8 Ways to Reduce your Use of Plastic

I have been on a quest to reduce the amount of plastic I use and throw away (see What’s your plastic footprint?) and to reduce the amount of new stuff I buy (see My pledge not to buy new stuff).

If anyone needs a reminder why, then may I invite you to watch this 2 minute clip from the recent BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic?

I am sorry that this clip is distressing.  I hope that you are distressed though, because this is a distressing problem.  We have got to stop mindlessly consuming plastic.

If you want to watch the whole documentary, and I really hope that you do, then you can find it on BBC iPlayer here.

So what am I doing?  Since my last post, these are the changes I have made.

  1. Milk

We are getting milk delivered to our door in ‘rinse-and-return’ glass bottles.  This is a lovely nostalgic return to how we always used to consume milk.  I have rediscovered the sensory pleasure of pushing down on a foil lid and getting the cream from the top!

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2. Fruit and Veg

We have subscribed to a fruit and veg box each week. Any cardboard trays or plastic bags are returned with the box and are re-used. I am really enjoying cooking with some weird and wonderful veg, like Romanesco cauliflower and Spaghetti squash. This has in turn reduced our meat consumption.

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3. Teeth

I have just started using a bamboo toothbrush and Denttabs dental tablets instead of toothpaste.  I am the early adopter of these in our family, but am hoping to convert the others soon!

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4. Period Products

May I introduce Thinx underwear or Organicup?  The average woman will use 11,000 tampons in their lifetime, many of which end up in the sea.  They also contain plastic (something I only learnt this week!)

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5. Washing Up

My new washing up brush and scouring pads are made from coir coconut fibre and have wooden handles.  As we speak I am waiting for a delivery of Castile soap so that I can make up homemade cleaning products along with white vinegar, baking soda and essential oils.  And soapnut shells for the laundry.  I will report back shortly!

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6. Packed Lunches and Leftovers

I am wrapping my sandwiches in a reuseable bag and using plates or a reuseable cloth to cover food. I have stopped buying cartons of soup and am making a batch on the weekend (making use of my weird veg!)

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7. Achoo!

Our loo roll, kitchen roll and tissues now come from Who gives a cr*p?  Toilet rolls are often wrapped in many layers of plastic on the palette in supermarkets.  Not only are these rolls wrapped in paper, but the 50% of the company’s profits goes into building safe toilets in the developing world.

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8. Smellies

I’m using solid shampoo and deodorant and now prefer these to my old products.  The solid shampoo lasts for AGES (90 washes and counting for a Lush bar that is guaranteed for 80 washes).  The deodorant smells divine (lemongrass and teatree) and is every bit as effective as my old roll-on.

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Customer Feedback

I have noticed a pattern when I raise concerns with supermarket staff about plastic packaging.  The initial reaction is that it has to be wrapped in plastic in order to transport it and store it.  This is what our Sainsbury’s delivery person said.  I pointed to our cardboard trays of undamaged fruit from Abel and Cole.  He seemed surprised, and maybe a little bit impressed?  Maybe it can be done differently?

Food doesn’t have to be wrapped in plastic.  Toiletries and loo roll don’t have to come in plastic packaging.  We have just become used to plastic because it is easy.  And cheap.  I realise that some of these solutions are not cheap.  They involve an initial outlay.  But if you can afford it, or you can make sacrifices elsewhere, shouldn’t you try?

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The image of that baby bird vomiting broken bits of plastic makes me want to try.

Will you join me in my Utterly Fantastic, Drastic and Enthusiastic, Reduction in Plastic?

Please share your own experiences, views and tips in the comments below.  It is only by talking about this with work colleagues that I found out about some of the products mentioned above.

To sign a Greenpeace petition asking big corporations to rethink plastic, click here.

If you would like to subscribe to my blog, and receive regular updates about plastic reduction, as well as a little bit of mindfulness and some little pops of wonder from nature, then click on the ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of this page.

44 Comments Add yours

  1. Rupali says:

    Fantastic initiative Alison.

  2. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Lots of terrific ideas for people to think about here, Ali. We live in a small town and our only option for all our household needs is the supermarket. I bought a useful item online- a PET bag containing small reusable washable drawstring net bags to use at the supermarket to put fruit and veg in for weighing, thereby avoiding those small plastic bags. It arrived parcelled in recyclable wrapping (paper) and I’m very happy with it.

    1. Ali says:

      Good for you Jane. Those bags are great.

  3. This is a great list, thanks for sharing. How are you finding the denttabs?

    1. Ali says:

      They are quite nice! I do find that oromotor control is an issue!! They are not frothy like toothpaste so you have to be careful not to dribble down your top (tmi?)! But they leave my teeth feeling lovely and clean.

  4. Chloris says:

    Well done. As avid fish eaters, ( 4 or 5 times a week) we are worried about the fact that toxic plastic particles have been found in 75% of deep sea fish caught in the Atlantic.

    1. Ali says:

      This bothered me too Chloris. I guess it’s going to turn up all over the place, isn’t it?

      1. Chloris says:

        Yes, specially in our stomachs.

  5. Excellent suggestions! I’ll have to check which offerings are available in the U.S. I hadn’t thought about the packaging around toilet paper rolls. But as I recently cut up the plastic holder keeping my 6 bottle of sparkling water together, as a gesture to stop killing dolphins if its thrown out to sea, I had a moment. Wait a minute, I said to myself, why am I cutting this up KNOWING its going to end up in the sea? Why am I buying it in the first place. Your post confirms–no more plastic sparkling water for me.

    1. Ali says:

      I had exactly this realisation about sparkling water. It has made me rethink everything!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Any suggestions for sparkling water? The OH only drinks that. We have looked at glass bottles, but it becomes very expensive. Buying gas cylinders isn’t appealing, but may be the only option. Or just drinking Prosecco 😉

      2. Ali says:

        We have talked about soda stream, but I think I put everyone off for now; they’re not that bothered about fizzy.

      3. Heyjude says:

        I looked into that, but the hassle of getting the cylinders put me off.

      4. Ali says:

        Prosecco definitely worth trying!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Impressive! And persuasive too – just signed up to Who Gives a Crap. One small step…

  7. shazza says:

    Looks like some good ideas here. I will take note. Thanks for all the links. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      My pleasure, Shazza!

  8. sgeoil says:

    Wonderful suggestions. We recycle and if a glass option exists for an item, that’s what we choose.

    1. Ali says:

      I wish there were more glass bottle and jar deposit schemes. All drinks could come in a standard bottle.

  9. bcparkison says:

    Good for you. The journey begins with the first step.

    1. Ali says:

      It does indeed. Most people want to do something about this; imagine the difference it could make if we all take a first step!

    1. Ali says:

      You are welcome. ❤️

  10. Heyjude says:

    Some very useful links here Ali. I’d be interested to know how the laundry washes using the soapnuts. They must be better for a septic tank too I would imagine.

    1. Ali says:

      It really makes you think about what we’re putting down the drain, doesn’t it? Like microfibres from clothes!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Had a quick look – sounds complicated, but I’ll have another read in the morning!

      2. Ali says:

        Yes, when I read the detail I thought that too! The quick comment of fb that led to the link made it sound easier!

  11. M.B. Henry says:

    Really great tips! I’ve been trying to cut back on trash and plastics as well – so thanks for sharing! 🙂

  12. This is a lovely post, very helpful. I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use and recently wrote to several well known supermarkets to ask what they are doing to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use. Only Waitrose replied. I’ve started handing plastic packing back to supermarkets and I’ve stopped buying crisps after learning how long it takes for a crisp packet to break down. Wish I could grow more fruit and veg, had a lot of success with raspberries this year!

    1. Ali says:

      That is a brilliant strategy (giving supermarkets the plastic back). I had a similar experience from emailing. Waitrose and Asda are doing little bits, but it feels a bit token.

  13. Isn’t it ridiculous that TP wrapped in paper is more expensive than the one wrapped in plastic? I think part of the problem is that such products are associated with the “trendy” green lifestyle… Great to hear your tips, though, keep up with the good work!

    1. Ali says:

      It is! I would hope that prices might come down if these options become mainstream…

  14. Ali, I LOVE this post. I am teaching environmental ethics this semester (I think I maybe mentioned that before), and I have been working on reducing plastic, too. These ideas are extremely helpful.

    1. Ali says:

      I’m really pleased to hear that, Shelly. Your course sounds really interesting.

  15. Mud Cakes and Wine says:

    Great post and something we are trying to do more and more. paper bags for sandwiches is a little change. and i need that wrap. I will do more and more just wish it was a little easier sometimes xx

    1. Ali says:

      It is always encouraging to know others are making changes too. Lots of little bits add up to a lot!

  16. Cathy says:

    As public awareness increases following programmes like this I think supermarkets will be goaded into making changes, but it will take time – so all the more reason for more of us to write and do the goading. Thanks for all the ideas – will definitely look into the solid shampoo and the washing up brushes

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, and then I think it will need sustained pressure or the supermarkets will slip back into what works for them.

      1. Cathy says:

        There are changes appearing already though, so I don’t think that will necessarily be the case – but sustained pressure will keep them on their toes, perhaps…

  17. Fantastic, Ali – this is such an important subject and I think every gesture we make – however small – can bring change for the better and encourage others to do the same. I have made a nuisance of myself using the paper bags put out for mushrooms in supermarkets for all loose fresh produce; they don’t like it at the checkout but it’s a simple way of making a stand. Soapnuts are great! and can go onto the compost heap after use. Last year I made ‘beewraps’ to use instead of clingfilm, they have proved a huge success, really effective. It’s amazing how quickly we adjust to new things! Keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      I love your direct action with the paper bags! Very impressed with making new wraps! Cling film is surprisingly easy to cut down or eliminate, isn’t it? So many things have just become the automatic easy option. We have to reprogramme ourselves!

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