they break, but we have a bad habit of buying water bottles when out travelling because we had forgotten to pack on. I have also started switching to bottle-free shampoo and conditioner from lush, and use a super cute travel mug for my weekly trips to Costa! Thank you so much for such a positive blog post – it makes me believe that it’s easy to change for the better if we try!

    March 7, 2019 at 9:04 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so! I think a lot of us are guilty of using ‘single use’ plastic bottles but making sure you take a reusable one is so easy once you make it a habit! Thank you lovely, it’s so nice to hear that people are willing to make changes x

      March 8, 2019 at 9:37 am
  • Reply Abi

    I love love love all of these tips! I have been getting rid of all of my plastic bags at our local supermarket and using so many different plastic alternatives! I’ve actually purchased some glass straws and I cannot wait for them to arrive. I love my keep cup too. So worth the $20 i paid because I was able to make up for it super quickly too.

    Thank you so much for making this post! Super helpful x

    March 8, 2019 at 2:28 am
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! That’s so great to hear- I hope you love your glass straws! x

      March 8, 2019 at 9:31 am
  • Reply Joyce

    These are such great tips! I definitely need to hold back on the plastic bag department x

    March 8, 2019 at 3:27 am
  • Reply Gemma Etc.

    I really want to invest in some metal straws and reusable cotton pads! xx

    GemmaEtc.com

    March 8, 2019 at 9:54 am
  • Reply Chloe Chats

    I love this post! So many great tips for reducing plastic waste. I always have a travel mug with me, I take it to work every day and if I go out for lunch I’ll have it with me so I can just ask in coffee shops to fill that rather than them giving me cups. I really want to try a shampoo and conditioner bar, I think I shall get one as soon as I can because I know how much better they are for the environment. Fab post!

    Chloe xx
    http://www.chloechats.com

    March 8, 2019 at 9:44 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! I hope you like the shampoo bar! They’re a little bit more faffy but I got used to it so quickly! x

      March 10, 2019 at 6:45 pm
  • Reply Becca

    Thank you so much for this post! I already do a few of these but I’m going to try and achieve all of them!

    March 9, 2019 at 10:19 am
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