9 plastic free swaps that stuck

Picture of loo rolls wrapped in colourful paper

Loo rolls – but not as you know them

Last summer, I made loads of plastic free swaps as part of Plastic Free July, trying to avoid single-use plastic and reduce plastic pollution. 

I made all kind of changes to our food shopping alongside simple swaps around the home. We already took some steps to cut plastic waste, such as carrying reusable water bottles, taking cloth bags shopping and avoiding plastic coffee cups.

A year on, as I do #PlasticFreeJuly once more, here are the changes that stuck – plus some swaps that went by the wayside…


Picture of milk and fruit juice in glass bottles, with eggs and bacon from Milk & More

Our first milk delivery

Milk delivered in glass bottles

Plastic Free July inspired me to sign up for milk deliveries from Milk & More, so milk arrived on our doorstep in glass bottles. We recycle the foil tops, wash out the bottles, and leave the empties to be collected by the milkman when he returns.

It costs distinctly more than buying big plastic containers from the supermarket, but we stuck with it. We very grateful for the deliveries when we were isolating during lockdown, especially because we could add essentials like bread to our order.

Cost: 81p per pint delivered, compared to 27p a pint when buying a £1.09 4 pint plastic container from the supermarket. Our normal order comes to £10.53 a week.

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Pinterest size image of colourful paper wrapped loo rolls for my post on plastic free swaps that stuck

Loo rolls wrapped in paper

Again, I first signed up for ‘Who Gives A Crap‘ during Plastic Free July. Although it sold out completely when everyone was buying loo roll like crazy before lockdown, we have ordered again. The rolls are wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box, and double the length of ordinary rolls.

Sign up with this link, and you’ll get £5 off your first order, and I’ll get a fiver off too.

Cost: 40 rolls for £48, which is £1.20 per double-length roll

Made cotton cleaning rags from a sheet

To avoid the expense and plastic packaging when buying rolls of kitchen towel, I ended up cutting up a ripped cotton sheet.

I used pinking sheers to cut out rough squares, to avoid hemming them, and ended up with a big pile that can be washed and reused. They came in particularly handy while house training Otto the puppy

No, I do not iron them.

Cost: 0p as we had the sheet anyway

Picture of my husband after he'd put our compost bin together

One man and his compost bin

Putting food waste in a compost bin

After years of thinking about getting a compost bin, I finally got round to it last July. We went for a wooden version, as it didn’t seem appropriate to buy an enormous plastic bin during Plastic Free July!

Here’s the kind of wooden compost bin* we got, but if you’re happy with a plastic version that will remain useful for many years, check Get Composting to see if your local council offers a discount.

Cost: £34.95 for our Botanico compost bin, now out of stock, then free since

Picture of the metal biscuit tin for food waste, plus carrots and peeler on chopping board

Food waste caddy, poised for action

Metal caddy for food waste

We also now have a metal caddy on the work top in the kitchen, where we can collect food waste en route to the compost bin. It’s actually a biscuit barrel my Mum found in a charity shop – thanks Mum!

Cost: A present, but a few quid from charity shops

Picture of a wooden washing up brush

Retro washing up brush

Wooden washing up brush

Last July we also ditched our plastic washing up brush for a wooden version with plant fibre bristles. Since then, we’ve been able to order replacement brush heads with our milk deliveries – although sadly they came in a plastic bag. The replacement heads cost £2.50 each,  which is more than the pound-a-pop plastic versions I used before, but it’s not a huge expense.

Cost: £3.29 to buy, then £4.50 for each pack of 2 replacement heads

Picture of a bar of soap suspended on a plastic net bag above a bowl

Temporary soap dish when lockdown started

Soap in a bar rather than a bottle

We’ve stuck with using bar soap, rather than hand wash dispensed by plastic bottles, even though it’s tricky to find plain, cheap soap that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Slid back slightly when the Aldi food parcel while self-isolating included a plastic bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash. 

The caveat with bars, whether soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash or whatever else, is that they melt into sludge if left sitting in water. I’d meant to buy an extra soap dish for the kitchen just before lock down, but didn’t find a ceramic one I liked, with ridges high enough to keep bars above any water.

I ended up using the temporary fix pictured above – a bowl we already had, covered with the plastic net bag from a bag of limes, with a rubber band to hold it in place!

Cost: few quid for bars of soap, while the temporary soap dish cost 0p

Picture of three metal straws and cleaning brush

Stuck with metal straws

Metal straws

My daughter invested in some reusable metal straws, plus (crucially) the little narrow brush to clean inside. The kids enjoy using them for fancy drinks and fruit smoothies, and it means we haven’t bought any more plastic straws.

Cost: think the straws cost a few quid from Flying Tiger, 0p since 

Fruit and veg boxes from Hadleigh Market

I can’t pretend I continued carting my own containers round the market, fish van and butchers, to buy food without single use plastic. Surprise, surprise – the plastic-free changes that didn’t stick were the ones that took the most effort.

It was particularly difficult recently, when we were self-isolating during lockdown, and relied on supermarket deliveries. However, I was also extremely grateful for weekly fruit and veg box deliveries by Carl from Hadleigh Market. The boxes may not have been completely plastic free but certainly reduced our plastic waste.  Since then, I’ve continued trying to make it to the market on Friday mornings.

Cost: probably more expensive but great quality and a huge help

Plastic free swaps that didn’t stick

Other changes that didn’t stick included shopping at a refill store – enjoyed the experience, but a long drive and I wish we had one closer. The beeswax wraps drifted to the bottom of the drawer, as I used wider cling film to cover some food in the fridge. I also resented paying the extra expense of some plastic-free products, like the plastic-free tampons and Lush shampoo and conditioner bars. 

So repeating Plastic Free July is the chance to renew my efforts to reduce our single-use plastic waste. 

Now – over to you. What changes do you recommend to reduce single-use plastic? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!


Previous posts:

Plastic Free July son a budget

Tips from my first week of plastic free-food shopping

10 simple swaps for plastic-free products around the house

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  1. Evelyn
    19th July 2020 / 10:06 am

    Have a look at soap savers. They’re a mesh thing that goes in the bottom of your soap dish so the soap can dry out easier. Admittedly they aren’t as cheap as your solution but they’ve worked well for us. Although the downside I’ve discovered is I’m impatient to use up the soap so I can use the posh one I got and with the soap saver it’s taking forever!

  2. Milly
    29th July 2020 / 10:05 am

    What about a Mooncup for periods? It is a washable silicon (I think) cup that you tip out, wash and reuse. I bought one 15 years ago for about £20 and still use it, it is a no brainer!

  3. 20th March 2021 / 9:09 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas. I think that living as plastic-free as possible is challenging but it is important for all of us to do what we can because plastic waste sticks around in the environment for hundreds of years, threatening wildlife and contributing to global warming.

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