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