Creating a greener home

 

We all know that plastic waste is a problem. Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down, cause a hazard for wildlife in the environment, and degrade into microscopic pollution that gets into our seas and waterways.

The problem is that plastics are everywhere. They’re wrapped around almost every item we buy, from milk to gift cards. Our shoes are plastic, our clothes are plastic, even our money is plastic. The problem can seem overwhelming, and trying to make greener choices isn’t always easy. With stories of plastic waste being shipped abroad and then dumped or burnt, recycling also isn’t the solution we once thought it was.

But you can make a difference! Thinking about your purchases and making plastic-free choices where possible is a big step. Challenging shops and manufacturers to do better through the power of purchasing or even through direct action, such as writing an email, is even better.
Here are some tips for avoiding plastic in the home to get you started:

 

Household waste, foil, paper, plastic, cardboard

Plastic bags

We’ve probably all now got dozens of re-usable 'bags for life'. The challenge is remembering to take them when shopping, particularly when it comes to unexpected purchases. Try assigning a pocket in your handbag or jacket to keep a couple of folded cotton bags in, and remember to replace them after use. Replace plastic bags in the kitchen with glass containers or BPA-free plastic boxes (yes, they’re still plastic, but they’re better than single-use bags). Most supermarkets now provide loose fruit and veg, and you can get reusable bags to put your onions and apples in.

Plastic food packaging

Much of the plastic used in food packaging is hard to recycle and some could be avoided. Making your own foods at home, like bread, can reduce some of this waste, as can taking your own containers to food counters at supermarkets. There are a growing number of zero-waste shops around the UK that specifically encourage you to fill up your own containers, and some retailers are making efforts to reduce packaging as well, so choose these items when possible. Buying dry goods in bulk can help, or look for packaging made out of paper or cardboard.

Plastic bottles

The issues of plastic water bottles has led to a bit of a revolution in terms of re-usable containers and free re-fills, so make use of these schemes if you can. When it comes to other plastic bottles, there are sometimes alternatives, such as glass, but these can also have an environmental impact through increased transport weights.

Cotton buds and wipes

A few years ago, it would have been a challenge to find non-plastic alternatives to these bathroom staples, but not any more! Bamboo or cardboard has replaced the plastic in many cotton buds, so choose a brand which has made the switch. Many wipes are now also plastic free, or you can buy re-usable ones, and just wash them.

Toiletries

Switching from liquid to traditional hard soaps can save a lot of plastic packaging, but you can also get refill pouches that create much less waste than continually buying pump dispensers. They work out cheaper as well. Many products like shampoos and conditioners can now also be bought in bars, removing more plastic from the bathroom. Buying fewer toiletries is also something to consider, or you could even try making your own. Remember to recycle your bathroom plastics, as these often get thrown in with the general waste.

Toilet paper

Instead of buying it wrapped in plastic, look online to find bulk supplies wrapped in paper and cardboard and delivered straight to your door.

Personal care

Men and women’s disposable razors create a huge amount of plastic waste. Reduce this through using reusable safety razors, or razors with changeable heads. Electric razors or other forms of hair removal are also an option, or why not just the fuzz grow free! Feminine hygiene products also frequently end up in the ocean, but there are lots of reusable or non-plastic options now available. Plastic tampon applicators are one of the biggest problems, so simply avoiding these is a great place to start.

Cleaning products

Most shop-bought cleaning products come in plastic bottles, but many companies now offer refills in pouches. Some offer their products in bulk (search online) enabling you to fill up your plastic bottles multiple times, and some shops also provide a refill option on certain brands. Some cleaning products also come in concentrated forms, meaning more for less packaging. Foam sponges, scourers and cloths are all also frequently made of plastic. Some alternatives may not last long however, but some, like washable cotton clothes, are a simple switch.

Clothes washing

We now know that many of the microfibres that end up polluting our waterways come from our clothing. Pretty much all clothes will shed to a certain degree when washed, but while natural fibres break down pretty quickly, acrylics do not. Washing machine filters are currently being developed that will catch these fibres, but in the meantime, you can buy bags to wash your clothes in that will do that job for you. Wearing clothes for longer between washes, and making sure to wash full loads at a time (to reduce friction), will also lessen the quantity of fibres going down the drain.

Eco friendly home

Here are some products to help you to avoid single-use plastic in your home.