Zero Waste alternatives to Plastic
As technology advances, loads of great plastic alternatives are being produced. Many of these are recyclable (such as glass or cardboard), biodegradable (bamboo or wood), or even edible (packaging made from mushrooms or seaweed)! Whether it’s at home, at work, or on vacation, we’ve got you covered with a complete list of alternatives to plastic products.
Home Products Plastic Alternatives
The first easy change you can make is by finding plastic alternatives for your home life. There is a surprising amount of single-use plastic used for household items such as laundry detergent, dish soap, and trash bags. Instead, use:
Powdered laundry detergent: Buy it in a recyclable cardboard box at the supermarket or use a refillable option online.
Liquid dish soap: Lots of zero-waste shops now offer a refill section for dish soap and detergent. You can even buy a special eco-friendly soap to wash your dishes.
Glass Tupperware: Put your leftover food in the fridge in glass containers, rather than covering it in plastic wrap. You can also buy silicone food covers like these.
Newspaper: Use newspaper to line your bin, buy biodegradable trash bags, or don’t use trash bags at all. Do not add any food waste in the biodegradable trash bags, as they will dissolve faster. Instead, separate your food compost in a smaller bin without a trash bag that you can easily empty and clean after a few days.
Toilet paper/Kitchen paper alternatives: Choose a recycled toilet paper and use reusable napkins/cloths instead of kitchen paper. At least don’t buy toilet paper that has colored drawings on it, as these are even worse for recycling!
Did you know that the packaging industry produces the highest amount of plastic? Single-use plastics are everywhere in the supermarkets and around the packaging when we online shop.
Food shopping plastic alternatives:
- Bring shopping bags and nets to hold your fresh food, like this one. This stops you from having to use plastic shopping bags at checkout and at the bread/veggie/fruits section.
- Shop local. Go to your local greengrocers, bakers, or deli who haven’t pre-wrapped their products in plastic other than the ordinary supermarket (no plastic fruit stickers here!). What’s more, the products are often sourced locally which means fewer carbon emissions from shipping.
- Use your own glass/metal/bamboo containers when shopping for food. For example, for your fruit and veg. Look for a supermarket that offers a refill service (these are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to plastic).
- Choose foods without plastic packaging. For instance, avoid buying juices and other bottled drinks, as well as condiments and sauces that come in plastic packaging. It pushes you to make your own and be healthier too!
- Avoid buying bottled water. Most of the time, water is totally fine to drink from the tap. If, however, you live in a country where it’s not, then consider buying a water purifier/filter.
Another option is to buy water cartridges that are refillable. We have seen this in supermarkets in Italy and Portugal.
When online shopping:
- Shop online from local stores to minimize delivery emissions.
- Choose compostable packaging. Look to order from sustainable businesses that don’t use plastic to package their products. For example, they might use recycled cardboard or compostable materials.
- Look for companies that have plastic-free initiatives. This could be beach clean-ups, recycling programs, or clothing that is actually made from recycled plastic.
Often our favorite shampoos are packaged in single-use plastic. These days, there are loads of great plastic alternatives for our commonly used toiletries. For example:
Make-up wipes/cleanser: Instead of using throw-away wipes that usually contain plastic and come in plastic packaging, choose reusable makeup pads and cleansers. This is not only better for the environment, but it’ll save you money! Wash the pads after use and choose a face soap that comes in a bar.
Soap/Shampoo: Buy your shampoo/conditioner/soap in bars that come in reusable tins or compostable packaging. The bars last longer than regular shampoo, giving you more washes. What’s more, they’re super handy for traveling with hand luggage as they’re liquid-free and can be used up to four times longer(!) than a regular liquid bottle.
Toothbrush/Toothpaste: If you use a disposable toothbrush, you’re throwing this plastic away every time you need a new brush. Consider buying a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush. If you have an electric sonic toothbrush, you can find brush attachments that are bamboo instead of plastic.
For toothpaste make the switch to toothpaste tablets to save on (a lot of) plastic!
Safety Razor: Over 2 billion (2,000,000,000!) plastic razors end up in landfills every year. Instead, invest in a safety razor made from brass or stainless steel with recyclable razors. There are some pretty affordable options on the market too! Personally, a safety razor has been my easiest replacement for a plastic product. (We use this bamboo razor) and even better, you can get 100 blades for just 10 USD!
Moon Cup: Menstruation products contribute a huge amount to plastic waste with their plastic lining and packaging. A reusable moon cup is a great alternative to help reduce plastic. With proper care, they can last up to 10 years! (Shop a menstrual cup)
Deodorant: The gases in aerosols and its plastic packaging are extremely harmful to the environment. Find the perfect plastic-free alternatives in a solid deodorant block made from natural ingredients that you simply rub under your arms!
Even if we’re doing our best to break the habit of plastics at home, it can be hard to avoid plastic when we’re out. Reducing the demand for plastic in restaurants, bars, cafes, and supermarkets is the only way to help reduce its production. Some great plastic alternatives for eating out are:
Reusable cutlery: Invest in some beautiful bamboo cutlery that you keep in your bag wherever you go. That way, if you happen to pick up some takeaway food you can use your own fork, rather than using the plastic ones provided.
Use glass Tupperware: When you’re going to work/school, bring your food in glass Tupperware from home. Alternatively, if you’re planning on getting takeout, bring an empty container to put your food in, rather than using plastic or polystyrene containers.
Reusable coffee cup: Sometimes, we might not even realize how many coffee cups we are throwing away per day. This way, you can take your coffee with you wherever you go and save the planet!
Reusable straws: Buy a reusable straw that you keep with you to use for drinks, or don’t use a straw at all.
With a little prep, you can buy some great plastic alternatives before you travel. These items will last longer and save you money in the process. Here are some ideas to reduce your single-use plastic while traveling:
Use a reef-safe sunscreen. A lot of sunscreens contain microplastics, as well as ingredients that cause damage to sea life and coral. What’s more, these microplastic can actually be absorbed into your skin which is bad for your health. A plastic alternative to regular sunscreen is a reef-safe sunscreen, made from natural ingredients, that comes in compostable packaging or a reusable tin.
Reusable water bottle: This saves you from buying plastic water bottles and using disposable plastic cups. Most airports now have water fountains where you can refill your bottle before you get on the plane. If you’re traveling to a country where the water is unsafe to drink, buy a purifier (like the Life Straw) to avoid using unnecessary plastic.
Bring your own food on the airplane. Plane food comes in lots of plastic, so avoid it by saying ‘no’ to airplane food and eating your own food instead. It’ll be healthier too!
Reusable cutlery/container/straw: The likelihood is you’ll be eating out a lot while traveling. Combat this by bringing reusable items with you for eating.
Why is Plastic so Bad for the Environment?
As we become more aware of the effects of climate change, we understand the harmful effects of plastic on planet earth. It can take up to 500 years to decompose, and in that time, it’s likely to end up in oceans, in the bellies of sea life, and, eventually, even in our food chain. There are many reasons why we should choose plastic alternatives. For example:
- During a survey of over 100 sea turtles (different species and different oceans), 100% of them had plastic in their stomachs.
- 8 million pieces of plastic end up in the ocean every day.
- Every minute, over 1 million plastic bottles are bought worldwide.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastic off California, is twice the size of Texas!
- Plastic is toxic for human health, and unknowingly, we ingest it. In fact, studies show that 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies (a chemical used to make plastic).
- Plastic production has doubled over the last 50 years.