‘Plastic free July’ started in 2011 right here in Australia. It has since grown phenomenally and is recognised worldwide as the month for promoting refusing to use single use plastic. This is to build awareness for the impact of plastic in our environment, particularly when it is used for short throw away purposes.
Even if you are not reading this in July there is never a better time than the present to start thinking about and implementing small changes to make your home and lifestyle free from most single use plastic. It is the small changes that everyone can make that adds up to create real change.
So why are we still using plastic?
First and foremost, using plastic is cheap, convenient and everywhere. It is hard to go somewhere without using or passing somewhere or someone using plastic bags, bottles or take away containers. This makes it a struggle and challenge for many to avoid as we have many ingrained habits that revolve around using single use plastic. We often feel we are too busy and any other option is too inconvenient or not as attractive.
You may never fully stop using single use plastic but if you give the following options a go you are sure start on your way to reducing how much you are contributing towards the problem. Give it a go and you will see some of these compromises aren’t that much of a compromise at all.
How can you reduce your consumption of plastic?
You have probably heard the whole ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Ideally, we should all be cutting down on the amount of plastic we consumer as much as possible. Any plastic we do use should be recycled and not sent to landfill. If possible package it in your recycling so that it is not prone to accidentally flying away as it is collected and processed.
To cut down and stop using single use plastic you fist need alternatives to replace them with. We have a few fantastic options to get you started! These alternatives won’t cause you to go to extremes or cost you a fortune. They are simple, stylish and non-time-consuming ways to make more environmentally conscious choices.
1. Reusable produce/shopping bags
A first and massive step you can take is using re-useable shopping bags. Recent years have seen them become widely available and affordable! Some people feel it is a pain to remember their shopping bags. If you train yourself to keep them in your car or handbag and take them with you when you shop soon it will be just another habit. What I like is that they also sell reusable esky/cooler bags. They are perfect for keeping your cold groceries from warming up too much on the way home. I also find them handy for picnics!
Onya Produce Bag
Bag from Aussie Farmers Direct
Cotton bag as a gift from Ere Perez
In Australia, it is likely this might be your only option soon anyway. Only 4 states in Australia still use plastic bags; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. With Queensland already committing to banning plastic bags from 2018 NSW, VIC and WA are the only states left to follow suit. You may have noticed pressure from the Queensland government and the ‘ban the bag campaign’ nudging the remaining states to follow suit.
2. Reusable straws
The first thing you may think about when you hear reusable straws is a novelty plastic crazy straw. That is not what we are talking about here. It may surprise you to know that there are some super stylish reusable straws out there that are easy and convenient to clean and reuse. We have come across some great looking stainless steel, glass and bamboo reusable straws on the market. Pick up a few and you could even save money in the long run, especially if you tend to go through a lot of reusable straws in your house.
If you are interested in stainless steel reusable straws we highly recommend The Last Straw Co.. They are Australian made, use high quality stainless steel and have the best design for their straws we have come across. The have options for different sizes and purposes. Cheaper reusable stainless-steel straws we have seen on the market have been poor quality imitations and honestly not worth the savings if you want good long term use out of them.
3. Environmental toothbrush
Your toothbrush isn’t exactly ‘single use’ but in Australia alone we dispose of more than 30 million toothbrushes a year. Any plastic we can replace easily is worth doing so. We have seen some great bio-degradable toothbrushes out there. Our favourite is this gorgeous 100% bio-degradable bamboo toothbrush from PearlBar. We also love these cornstarch based biodegradable toothbrushes that are great for kids.
4. Reusable lunch packaging
Do you take your lunch for the day with you in a plastic baggie? Or perhaps a meal in a disposable plastic box? Whatever your preference we have some great alternatives for you to help you cut this plastic from the waste you produce.
First, how to get rid of plastic baggies and cling wrapped sandwiches and snacks? The answer is easy! Bio-degradable sandwich wraps that seal with wax. The first and most common of these wraps on the market are beeswax wraps. They are highly effective and keep your food safe and fresh and can even save you money on buying boxes of plastic baggies. For all you vegans out there whose hearts may have just dropped a little don’t worry. There are also vegetable based wax wraps on the market that are perfect for you. The ones I have come across use candelilla wax.
Stop using take away containers for lunch. Stop it. Reusable glassware, reusable BPA free plastic containers. Yes, they need washing and are slightly less convenient but that is really the only downside. I find if I wash it in the break room at work right after eating I don’t really feel like it’s a chore. It is now clean to use for the next day and I don’t have to worry about it when I get home and I don’t feel guilty for throwing away a disposable container.
Metal lunchboxes are another popular alternative for those of you who are looking for something to put all their food together in.
5. Reusable bottles
Not only are disposable plastic water bottles devastating for our environment but they also are known to be full of many toxic chemicals that can leach into the water, particularly if left in the sun or reused. It is a lot safer and eco-friendly to use a reusable water bottle. As awareness of BPA contamination spreads many people are already choosing non-plastic or BPA free reusable water bottles.
Glass bottles have been a very trendy option, they do tend to be heavy however. You also need to be very careful about dropping them as they aren’t always shatter proof! Reusable stainless-steel bottles are another great option. I love keeping mine in the fridge in the summer as it then keeps the water nice and cold on the go.
You can also go with a BPA free reusable plastic water bottle. Ever gone camping or to a picnic and gotten one of those massive 10/15L bottles of water with a tap dispenser? Your best bet for replacing those is a large similar size BPA free bottle that has been designed for the same or similar use. It is questionable however what other chemicals may be in the plastic and leaching into the water so you may still be safer with glass, steel or ceramic options where available.
The most important thing if you are using plastic, particularly with food and drink, is NOT exposing them to heat. This can cause more toxins to leach out of the plastic and into the food or drink. Why risk it when there are other safer and eco-friendlier options available?
6. Bio-degradable disposable cutlery
Do you tend to take plastic cutlery, and even plates, to a picnic? or even just use it for a party to cut down on washing up? Well we have a great alternative for you. Bio-degradable ‘plastic’ cutlery! Bio-degradable ‘plastic’ cutlery is not the same as actual plastic. They are usually made from a ‘bio’ plastic which is made from a large percentage of plant based ingredients to make it bio-degradable.
The down side? These are less widely available and can be harder to find. Over time they have become more widely available and we hope they will continue to become more and more mainstream. Otherwise it is a great alternative for single use plastic cutlery and one less contributor to the growing mountains of plastic in the world. Also keep your eye out for bio-degradable ‘plastic’ plates for the same reason.
7. Reusable sanitary products
I know what you’re thinking, sanitary products? But they aren’t plastic…
At first glance, sanitary products may not appear to be a plastic issue. The problem comes mainly with the packaging. Both pads and tampons come wrapped in plastic wrappers. Think about how many you use a month and multiply that by how many women are using them… yeah that’s a lot. Have you ever noticed the products themselves also have synthetic plastic coatings to make the fibres feel smoother?
If you want to cut these plastics from your waste production why not consider trying out a menstrual cup? They can be awkward to get use to using but once you do they are a highly convenient, eco-friendly and cost saving option! Most people I talked to who tried a menstrual cup happily keep using it. A few preferred not to but as it is such a personal thing you can understand it is not suited for everyone.
If you prefer using pads why not check out Hannah Pads to see if it is something that would suit you? They are a reusable pad brand, which may not be for everyone but it is another option out there.
8. Multipurpose products
The right multi-purpose products are a great way to reduce the amount of plastic you throw away. Here are some of our favourite multipurpose products to explain what we are talking about.
Liquid castile soap
Liquid castile soap can be used for many versatile purposes, we have personally tested and tried. This includes household cleaning and hair, body and personal care uses. You may be thinking… but doesn’t castile soap come in plastic bottles anyway? how does that help me cut out plastic? Won’t I just use a bottle worth of Castle Soap instead of a bottle of body wash or window cleaner? Nope. They do come in plastic bottles but with liquid castile soap a little bit goes a long way. You will find you end up using a lot less to get the same results as a comparable product. Using too much liquid castile soap is a common mistake people make when they first start using it.
Because castile soap goes a long way this means you will end up buying less plastic bottles in the long run. Our brands of castile soap come in 100% recyclable packaging. Dr Bronners liquid castile soap bottle is also made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials.
Soapberries can be used as a laundry detergent and softener as well as for various other personal care and household cleaning purposes. Best of all the packaging is plastic free! They come in a nice cloth bag wrapped in paper. This makes soapberries a plastic free alternative to not just one but many products you could no longer need to buy. That is a lot of plastic bottles saved.
From oral care to other personal care uses to cooking, coconut oil is well known for being versatile. It can help reduce plastic as you don’t need to buy so many different products meaning you end up buying and discarding less plastic. Coconut oil tends to come in a jar as it is solid at room temperature and is not easily squeezed out of a bottle. I find these jars highly reusable and convenient to have!
Jojoba oil can be used in place of many different skin care products. Just off the top of my head, it can work as a moisturiser, face oil, serum, body oil and hair oil. Using Jojoba oil can help you cut down on plastic as you are buying less products with plastic packaging. Jojoba oil can come in plastic packaging itself but I have also seen it in glass jars and would recommend brands that do package using glass jars.
Weledas Skin Food
Weleda's skin food is another multipurpose skin care product. It can be used as a night time moisturiser, face cream, hand cream, foot cream, body cream and is ideal for dry elbows/knees and other dry or rough skin patches. Weledas skin food helps you cut down on plastic packaging as it cuts down the number of products you need to buy that may come in plastic packaging. It is not packaged in plastic itself but instead comes in a metal tube. Weleda Skin Food Review
9. Coconut fibre brushes
Many kitchen and household cleaning brushes are made of plastic in both the handles and bristles. What if I told you could get incredibly stylish timber brushes with coconut fibre bristles? They are completely biodegradable and recyclable making them way more eco-friendly than your standard household and kitchen brushes. You don’t even have to compromise on performance as the bristles are tough and effective. Coconut fibre is also antibacterial so it will not become mouldy or smelly.
If you have any tips and tricks to share for going plastic free and reducing waste let us know below!