We all have the best intentions of using no plastic, but unfortunately, it is all around us and - unless you are organised - almost impossible to avoid. To help, Peter Leatherland, online sales manager for Ethical Superstore shares a few tips to keep your plastic footprint low or even non-existent! 

Easy swaps

This is one area where things have gotten a lot better. A huge number of plastic free alternatives have come about in the last few years or been revived from the old way of doing things, before we became dependent on plastic. You can reduce your plastic consumption and save money by using shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled shampoo?  It’s not only your toothbrush you can swap for a plastic free one, but you can also swap your toothpaste! Toothpaste tablets are a convenient solution that come in tins and eliminate the usual plastic tube which we have grown to think is necessary.

 There are plenty of swaps in the kitchen too. Those nasty yellow and green pads are made of plastic fibres, you can easily swap these for a biodegradable and natural loofah to do your dishes. There’s no need for endless plastic spray bottles when you can simply buy refill pods for all your cleaning needs.

Shopping

It’s so disappointing getting to the supermarket fruit and veg aisle and being confronted by all sorts of plastic-wrapped produce (which naturally come with their own packaging!) Buying loose is an obvious answer, but this option isn’t always available. While the big supermarkets talk about their commitment to the environment, don’t forget it is them that really pushed the plastic packaging in the first place, and they remain the worst offenders. Choosing a veg box delivery or shopping at a local greengrocer can be good options for reducing the amount of plastic packaging that comes with your food.

Be prepared

When we are out and about, we can often find ourselves with limited options for going plastic free. If we don’t prepare, it’s easy to end up with a lot of plastic waste from food and drink. Before you go out, make sure you have everything you need, such as a reusable water bottle. You can find places to refill your bottle using the Refill app.

One other thing that is easy to forget is toiletries. If you go on holiday, it’s a great idea to think about what you will need and bring it with you, so you aren’t having to buy lots of small plastic bottles for shampoo, sunscreen, soap etc. Try to avoid the little travel bottles and bring things like a soap box or plastic-free sunscreen.

Woman refilling a water bottle
The Refill app allows people to find locations to refill on food and drink. Image credit: Refill (City to Sea)

Hidden plastic

Plastic has got pretty much everywhere in our daily lives, but unfortunately, it’s not only the obvious things you see. There is plenty of hidden plastic we need to be aware of. Some of these are quite surprising to hear, but don’t worry - you can avoid them!

You’ve probably not given much thought to what your chewing gum is made of, and it would be reasonable enough to think it is made from natural material. Unfortunately, in the 1960s, manufacturers switched to a ‘gum base’ which is a non-biodegradable substance made from synthetic polymers (essentially plastic) because it was cheaper. Most mainstream brands will contain a gum base. There are however better alternatives such as Chewsy chewing gum which is made from just five ingredients and is fully biodegradable.

Wet wipes are a big problem:  If you have a strong stomach, search ‘fatbergs’ to see what can happen when these are flushed away. Most wet wipes are non-biodegradable and contain plastic, so if you use them make sure it has the Safe To Flush logo on them.

Reuse and repair

Modern consumerism has taught us to buy new when something breaks, goes wrong or gets old. If you have no need for an item, it doesn’t mean its life is over: There is a good chance someone else will be able to use it. You can sell pretty much anything on online platforms such as eBay, so make a few pounds for yourself and give someone a bargain, or even better give your old items to a charity shop.

It’s amazing to see what you can do with old items – try searching online for inspiration. You might be surprised by what you find, for example, who would have thought you could turn an old t-shirt into a tote bag?!

The ‘Right to Repair’ regulations means manufacturers now have to make spare parts available for washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and TVs for the first time. Repairs also need to be possible using everyday tools so let’s hope this encourages people to repair and keep using what they already have.

Bring others on board

This is probably the most important thing you can do. You can do so much more than just cutting your own impact. If you turn up with a water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles, people notice and think about what they should be doing. it’s great to lead by example!

About Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July is a campaign led by the Plastic Free Foundation. Each year, millions of people around the globe take the challenge and choose to refuse single-use plastics. Find out more here.