How to reduce your personal plastic use in 10 easy steps
Reducing your person plastic use is not as tricky as you might think. Harriet Dyer, author of Say No to Plastic shares 10 simple ways to clean up your personal hygiene routine.
With plastic waste increasingly in the news, it's hard to know where to begin in our quest to reduce plastic – so the bathroom is as good a place as any to start changing your habits.
From solid shampoo to homemade body scrubs, we've got some great tips to help you get started…
Use solid shampoo and conditioner
Shampoo and conditioner are bathroom items that are used almost daily by most people. this means they get regularly used up and replaced, resulting in countless plastic bottles going in the bin.
Try replacing your bottled hair care products with solid shampoo and conditioner. these blocks are often packaging-free or wrapped in paper or card, and are easily available online or in high-street shops, including big chains such as Lush.
There are plenty of solid shampoos and conditioners that target hair with ‘special needs’, such as dry, thin or oily hair, so you don’t have to sacrifice great hair in order to save the planet.
Watch out for microbeads and hidden plastics
Microbeads and microplastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 5 mm. they are non-biodegradable and are found in many bath, shower and cosmetics products.
As of 2018, the use of microbeads in ‘rinse-o ’ products such as exfoliating scrubs and toothpastes is banned in many countries, including the UK, Italy, New Zealand and the US. despite this, most laws allow for other microplastics in cosmetics such as lipsticks, or in sun creams or detergents.
Check the ingredients list for polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrauoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon to help you avoid using products featuring microplastics.
Use a bamboo toothbrush
An easy first step to improving your plastic consumption is to check the packaging of your standard toothbrush. Most toothbrush bristles are made of nylon and are not recyclable at all, but many big-brand handles are now made from recyclable plastic.
If you would prefer to avoid the carbon footprint involved in plastic production altogether, try bamboo toothbrushes. available online or in big-name supermarkets such as Waitrose, bamboo toothbrushes are often packaging-free or use cardboard packaging, and are both recyclable and compostable. Most bamboo toothbrushes are nylon but some are fully compostable.
Beware if you are vegetarian, vegan or prefer to avoid animal products as these bristles are often pig hair, a by-product of meat production.
Swap shower gel for soap bars
Replacing liquid hand soap and shower gel with solid bars of soap should be one of the easiest changes in this book. after all, many of us likely use one or the other already. You may be helping to cut down plastic usage without even knowing it.
There are a great number of solid soaps already available in supermarkets, from fragrance-free bars for sensitive skin to designer soaps for those who like a bit of luxury. Unlike packaged liquid soaps, soap bars do make a bit of mess so a little stone or ceramic tray can help cut down on cleaning.
Give up makeup wipes
Make-up wipes seem like a convenient method of removing make-up, but they generate a lot of waste. They are less efficient than liquid make-up remover and cotton wool, so they generate waste more regularly. Plus, not all make-up wipes are biodegradable, so many wipes end up piling up in land fills or clogging sewers.
You can go one step further than using liquid make-up remover and cotton wool in order to cut your plastic consumption and replace the cotton wool with flannel or reusable cotton rounds. It will require a little extra upkeep, as you will need to wash the flannel or rounds between uses, but you’ll cut out even more plastic packaging.
Use coconut oil to remove makeup
Sometimes using a plastic-packaged item is unavoidable, but you can still make the most of the situation.
Rather than buy a bottle of cooking oil and a bottle of make- up remover, buy a big jar of coconut oil. although most jars of coconut oil are unfortunately plastic, the oil can be used to remove your make-up, to moisturise, as an ingredient in homemade exfoliating scrubs and, what’s more, to cook with. That’s four plastic bottles in one!
Warm a small amount with your hands until liquid, apply to your skin, let sit for a few minutes and then wipe off your make-up with a flannel. Most make-up will come off easily, including waterproof mascara.
Coconut oil works well with most skin types although those with oily skin may prefer to avoid it for obvious reasons.
Use lip balm in tins
Lip balms are famously addictive and easy to lose, resulting in the twin troubles of dry, cracked lips and dozens of plastic tubes of balm scattered around your home, only to be thrown away when discovered two years later.
Swap your tubes of lip balm to tins of lip balm and at least you’ll be able to recycle them when you find them in your old coat pocket. You could even use old tins to carry your coconut oil make-up remover or scrubs in your hand luggage.
Switch plastic cotton buds for bamboo ones
Cotton wool buds with plastic stems are the most common litter found washed up on beaches after being flushed down toilets. T
here is some action being taken against this by governments and large companies. Scotland has banned the sale of all plastic cotton wool buds, and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson are replacing their plastic stems with paper handles in half the world.
You can take action today. Buy cotton buds with bamboo stems and throw used ones on the composter or in your organic waste disposal instead of adding waste to land fills.
Try using eco tampons
As if navigating your period wasn’t challenging enough, there’s the environmental impact to consider too. neither plastic nor cardboard tampon applicators are recyclable, and some sanitary towels contain as much plastic as five plastic bags.
With half the population in the world using them, that’s a lot of plastic waste. Fortunately, there are more eco-friendly options readily available. an easy way to start cutting your sanitary plastic refuse is to use applicator-free tampons, of which there are many brands available in supermarkets.
As most big-name sanitary brands have some element of plastic in their cotton mix, whether tampon or towel, look online to find 100 per cent cotton tampons and pads.
Make your own body washes
You don’t have to splash cash on packaging-heavy body washes and exfoliators to have beautiful and healthy skin. You can get great results with many common cupboard ingredients and cut down on plastic waste while you do it.
Coconut oil (you can also use castor oil or almond oil) and sugar are the essential ingredients and you can build your scrub from there.
Use brown sugar and add cinnamon for a festive scrub, or you could add peppermint extract for a refreshing morning wake-up.
If you enjoy the dash of colour body washes bring to your bathroom then mix a few drops of food colouring to your scrubs and display them in glass jars.
Extract from Say No to Plastic by Harriet Dyer, published by Summersdale and priced £6.99.
Photos by Noah Buscher, Bruce Mars, Kristina Balić, Kevin Laminto and Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.