Plastic Free July – the global plastic reduction / elimination campaign started in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation is the largest co-ordinated drive of its kind. Similar to January’s ‘Veganuary’, which through tips, hints, recipes and more, encourages people to become plant based, Plastic Free July sees individuals, organisations, charities and brands come together to encourage less reliance on plastic. But if you want to become more plastic free, this July or at any time in the year – where on earth do you start?
So – we have put together our top ten items that are the most common – and easiest to remove from your life. However, this comes with a caveat. This is not a set of rules, this is a set of suggestions, so before you even start, do a quick audit of the items you use on a daily (or weekly) basis, and what you can switch. For example, if you don’t ever get takeout coffee, you probably don’t need a reusable takeout cup…
So – here is our top ten list of plastic items we think are easiest to switch out of your life…
1 – Single use coffee cups. Ok we know we just said you might not need one, but if you DO get takeaway hot drinks, this is probably one of the easiest switches to make. Almost all venues will happily refill a reusable cup (even in CV times) and some even give you a discount on your drink too. Plus, they are reasonable to purchase (from around £10) and come in a multitude of sizes and materials, from bamboo, to stainless steel, to yes – even plastic. But the key thing here is REUSE not single-use. In the UK we currently get through around 2.5 billion disposable cups per year…
2 – Plastic water bottles. You might not be a coffee drinker, but we should all be water drinkers. Plus, we are exceedingly lucky here in the UK that we have safe, readily available and incredibly cheap water available right from our taps. Buying bottled water when we don’t really need to is not only a waste of the plastic bottle, but it is insanely expensive when compared to tap water. Bottled water may cost about 65p per litre. Tap water costs about 1p. And when you’re out and about, use the Refill App to find places to refill your bottle.
3 – Single-use plastic bags. The plastic bag levy has just been increased in the UK from 5p to 10p to discourage people from getting back in the habit of just grabbing a single-use bag. If you know you’re going shopping, grab your reusables – think ‘keys, wallet, phone, bags’ as you leave – or whatever list makes sense to you! And with your reusable bags it is important to note, if you have reusable PLASTIC bags for life – use them! Plastic Free July is not about eliminating plastic completely if you already have it as a reusable!
4 – Produce bags for fruit and veg. Many supermarkets have already pledged to remove the thin plastic produce bags from their fruit and veg aisles, so this is a relatively easy one to do. Alternatives to produce bags could be reusables (often sold at the supermarket too, or use your own small bags – I have even seen someone using socks – genius) or perhaps, no bag at all. Pick up the produce, weigh it at the till – no need for bags or stickers at all.
5 – Cotton buds. Another dead simple one to switch up. Again, many supermarkets in the UK have removed their plastic cotton buds from their aisles and replaced them with paper sticks instead. Check the box to be sure. But if, like my doctor once said, ‘the only thing that should go in your ear is your elbow,’ do you need them? (and yes – I know many of you will now be trying to get your elbow in there!)
6 – Lolly wrappers. Ahhh summer – where did you go? But when the sun does make an appearance wherever you are, a cold sweet treat is always welcome. Instead of the plastic wrapped lolly cooler though, think of alternatives. Can you make your own, using reusable lolly moulds and juice? Or what about the good old choc ice that is likely wrapped in paper? And if you’re out, find an ice-cream van or ice-cream parlour and get something in a cone. An edible wrapper is better than a plastic (or paper) one.
7 – Shampoo and conditioner bottles. Lush were reportedly the first company to create the solid shampoo bar, and whilst Lush still have an incredible range of both solid shampoo and conditioner bars available worldwide, many more brands are now appearing, and some are even available in the supermarket. Yes, they take a little getting used to, but they are brilliant – easy to use, take travelling and zero plastic.
8 – Shower gel bottles. Just like the shampoo and conditioner, our body wash does not need to come in a plastic bottle. It is not that long ago that shower gel was not a thing, and we used soap instead. Nowadays there is a vast array of soaps, scrubs and moisturising bars available in stores of all sizes. Lush even do a ‘naked’ shower gel bar too.
9 – Disposable razors. Want to be staggered at how much we use plastic? Take a look at the disposable razor aisle in a supermarket. Plastic wrapping, blister packs, razor blade holders, razor handles… and all disposable. But this is another quick, easy and very reasonable item to switch out your life for good. Reusable safety razors have been making a huge comeback over the last few years and are now very readily available in stores and online. They are also VERY cheap to use – a replacement pack of blades costs about £1 and the steel blades are also recyclable. We love the guys at Mutiny Shaving – based in Wales and a great range of reusable razors and accessories.
10 – Toilet paper. When you grab a pack of toilet paper, most of the time the rolls come wrapped in thin, unrecyclable plastic film that goes straight in the bin. There are two possible switches here – first, if you have a bidet, do you need paper at all? But, if (like many households) you don’t, you can look to get paper wrapped toilet paper instead – like the massive packs from Who Gives a Crap, or Bumboo. Is is worth mentioning that some people use reusable wash cloths… but that may be a little too far for some!
So there you have it. Ten items to easily, simply and quickly remove from your everyday life this Plastic Free July. Got more suggestions? Let us know below…