Plastic Free July: A guide to cut plastic out of your life

Plastic Free July:
A month long challenge where you attempt to rid your life of single-use plastic. Once you realise how happy it makes you it should continue forever more! Goodbye plastic! Hello sustainable happiness.

Over the past four weeks E.C.O. have been working hard to reduce single use plastic in efforts to change the outcomes of plastic pollution for Plastic Free July. As it’s the end of the month we are going to review all the tips we have shared this month and rate them as either easy, medium or hard. This little guide can now be tucked away in your pocket for future and if you’re feeling lazy but what an easy way to save the environment and reduce single use plastic in your life, just pull it out and have a look!

Key

Easy – minimal effort required to change outcomes
Medium – some effort, planning or thought to change outcomes
Hard – difficult to maintain or time consuming to change outcomes

Easy

Stop using plastic bags in your bathroom bin. Either buy some compostable or biodegradable ones like these, or simply stop lining the bin altogether and lump it with the rest of the rubbish on bin day!

Avoid toilet roll that is packaged in plastic. There are lots of companies now making recycled toilet paper wrapped in paper. Check out one of our favourites Who Gives a Crap.

Don’t use toilet wipes to either clean yourself or the toilet! Wet wipes are made of plastic and are bad for our sewers, waterways and oceans. Check out more here! If you do want to wipe responsibly then look for biodegradable ones or compostable ones!

Sponges are derived petroleum-based ingredients which are essentially, oil-based plastic sponges. Poufs are made of nylon netting. Stop buying these and go natural – buy a loofah or a natural sponge and stop scrubbing yourself with plastic.

Speaking of scrubbing, rid your bathroom of liquid hand soap. It comes in bottles and is completely pointless. Grab yourself some handmade, organic, vegan soap which is healthier for the planet and your hands. These can be bought everywhere from markets, supermarkets, craft shops or online.

While you’re swapping to soapy hands swap to soapy hair. Liquid hair products are wasteful and use more water to wash out. Grab yourself a shampoo bar and conditioner bar. They have natural ingredients, are easier to use while travelling and last longer. We love Friendly Soap.

Almost as famous (or infamous) as the metal straw, grab yourself a bamboo toothbrush. When buying one check what the bristles are made of as some are plastic so you will need to remove them before composting. Those who can’t live without their electric toothbrush fret not! There are now eco heads you can buy!

Still on the topic of teeth, those who floss need not be concerned Life Without Plastic make a great plastic-free floss alternative that doesn’t break easily when using.

We all have hair we don’t want at some point in our lives. Disposable razors are by design disposable. Stop this nasty habit and invest in a metal or bamboo razor with safety blade cartridges.

Ditch 5p plastic bags at the supermarket and invest in a cloth shopping tote. Better yet get funky and buy a mesh market Turtle Bag.

Stop using kitchen roll or tissues when you eat and grab a set of cloth napkins

Use tea towels or sponges to mob up spills rather than kitchen roll

Hide from single-use bags for your fruit and veg and grab some reusable produce bags, they also help store veg easily at home. 

Chuck the cling film and foil and either buy or make your own reusable wraps, cloth bowl covers or silicone covers

If you’re in need of new storage containers opt for glass containers. Ikea now have their own glass containers with bamboo lids, check them out here.

Having a party or BBQ? Grab some paper or stainless steel straws rather than plastic

Stop buying bottled water, get yourself a filter if you don’t like tap and treat yourself to a stainless steel water bottles to take on the go

Getting a take away? Check if you can pick up your food in your own container, take a metal lunch box

Don’t rely on cafes having cutlery, most are getting better but to save resources invest in your own bamboo cutlery set, search here for some great products.

Standard teabags use a plastic called polypropylene as a sealing agent in teabags. But this is changing. Teabags without polypropylene are: Twinings (loose leaf pyramid bags), Clipper, Pukka, Aldi, Waitrose. Teabags with polypropylene are: Twinings (string and tag bags), Tetley, PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea. Although we will say that Twinings, PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea are trialling bags without plastic. If you’re worried about price you can be safe in knowing Aldi will sort your tea bags are plastic free. There are endless tea infuser or refillable tea bag options to choose from if you prefer loose leaf.

Whichever hot drink you like stop relying on cafes to give you cups to-go, save some money and make your drink at home in a reusable drinks mug, or take it to a cafe. Most give you a discount now for saving them a few bob on packaging

Switch from plastic milk bottles to a glass delivery service, they are widely available and will collect the used bottles for you. Check out our friend Waste Less Laura’s TedX talk on the difference between the waste produced by plastic milk bottles in a year compared to glass bottles. Click here and scroll on to 6.43 minutes (but also go back and listen to the rest of it!!!!!)

Mark your eco territory – we all know signage can be passive aggressive and territorial at work. BUT, this is from a good place, not a don’t-steal-my-stuff-Debbie place. Put up signs in the kitchen to reduce waste, urge people to recycle, urge people to not take items they don’t need to use

Stock the printer with 100% recycled paper and provide recycled paper notebooks for workings. Avoid buying post-it notes, they are pointless. Just use a recycled notebook and keep your notes with you. Post-it notes are covered in plastic and the adhesive is made of plastic too. Not so handy now eh?

Recycle your ink cartridges, there are lots of companies who also sell recycled or refilled cartridges too. Our favourite is The Recycling Factory who are working with RSPB

Try to go digital in as many areas as you can which will benefit the planet. Read articles online rather than glossy plastic magazines or supplements wrapped in plastic. Write lists on your mobile , or on the back of receipts – these cannot be recycled.

While we are on the above – refuse receipts when offered. Some supermarkets now give you the option to decline receipts. They are not recyclable so please avoid them if you can.

Make a pile of G.O.O.S paper! Good-on-one-side paper can be used for all matters of things – lists, poems (if you’re that way inclined), phone numbers (if you’re lucky) or just general note taking. Use every scrap as much as you can before it is recycled.

If you are buying presents think about the non-stuff stuff – buy experiences, dinner, charity donations, sponsorship gifts. Try to encourage less materialistic world and spend more time together, or helping those who need it more.

When you buy a greetings card write on a piece of paper and Blu Tac it inside, cards can be reused and loved again. A lot of them are not recyclable (especially ones with glitter) and many come wrapped in cellophane. Stop the demand for these and opt for ones stored loose and reuse them. OR you can make your own. OR you can send an e-card. OR you can even cut old ones in half down the seem and turn them into a postcard to re-use.

Wrap presents in recycled paper, newspapers, old materials (think of those t-shirts that aren’t good enough for the charity shop but better than landfill). Most wrapping paper has plastic or foil in. Oh and you stick it together with plastic too. Think about using string for that bit!

When you buy ice-cream from a van or gelato shop opt for a cone rather than a tub. Even if you don’t like cones still buy them and either give them to a friend or bin them. Tubs and plastic spoons do not biodegrade, cones do!

Refuse chewing gum – it is made of plastic! Opt for mints instead.

Buy your own set of refillable plastic miniatures for holidays. These are much cheaper than grabbing those tiny bottles in the airport and reduce plastic waste as you’ll need one set for life, rather than a new set each time you take a trip. We would recommend buying ones made of silicone as they are less harmful to the planet.

Look into plastic free sunscreen options – Lush do a Sunblock which is natural and plastic free. Recently, scientists have discovered that some of the chemicals found in sunscreen and other personal health products also threaten the health of coral reefs. 

Give your four legged friend’s lives a make-over too. Pets get spoiled rotten and they require a lot of plastic to keep them happy. Try to buy tinned food, opt for stainless steal bowls, use biodegradable bags for poo, get wooden hutches over plastic cages, try making your own treats.

Pick up litter as you walk about your daily business and find the nearest recycling bin to save it from landfill.

Medium

Stop using standard toothpaste and get yourself some toothpaste tabs. They come in tins or in plastic, but usually the shops (like Lush) who sell them in plastic offer a recycling service.

Arguably one of the simplest switches is to buy paper cotton buds rather than ones with plastic middles. You could even get involved in this kickstarter for LastSwab who are on a mission to rid the world of single-use cotton buds.

One that is slightly harder to switch to is natural deodorant. There are many out there to try, but to find the one that suits you is key. If you have sensitive skin avoid recipes with bicarbonate of soda in!

We mentioned wipes for your bum above, and the same goes for wipes for your face. They’re made of plastic and are causing havoc to our waterways. Make your own or invest in some reusable make-up pads. Or check out our review of the Face Halo.

And finally, one for the ladies – quit buying standard menstrual products. They are made of and covered in plastic. Invest in a menstrual cup or in organic tampons and pads. Read why in our article here.

Stop buying prepared food to-go. Keep old glass jars, clean them and use to store whole fruits you’ve cut at home to take to work (think pineapples, watermelons, mangos etc.)

Host a plastic free lunch. Plan a meal likened to a Pot Luck where everyone can prepare something at home, bring in reusable containers and share the feast

Create an eco team at work and create plastic free initiatives, introduce incentives for teams, competitions for recycling and create a pledge on behalf of the company which you can share internally or externally to encourage greater change. You can get matching eco jackets and pins!

Buy in bulk – this applies to so many areas of life. Bulk means less packaging, less waste, fewer shopping trips and less energy. Whether its hand soap for the loo or teabags for the kitchen

When you go to the shops make a list (preferably on G.O.O.S paper or your phone!). Having a plan will reduce food waste and give you time to consider how much plastic you can avoid. Check ‘best before’ dates to avoid throwing stuff out. 

Check out food waste apps like To Good To Go on your way home to pick up reduced food that would otherwise go in the bin. Because so much of the food industry relies on plastic packaging, saving resources will undoubtedly help the problem.

When you are having a party think about maximum amount of finger food as possible – avoid having to buy plates, napkins and cutlery (which even if they are biodegradable still usually are packaged in plastic). Think about investing in some reusable cups if you’re a regular host.

Make sure you find out from your local council what can actually be recycled. You may not be maximising your recycling capacity and may find out some items can/can’t be recycled that you didn’t know. Remember to wash plastics before recycling as ‘contaminated’ items cannot be recycled (pizza boxes etc).

Hard

Stop buying new stuff – it usually is transported in plastic even if it’s unwrapped and displayed plastic free. Buy preloved items from from charity shops, eBay, Gumtree or Shpock. Get refurbished electricals – they are cheaper and mean less waste!

Avoid online shopping. There usually is more packaging and definitely more emissions. Go for a walk to your local high street. You are supporting your local area, you are less likely to make impulse buys and you are lessening strain on resources.

Don’t smoke – everyone knows it gives you numerous deadly diseases that we don’t even need to discuss. Because there is enough reason to stop smoking due to it’s plastic offenses. They are wrapped in cellophane, or in a plastic pouch. They are then chuffed through a plastic filter that is usually thrown on the floor. As a planet we smoke 6.5 trillion cigarettes a year. These are either thrown into landfill or find their way into waterways and the ocean. 

Go litter picking. I know this isn’t really a replacement (neither is the one above either) BUT if you go for a litter picking walk I GUARANTEE that you will be far more conscious about the amount of plastic you use. And the amount of plastic you recycle as you will start to look for items which you know can be reused or recycled therefore reducing your plastic pollution footprint. Remember to wear high-vis if you are going to be picking by busy roads.

Turn to a plant-based or veggie diet. The reduction in meat purchase will considerably lower the single use plastic you use. Especially teamed with buying fruit and vegetables which are not wrapped in plastic.

A really good idea is to write down all of the single use plastic items you use in your daily/weekly life and go through to assess which can easily be removed or switched out. Then review each months which other items you can tackle now you have cracked the first few…. #challenge accepted.

Although we have focused on Plastic Free July being a month-long challenge to see how much single use plastic you can remove from your lifestyle, we really hope that these small changes will stick around for longer than this month. The E.C.O. make daily efforts to change the plastic pollution outcomes and we believe to save our planets oceans we need to make the time to cut out as much plastic in our lives as possible.

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