Have you heard about Plastic Free July? It’s a global movement encouraging us all to help reduce plastic waste pollution. The idea is to commit to reduce your personal plastic waste and refuse the use of single-use plastics as much as possible throughout the month of July, and then of course going forward too. I have been mindful of my household’s single-use plastic waste for a good year or more now, but it is definitely a slow process and I know there is absolutely always more room for improvement. When I do purchase plastic products, I try my best to at least choose the types of plastics that are recyclable. The most important thing is to commit to making small changes over time which will ultimately help to make a difference.
Why is plastic a problem?
I’m sure you’ve heard about how plastic is a huge problem for our environment. It’s estimated there is over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. This is an alarming figure, especially when you consider the fact that synthetic plastic was only invented in the early 1900’s. There are even floating “islands” of plastic. It’s undoubtedly problematic that not all types of plastic can or will be recycled. The majority of plastic isn’t biodegradable like paper or food and can take hundreds of year to naturally decompose, but even so the plastic only gets infinitely smaller and never fully disappears.
Each year, currently around 40% of the plastic produced is single-use, which means an estimated 8 million more tonnes of plastic is ending up in the oceans every year [source]. Hundreds of thousands of animals are being killed by ingesting plastic or entanglement. If you eat seafood, there is even a chance you could be ingesting microplastics second-hand. Studies have shown that concentrations of pollutants in animals that have eaten plastics are significantly higher. The process of plastic production itself also releases huge amounts of toxic pollution into the environment. You can find some plastic statistics here.
Small steps have been taken to reduce the amount of plastics entering our environment with things like recycling schemes and the banning of microbeads and although this is a move in the right direction, there is so much more than can be done, starting with what we choose to use and the waste we produce at home.
10 Easy Plastic-free Beauty & Toiletry Swaps
You might think that beauty products and toiletries are some of the hardest things to go plastic-free, but there are actually a few really easy swaps you can make and zero waste beauty is very much a growing market which makes it easier to find swaps. One of the first things you should do is to check your beauty product ingredients to avoid synthetic polymers such as dimethicone and other silicones which are most commonly found in haircare and makeup products. Thankfully microbeads have been banned in the UK since 2018 so that’s one less thing you have to look out for!
On to the swaps – this is by no means an exhaustive list, more of a starting point of easy switches to make towards using less plastic in your beauty products.
1. Soap Bars
Probably the easiest swap to make is from liquid soap to good old fashioned bar soap. We’ve been using a Trevarno bar soap in the bathroom in my house for the past few weeks now and it works a treat. Note to self though: remember to get a soap dish to stop the pesky thing sliding around everywhere!
2. Reusable Cotton Pads/Cloths
Does anyone even use makeup removing wipes anymore?! Makeup wipes and even single-use cotton pads can be easily switched to reusable organic cotton/bamboo pads or cloths. I personally have a little drawer of organic cotton cloths for hot cloth cleansing and simply wash them after each use with a natural laundry detergent and they’re all good to use again and again.
3. Bamboo/Wooden Toothbrush
This one takes a little while to get used to with the change in texture when brushing your teeth if you’re used to a plastic handled toothbrush, but I think it’s an important switch to make when you think about how frequently you buy a new toothbrush. When it’s time to replace a wooden toothbrush, you remove the bristles and then simply compost the handle. Some brands like Georganics have a Zero To Landfill scheme for the toothbrush heads. If you still use a plastic toothbrush, rather than throwing it straight in the bin when you’re finished with it, they can be handy to repurpose for household cleaning.
4. Plastic-free Toothpaste
There are a few toothpastes available now that come packaged in glass jars. I’ve previously used Georganics and currently trying out the Ben & Anna toothpaste. You have to scoop the toothpaste out with a spatula to use and then clean the spatula between uses so there extra steps involved compared with the squeezy tubes, but keep thinking of the environment!
5. Wooden Hairbrush
Switching from a plastic hairbrush to a Tek wooden brush was one of the best decisions I made for my hair health! Wooden hairbrushes are ideal for all hair types and they can help reduce breakage as the wooden bristles distribute your natural hair oils throughout the hair. Unlike plastic brushes, they don’t produce any static either and they last for years and years too. Make sure you look for an FSC certified brush.
6. Reusable Razor Handle
Ditch your disposable plastic razors and choose a reusable safety razor instead. These are often made with a durable metal handle that can be reused and you simply replace the blades as and when needed. I haven’t quite invested in a safety razor myself just yet, but I’ve had the same Preserve razor handle for years. Although not plastic free, Preserve razor handles are made from recycled yoghurt cups and they’re also completely recyclable.
7. Plastic-free Deodorant
Instead of a traditional stick or roll-on deodorant in plastic packaging, some brands like Ben & Anna are offering stick deodorants in a recyclable card tube. There’s also deodorant creams such as Soapwalla Deodorant Cream (reviewed here) and The Natural Deodorant Co. (reviewed here). With these types of deodorant, you scoop the product from the jar and apply with your hands. This takes a bit of getting used to of course, but soon becomes second nature!
8. Reusable period products
Many mainstream period products are made from up to 90% plastic. A standard pack of conventional pads contains up to five plastic bags worth of plastic [source]. When you think about the estimated 11,000 disposable menstrual products an average woman would go through over a lifetime… that’s a lot of plastic waste. Besides the waste, plastic pads are not very breathable and can promote unbalanced bacterial growth as they are often worn for too long. For years now I’ve been using plastic-free organic disposable pads from Natracare as they are a convenient option. I’m considering investing in washable pads or period pants going forward. Menstrual cups like the OrganiCup are also another option as a zero-waste alternative to tampons.
9. Refillable makeup
There are some great natural beauty brands offering refillable makeup products, from the likes of super luxe Kjaer Weis with metal compacts or Zao with bamboo casing. Lily Lolo have also recently started offering refills for their mineral foundation which is a great step for reducing waste. If you’re an eyeshadow fanatic, you can consider buying individual eyeshadow pans to create your own selection with a refillable magnetic palette.
10. Shampoo Bars
Similar to the switch from liquid to solid soap bars, you can also switch to shampoo bars. I have to admit this isn’t something I’ve tried yet as my shampoo use is already infrequent, but I’ve heard some great things about Beauty Kubes so they are definitely on my list to try.
Of course there is much more you can do in other categories to suit your lifestyle, but I hope this has inspired you to make a start and make at least one or two changes in your beauty routine!
Are you taking part in Plastic Free July? Do you have any tips for reducing plastic waste?