When we’re recommended to change our toothbrush every three months, they soon start to pile up. About 264 million toothbrushes get thrown out each year in the UK, so switching to a bamboo brush can put a healthy dent in the landfill pile. It’s an environmentally sustainable timber that is fast growing and is more efficient at taking CO2 from the air and producing more O2 than trees. When you’re done with it, the handle can be returned to the earth in compost and the bristles are usually BPA free and recyclable.
There’s no doubt about the time and cost-effectiveness of regular cling film, but its environmental credentials suck. It’s really hard to recycle, and is right up there with straws and plastic cutlery when it comes to the worst disposable plastic offenders. Beeswax wraps are a great, versatile alternative that can last over a year if cared for correctly. They’re washable and can even be made into a piping bag or a small snack pouch. Then, at the end of their life, stick them in the compost and let them decompose naturally.
We’ve known for a while about the negative effects that aerosols have on our environment, so switching to a roll-on or stick deodorant is a good step towards cutting down on chemicals and packaging. However, they can still be tricky to recycle so for those wanting to go a step further, there are plenty of sustainable and zero-waste options out there. Many use all natural ingredients and are completely vegan, while removing harmful elements like aluminium, parabens and propellants. Some are even packaged in sugar cane tubes and delivered Co2-neutrally.
An individual goes through approximately 11,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in a lifetime, and all this adds up to a hefty amount of waste. Many are made with cotton which uses a very water intensive production process, and often contain polyethylene plastic and other chemicals including chemicals such as dioxin, chlorine and rayon which get soaked up by the earth and are released as pollution into groundwater and air. By switching to a silicone menstrual cup, you’re not only cutting down on waste but they last for years, saving you a load of money too.
It’s estimated that we chuck away two billion disposable razors each year. If you’re lucky, your local council might be able to recycle the blades but all those pesky plastic handles are starting to pile up. Buying an electric shaver is a great alternative that can be costly up front, but will save you some cash in the long run, or if you're looking to go old school, then switch to a straight razor with easily-recyclable blades. If that’s not your thing, invest in a reusable handle and just replace the blades instead. There are loads of great options out there that won’t break the bank, plus they look way cooler than a plastic bic razor anyday.
This is a big one that we all know about. For a few years now we’ve been encouraged on signs and billboards everywhere to fill up at home and carry a reusable bottle with us on our travels, and the benefits to the planet and our bank balance are well worth it. First of all you’ve got the vast amounts of oil and energy that go into creating the disposable bottle, then factor in that they take hundreds of years to decompose, and finally there’s the fact that we only recycle just over half of them. It’s a bit of a no brainer. Picking up a reusable bottle will save you loads of dosh in no time at all, and there’s loads of great designs out there to choose from.
99.75% of coffee cups don’t get recycled. That really sucks. A combination of plastic and paper in the inner lining that keeps them heat and leak proof, also makes them incredibly hard to process. This adds up to over 2.5 billion cups getting binned each year in the UK, but luckily there’s a simple alternative. Reusable cups come in a massive range of shapes, sizes and colours and they don’t break the bank, most of the big coffee chains even offer a discount if you bring your own in. Whether it’s an insta-perfect macchiato from the tiny cafe down the road or your bog standard instant brew from home, it’s a solid step to reducing your plastic footprint.
When it comes to ditching the plastic bottles in the bathroom, there are a few different ways to cut down on the waste and switch up your routine. The first one is going full DIY and making your own and there are plenty of instructions online to get started. Another is grabbing an empty bottle and heading down to your local zero waste shop and filling them up. You’ll only pay for what you need and there are often a range of scents and types available. One method on the rise is switching to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Many come wrapped in paper and are a lightweight alternative to traditional shampoo bottles, cutting down on your carbon footprint too.
Liquid hand soap can take up to five times more power to produce than bar soap, and then you’re lumbered with the plastic bottle which requires a load more energy and water to recycle. One option is heading down your local zero waste shop for a refill, or the other growing trend is switching back to the good old bar. Many are paper wrapped and use natural ingredients, and there are so many out there to choose from, and you don’t need much of it to create a good lather.
We’ve all been there, walking out of a late night takeaway on the way home and grabbing a fistful of plastic forks to enjoy our grub with. The amount of packaging waste generated by the fast food and street food industries is immense, so say no to the plastic bag and fork and invest in a reusable cutlery set to stick in your bag. They can take the form of a full, five piece dining set made from bamboo, or it could be the simple spork. Both will last you years and you won’t be adding to the ocean of plastic that’s floating around out in the big blue.
When it comes to toothpaste, everyone knows what they like and switching to a more environmentally friendly option can seem rather daunting. But fear not, there are alternatives out there that swerve the parabens, microbicides and saccharin that haunt some of our favourite brands, and are low on plastic waste too. Standard toothpaste tubes are near impossible to recycle owing to their blended material and leftover toothpaste inside, meaning around 1.5 billion get binned worldwide each year. Shifting to a tooth powder or tablet toothpaste can mean a hefty drop in the number of plastic tubes you send to landfill, as many products comes in completely recyclable or compostable packaging.
It’s pretty easy to rack up a hefty amount of plastic waste over a year of washing up, both through liquid and dishwasher tablets. Loads of big brands use crude oil in the production of their liquid, so the environmental impact isn’t only confined to the bottle either. Refill stations at zero waste shops offer a great way to top up on liquids and tablets that use a natural formula, and there are loads of plastic free swaps out there for your scrubbing brushes and sponges too.