Unless you live self sufficiently on a remote island, going completely plastic free is near on impossible. We’re surrounded by plastic everywhere.
Every room in the house has things made from plastic. From single-use food wrapping in the kitchen to the polyester fibres in our clothing. It’s even in the things we can’t see, such as modern plumbing and drainage systems.
But we can take steps to reduce plastic use and in certain cases, avoid plastic altogether. Sometimes it can feel daunting knowing where to start, but once you do, you can move on to the next step and the next. Who knows where you’ll end up?
You don’t have to start big, nor do you have to immediately throw away everything made of plastic. That would be wasteful and far from the point. Instead, for example, you could buy a bamboo toothbrush when your current plastic one wears out.
Some plastics you may never replace. Remember, Tupperware lasts forever!
The idea is to make slow, gradual changes. You may even find that your quest to consume less plastic is easier than you think.
Here’s 104 handy tips for helping you to reduce plastic.
Tips to Avoid Plastic on the Go
When you’re out and about, travelling or en route to work, the chances are, you’ll fancy a drink or a snack. Or you’ll need to grab some lunch.
More often than not, on the go food and drink comes in plastic. Plastic keeps it fresh, helps it stay hot / cold and prevents it spilling all over our shirts. But single use plastic is polluting, harmful and sometimes hard to recycle.
Avoiding single use plastic on the go is the trickiest time to minimise plastic. But it’s not impossible.
To avoid plastic bottles and food wraps, carrying reusable items will help to reduce plastic consumption:
#1 Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
Fill up your bottle when you pass a water refill station or when you’re at home or in the office.
#2 Get a reusable coffee cup
Coffee cups are notoriously difficult to recycle because they’re a mix of paper and plastic.
Many coffee shops give discounts to those bringing their own reusable or bamboo coffee cups too.
#3 Pick up a set of reusable cutlery
Avoid plastic knives, forks and spoons by having your own in your bag for whenever you need them.
#4 Stash some reusable straws
If you need or like to use a straw, carry a bamboo or metal one. Most come with their own cleaning brushes too, and some can go in the dishwasher.
#5 Pack a lunch box
If you’re at a takeaway salad bar or buffet, using your own lunch box will help you reduce plastic.
Just check with the staff first as they may not like the size of your box if it’s bigger than their tubs!
#6 Bring your own cotton or paper napkins
Refuse paper napkins and hand wipes individually wrapped in plastic. They’re completely unnecessary and carrying your own is easy.
If you’re eating lunch at your desk, it’s not always easy to avoid plastic. Sandwiches, soups and salads tend to all come in plastic packaging.
But you can reduce plastic use with some simple forward planning:
#7 Keep condiments in your desk drawer / fridge.
There’s no need to pick up plastic sachets of sauces. Instead, keep jars and bottles of your favourite condiments at work.
#8 Pick up some reusable chopsticks
Because when sushi calls, it doesn’t always come knocking with wooden chopsticks.
Here’s some other tips to help reduce plastic when you’re away from home:
#9 Carry a reusable shopping bag
At all times – just leave it in the bottom of your bag for when you need it.
#10 Carry reusable pots of dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds
Yes, buying them in the first place probably means they’re packaged in plastic unless you make a trip to your local zero waste shop.
But this uses far less plastic than buying the same amount in individual portions.
#11 Pack a lunch (or breakfast or dinner, we all work long days!)
It’s not always easy to plan ahead, but when you can, take your food with you.
If you pack last night’s leftovers into a reusable lunch box, you’re helping to prevent food waste too!
#12 Avoid chewing gum
It’s made with plastic – yuck!
Eat mints from paper and foil packaging or tins instead.
#13 Buy drinks in cans
If water simply won’t do, don’t buy juices or fizzy drinks in plastic bottles. Instead choose cans or glass bottles and carry the empties with you until you find a recycling bin.
#14 Choose ice cream in a cone – not a cup
Ice cream cups are made from the same paper and plastic mix as coffee cups. They usually come with a plastic spatula too.
If you’re having an ice cream treat, buy it in a cone and eat that too. It’s the perfect edible food packaging!
#15 Carry a collapsible wine glass
If you’re off to a festival or food fair, ask if the vendors can fill up your glass.
#16 Pack tissues from a box
Most pocket-sized packs of tissues are wrapped in plastic. Buy a (cardboard) box of tissues and take a few from there each day and pop them in your pocket.
There are boxes available that don’t have the little bit of plastic around the opening now too.
Tips to Avoid Plastic When Travelling
If you’re travelling, it can become a bit of a plastic fuelled nightmare. Being prepared when abroad tends to be trickier than when you’re at home.
The following tips should help:
#17 Don’t forget to fill your water bottle
Filled bottles at an airport might be a no-no. But you can still carry an empty reusable water bottle through airport security.
Most airports have water fountains air side, so you can fill up once you’ve gone through security.
#18 Don’t pinch the free toiletries – apart from the soap!
Once you’re home, will you use all those travel shampoos? More and more hotels are now refilling the small bottles to reduce their plastic footprint.
An unwrapped bar of soap will be thrown away so do take that with you when you leave your accommodation.
#19 Make room for reusable plates and cutlery
Having a picnic, sitting by the pool or on the beach can all be plastic free.
OK, so asking the bartender to give you your chips on your own plate might be tricky. Especially if there’s a language barrier.
But if you’re self catering, bring your own.
#20 Learn the language!
Or at least learn the word plastic in local dialect.
And how to say “No straw or stirrer in my gin fizz, please”.
Tips to Reduce Plastic in the Kitchen
Look around your kitchen and you’ll probably find tonnes of plastic (OK, maybe not literally).
Here’s some tips to help reduce plastic in the most used room of the house.
Food Shopping to Reduce Plastic
#21 Buy Loose Produce
Try to pick up produce without plastic wrapping as much as possible.
#22 Avoid Frozen Food
Most frozen food comes in plastic packaging that can’t be easily reused or recycled. Try buying fresh food instead.
#23 Use a veg box scheme
Not only will you get fresh local produce, but many veg box schemes allow you to return the box and any plastic punnets or bags for reuse.
#24 Shop at Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ markets are a great way to pick up local produce without the plastic produce.
Just don’t forget to take your own bags with you.
#25 Visit Your Local Deli
Buy cheese, ham, olives and pickles from the deli and bring your own tubs. This way, you only buy as much as you need, too.
#26 Find a Bakery You Love
Buy bread from a bakery and bring a reusable bread bag.
#27 Hunt down a local butcher
Buy meat from butcher and ask them to wrap it in your own packaging.
#28 Buy in bulk
Shop at a bulk zero waste store where you can fill your own containers with dried foods, liquid soap, detergent and more.
#29 Buy Loose Bakery Items
Buy loose baked goods instead of plastic wrapped chocolate.
#30 Look for Plastic-Free aisles
Look for supermarkets with dedicated plastic free aisles to help reduce packaging waste.
#32 Avoid plastic on multipacks
Buy multipacks of food held together with cardboard rather than plastic.
#33 Stay away from pre-prepared
Avoid buying pre-prepared or chopped fresh fruit and vegetables, they come with a mountain of excessive packaging.
#34 Watch out for black plastic
Avoid ready meals in non-recyclable black plastic trays – black plastic is almost never recycled
#35 Scrutinise Your Wine
Buy wine with metal screw-caps or real corks rather than plastic coated corks.
#36 Buy Jars
Choose glass jars of sauces, condiments and oils rather than plastic tubs. And make sure to reuse the jars at home, single-use glass has an environmental impact too.
#37 Watch out for plastic lining
Choose cans without BPA plastic linings.
#38 Choose Tins over Plastic
Buy tinned beans, pulses and chickpeas rather than plastic packaged, uncooked ones.
#39 Vitamins in Glass
Look for vitamin supplements in glass jars. Some online companies offer a subscription service where you buy a glass jar and receive your supplements in a paper envelope each month.
Eating, Free From Plastic
#41 Grow your own salad
Tomatoes and lettuce are among the easiest to grow. You can even grow tomatoes in a hanging basket!
#42 Grow your own veg
If you’ve cracked the herbs and salads, a veg patch is the next step. Try peas, carrots and potatoes.
Who knows where you’ll end up? With your own allotment?
#43 Utilise fruit trees
Come Autumn they’ll be heaving with apples and pears. Without a plastic bag in sight.
Check to see who in your neighbourhood has a tree in their back garden.
#44 Make your own cereal
Make your own cereal and cereal bars – they’re far tastier and free from plastic.
#46 Ditch the Coffee Pods
Avoid plastic coffee pods and use a french press or stove top coffee maker instead.
#47 Upgrade Your Coffee
Buy coffee in glass jars rather than plastic packets.
This is tricky if you drink fresh coffee rather than instant. So it might be better to buy coffee beans and grind your own.
#48 Get Juicing
Make freshly squeezed juice rather than buying cartons or plastic bottles. Even just doing this at the weekend with help to reduce plastic.
Plus, freshly squeezed juice tastes so much better!
#49 Eat Out More
Eat out rather than ordering in. If you do order a takeaway, use restaurants that you know use foil trays.
The white lids are still a non-recyclable mix of card and plastic, but they’re better than plastic tubs.
#50 Say No To Condiments
Avoid using plastic packets of vinegar and sauces in takeaway outlets. Use the condiments you have at home instead.
#51 Ask for a doggy bag
If you eat out and have leftovers, ask for a doggy bag. Take your own lunch box and ask them to fill it to avoid plastic tubs.
#52 Go easy on the meal kits
They may be convenient but they often come in excessive plastic packaging.
However, they are a great way to reduce food waste – it’s all about balance!
#53 Rediscover the Milkman
Find a local milk delivery service to get your milk (dairy or non-dairy) delivered in glass bottles.
#54 Choose water filters carefully
Avoid plastic water filters for the worktop or fridge. Instead, use a charcoal filter that you can add to your own jug or water bottle.
#55 Invest in a Sodastream
If you prefer sparkling water, sodastream have a device that turns tap water into fizzy water.
There’s still plastic involved, but it’s better than buying bottled sparkling water.
#56 Sustainable BBQing
Buy some reusable outdoor cutlery, plates and cups. If you have a lot of parties and BBQs, these are better than disposable versions.
#57 Disposable Cutlery
If your BBQ or picnic calls for disposable cutlery, try bamboo instead of plastic which is compostable.
Reduce plastic use when Cooking
#58 Chopping Boards
Use wooden or glass chopping boards over plastic versions.
#59 Cooking Utensils
Use wooden or bamboo kitchen utensils and serving equipment.
Avoid kitchen knives with plastic handles.
Choose 100% metal versions instead. They’ll last you much longer too.
Colourful cutlery may look lovely, but the handles are usually made from plastic.
Choose all-metal versions of these too.
#62 Children’s Dishware
Choose kids plates and cups made from bamboo rather than plastic – it’s just as durable even when dropped (or thrown!) on the floor.
Warning: Don’t put bamboo plates in the microwave, the melamine resin doesn’t like high temperatures.
Use long matches to light your hob or BBQ if you need to, rather than plastic lighters.
#64 POTS & Frying Pans
Avoid Teflon coated non-stick pans and opt for ceramic instead.
Teflon is actually plastic – a little known fact!
#65 Buy Second Hand
Buy second hand kitchen gadgets.
They might still be made from plastic but second hand means less virgin plastic.
Avoid Plastic When Storing Food
#66 Replace Cling Film
Beeswax wraps are a great cling film alternative and help replace plastic tubs and ziploc bags.
Vegan options made with plant-based waxes are also available.
#67 TIN FOIL
Opt for tin foil over cling film if you’re not using reusable wraps.
Try to reuse the foil if you can before putting it in your recycling bin.
#68 Reuse Jars
Glass jars are great for storing leftover food and a myriad of other things. Never recycle glass if you can find another use for it.
As are gadgets that reduce food waste.
#69 Watch Out for Plastic Seals
Shop bought metal tins and kilner style jars are also great, but may have plastic seals.
Look for rubber or silicone seals instead.
#70 Replace Ziploc Bags
Freeze leftover food in reusable Tupperware boxes or glass jars.
If you prefer bags why not check out the silicone bags on the market.
#71 Decorative Tableware
Choose wooden, china or bamboo fruit bowls – they look much nicer than cheaper plastic versions.
Reducing Plastic in Your Cleaning Cupboard
That’s the food part of the kitchen sorted, but what about the cleaning cupboard?
That too can be slowly overhauled to reduce plastic in your home.
#72 Cleaning Sponges
Choose washing up sponges made with natural loofah. Regular washing up sponges send microplastics down the drain.
Plastic free loofah versions will last a lot longer too.
#73 Pot Scrubbers
Try a solid scourer made from bamboo shell – it’ll make light work of ground on food.
#74 Scrubbing Brushes
Use wooden or bamboo scrubbing brushes that can be composted at the end of their life.
#77 Washing Powder
Use washing powder in cardboard boxes rather than plastic pods.
#78 Soap Nuts
Try soap nuts, a 100% natural alternative to washing powder.
Use a microfibre bag or ball to catch plastic microfibres when washing clothes made with manmade fibres.
#80 Air Freshener
Ditch plastic bottles of air freshener and burn essential oils or soya wax candles instead.
#81 Bin Bags
Use compostable bin bags if your local council allows them.
Put all your metals, glass, paper and recyclable plastics into your dry recycling. Use a food waste bin if your local council provides a food waste collection.
Your normal rubbish bag should only have clean, non recyclable flexible plastics in it. If so, empty this bin bag into your black bin bag and reuse the original bag over and over.
#83 Washing Up Gloves
Choose washing up gloves made from rubber. It’s a natural material that can be composted.
Consider cancelling magazine subscriptions that arrive in plastic bags rather than paper envelopes.
Tips to Reduce Plastic in the Bathroom
The bathroom is also riddled with plastic, often plastic that we don’t even think about.
Here’s how you can take steps to avoid plastic in the bathroom.
Use bars of soap rather than liquid in plastic bottles.
#86 Shampoo & Conditioner
Shampoo and conditioner bars may take some getting used to but they’re free from plastic packaging.
Look for toothpaste in chewable tablet or powder form as it often comes in glass jars.
Bamboo toothbrushes are great. But try to source them from reputable local sources that use sustainable bamboo and plastic free packaging.
Avoid buying them in bulk from Amazon!
Mouthwash is also available in chewable tablets in glass jars.
#90 Dental Floss
Look for plastic free dental floss made from silk.
#91 Cotton Buds
Cotton buds made from plastic will soon be banned. Get ahead of the game by only buying those with paper stems.
Ditch disposable plastic razors and opt for a reusable metal one. All you’ll need to do is then buy new blades.
#93 Shaving Cream
Use a shaving cream bar to lather up and shave with too.
#94 Shaving Alternatives
Or try waxing, sugaring, epilating or threading instead.
Look for plastic free deodorant. Salt sticks, crystals and balms in glass jars or paper packaging all now exist.
#96 Lip Balm
Plastic free lip balms in compostable paper packaging are also available.
Instead of body moisturisers in plastic tubs, try coconut oil instead.
#98 Make-Up Remover & Cotton Balls
Coconut oil can also be used to melt away eye makeup. Use a washable cloth to wipe away the residue.
#99 Hair & Face Products
Look for glass tubs of hair products, face creams and other essentials.
Try making your own face and body scrubs using ingredients such as salt or used coffee grounds mixed with coconut oil.
#101 Wet Wipes
Avoid wet wipes and use good old fashioned flannels instead. Or cut up old clothes and use them as washcloths.
#102 Brushes & Combs
Use wooden or bamboo hair brushes and combs.
#103 Toilet Paper
Avoid plastic wrapped toilet roll and opt for ones wrapped in paper instead.
#104 Sanitary Products
Use plastic free period products (tampons and sanitary towels often contain hidden plastic). Or try a silicone menstrual cup.
Taking Things One Plastic Free Step at a Time
As with anything, making sensible decisions is key. Don’t rush out and buy reusable straws and cutlery if you know you don’t have a need for them.
Similarly, don’t throw away all your tea bags and teflon coated frying pans. When they reach their end of life, buy plastic free products to replace them.
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up for buying an emergency bottle of water if you don’t have your reusable bottle with you. We’re all human! And dehydration headaches are painful!
Embrace your plastic reducing journey and enjoy feeling virtuous with each small change you make. And join our community to find like minded people on the same taking the same steps!