All Topics, Planet Friendly Living

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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  • Reply Madiha Bashir

    Love this! I’m slowly trying to do little things that help our planet! I try and only use metal/paper straws, and carry my rcup everywhere I go instead of using to go cups! Little things really do make a huge difference! Using shampoo bars seem super scary to me though!

    March 9, 2019 at 4:52 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you. Go you! I totally agree- every little helps! Honestly I felt the same but the shampoo was surprisingly effective and so easy to use too- it’s the conditioner bar that I struggle with! x

      March 10, 2019 at 6:46 pm
  • Reply pinkserenityx

    I love all these suggestions and alternations! I love that your spending more awareness, I’m so glad a lot of people are doing this now! x x

    March 9, 2019 at 5:47 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! I am too- change is definitely overdue at this point! x

      March 11, 2019 at 9:26 pm
  • Reply Danielle Alexa

    I love this blog post and it is such an important topic!

    Danielle xx

    March 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm
  • Reply Samantha

    These are some really lovely swap ideas! My daughter always has a Lush bar of soap on the go in her bathroom but I’m always like eek! it’s germy! I do love the traditional feel of a proper bar of soap though, and it’s ok if it’s just the one person using it. Everyone needs their own personal soap haha. I’m pretty good at repurposing where I can but I’ll make a note of some of your ideas too. Fab post as always x

    Samantha |

    March 9, 2019 at 6:48 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so! Haha I see your point- I wouldn’t be thrilled about using a communal one but ours is only for me and J and only for hands so I don’t mind too much! I’m so glad it gave you some extra ideas and its great that you already repurpose! x

      March 10, 2019 at 6:48 pm
  • Reply Leah

    Great Tips! Well written post!

    March 9, 2019 at 10:01 pm
  • Reply Beka

    This was such a great and helpful post! I want to reduce my waste and I’ve started in the easier places like reusable cups, bags, recycling what I can, etc. It’s hard to know what steps to take next, and also how easy those steps are going to be. Your post was so insightful, thank you ☺️ I recently got the Lush shampoo bars as well and I love them! Leaves my hair literally feeling squeaky clean, which is a weird sensastion, but if it works and helps the environment I’m all for it!

    Beka |

    March 10, 2019 at 9:33 am
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so! I’m so glad that you love the Lush shampoo too, they last a lot longer than I thought they would too! x

      March 11, 2019 at 9:30 pm
  • Reply Lisa McLachlan

    Brilliant post, Sophie. We reuse our shopping bags and I keep 3 fold up material ones in my handbag too. Where possible, we try to buy loose vegetables and larger tubs of hummus etc. I haven’t tried using bars of shampoo/conditioner as I have dry frizzy coloured hair with a flaky scalp so having found an Elvive shampoo that works for me I’m sticking with it! But we do use bars of soap as my friend makes her own goat milk soap with essential oils, which feels amazing and lasts for ages. As you say, baby steps but if enough of us do them, it will make a difference. Thank you for writing such an important post xx

    Lisa |

    March 10, 2019 at 11:25 am
    • Reply sophhearts

      Thank you! I completely relate to having a product you know works and not wanting to deviate from it- I could definitely do more to reduce my more general cosmetic waste but just can’t bring myself to make such a huge change yet. Thank you for reading it! x

      March 11, 2019 at 9:34 pm
  • Reply Essie

    I feel a lot of guilt for the amount of skin care products I go through >.< Though I order refills online for all my Japanese ones which come in recyclable bags rather than brand new plastic bottles, so you can just top up your old bottle and reuse! So smart and I wish more brands offered it. I try to buy glass dropper bottles and repurpose those in some ways too. There's always room to improve!

    March 10, 2019 at 11:31 am
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m with you on that one! That’s amazing to hear and something which I’ve not heard of before so I’ll definitely be looking into it for myself- thank you!x

      March 11, 2019 at 9:38 pm
  • Reply Nicola

    Really loving these ideas x

    March 10, 2019 at 12:38 pm
  • Reply Melina Elisa

    This is so great! I’ve been trying to switch to more natural skincare, and also trying to be more eco-friendly. The first thing I still have to do is switch to metal straws! I don’t ask for straws at the restaurant, and most of the restaurants near me have switched to not give you straws unless you ask or have paper straws in place, which has been really nice. But you’re right, we have to be better! One thing I never considered is bringing mesh bags for your produce at the store! This was a great post Soph xxx

    Melina |

    March 10, 2019 at 5:54 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad to hear you’re making changes too! A lot of places have stopped using plastic ones which is great- I’d really recommend glass ones! I’m so glad I gave you some new ideas x

      March 11, 2019 at 9:48 pm
  • Reply Nancy

    I am always trying to find ways to reduce my use of plastic products. YES on ditching straws! If anything, I love bringing my glass straw with me. Handsoap bars go a long way. Though, I can see the appeal why people prefer liquids but if you’re at home, bars can do. YES on repurposing products!! I find myself doing this a lot. Thanks for sharing these useful tips :).

    Nancy ♥

    March 10, 2019 at 5:56 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Its so nice to hear that you do so many of these things already! I completely agree with you on the soap front- I don’t think I’d be comfortable using bar soap that isn’t my own- we only have it in our private bathroom so any guests get liquid for hygiene reasons! x

      March 10, 2019 at 11:33 pm
  • Reply Ellie Phillips

    I’ve been making a conscious effort with using metal straws and taking out resuseable bags when i go shopping!

    March 10, 2019 at 6:08 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      Go you! I love hearing what other people are doing to help the planet! x

      March 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm
  • Reply Kim

    These are great ideas to reduce plastic waste, which is something I’m working towards myself. I think companies could do a lot more to reduce plastic in their packaging – especially Easter eggs at this time of year. Some brands have eliminated the need for a plastic ‘egg but unfortunately not all.

    March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad you think so! I totally agree- before long hopefully there will be some legislative changes to stop so much over use of it x

      March 10, 2019 at 11:29 pm
  • Reply Kirsty Marie

    I do make sure I recycle properly however for me I don’t think I could go completely plastic free. The idea of a conditioner or shampoo bar just isn’t something I think I would get on with 🤦🏼‍♀️

    March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm
  • Reply Rebecca

    Some good tips here that I hadn’t of thought of! Thanks for sharing, such an important topic x

    Rebecca |

    March 10, 2019 at 8:36 pm
    • Reply sophhearts

      I’m so glad I could give you some new ones! x

      March 10, 2019 at 11:24 pm
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