Looking to ditch plastic? Me too! Sadly, it’s almost everywhere – in our kitchens, in our bathrooms, even in our clothes… But things are changing! There are more and more plastic-free swaps coming out, and I’ve found so many of these alternatives to be an easy switch to make.
Right now, there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, and millions more on-land. It’s going to take a lot of work to retrieve and recycle all of these (with much of it being un-recyclable), and at the same time we have to stop making more virgin plastic. Hopefully, by changing our habits, we can show big businesses that we don’t want any more plastic garbage…
I’ve previously written a guide to going plastic-free, but today I wanted to share like-for-like swaps, so you can work your way through these ideas and work out what’s best for you. While avoiding plastic is a brilliant thing to do for the planet, household waste only accounts for 11% of all waste in the UK, meaning we need big businesses to also reduce their plastic and landfill waste! Sign FOE’s Petition to make that happen, and scroll down for my recommendations…
40 Plastic-Free Swaps You Can Make at Home
So, here’s my big guide to plastic-free swaps. It’s full of personal recommendations, with many products being ones I use myself. I’ve also avoided recommending refills from zero-waste shops, which I love to do, but I know it’s not a very accessible option for many of you (and even I find it a bit of a fuss!)
Plastic-Free Swaps in the Kitchen
Milk: Right now I like to drink oat milk and hemp milk, both of which come in Tetra Pak (which is made with plastic). I’m hoping to switch to a glass bottle delivery service like M*lkman, and it’s worth checking what’s available in your area.
Coffee: Percol is the brand I think of when I think of plastic-free coffee. They’re the first brands to receive the Plastic Free Mark, and also were the first coffee to be Fairtrade certified too.
Tea: The tea world is clamouring to be more eco – just this week I found out PG Tips now use biodegradable bags, Yorkshire Tea is carbon-neutral, and Clipper do a plastic-free tea bag (that ironically comes in plastic foil). My faves are Pukka, who are completely plastic-free.
Food: Groceries are a big area to tackle when going plastic-free. My routine is to go into the supermarket, get as much of my shopping loose or in cardboard, and then head over to my greengrocers for the rest. Soon you’ll be able to find the Plastic-Free Mark on items, but until then, try a combined approach, or even a shop online with Ethical Superstore*, Farmdrop* or Good Club.
Chocolate: If you want good plastic-free chocolate, go for Divine*! Not only do they use recyclable packaging, they’re also Fairtrade and are part-owned by their cocoa farmers in Ghana.
Coffee Cup: Go for reusable coffee cups all the way – I have a few favourites: Chilly’s, KeepCup*, Stelton*, and Stojo.
Water Bottle: Another easy swap (that you’ve probably already made!). Ditch the BPA-riddled single-use plastic bottles and go for a reusable one. My faves are Black and Blum*, Chilly’s, Dopper and WakeCup*.
Cling Film: I ditched cling film over two years ago now, and I’ve made do with three simple pieces of wax wrap instead. These are pieces of cloth, covered in beeswax. Mine are from Lily Bee Wrap (gifted), although if don’t want to use beeswax, go for vegan food wrap*, or make your own wrap.
Disposable Cutlery: There’s no real reason to use disposable cutlery if you have reusable cutlery on hand! I have a metal magnetic set from Joseph Joseph*, although if you prefer wooden cutlery go for Bambu*.
Straws: Simplest swap to a plastic straw: no straw at all. I used to have a set of metal ones but I had waiters walk off with it still in my glass – twice. If you do need a straw, go for a glass or metal straw*.
Cleaning Products: In my guide to eco cleaning products, I showcased two brands reducing on plastic: Clothes Doctor, and Splosh who does refill pouches. If you really want to go plastic-free, why not try soap nuts!
Cleaning Brushes: Most places do wooden cleaning brushes now, although I particularly like my set gifted from EcoCoconut*, made using coconut coir.
Plastic-Free Swaps in the Bathroom
Hairbrush: Go back to a traditional wooden hairbrush like mine gifted from Net Zero Co – they’re better for hair health too!
Shampoo: I’m going to be honest, I still love liquid shampoo, and that often comes in plastic. To switch, go for shampoo bars (I like Ethique’s bars the most), or refillable metal bottles from Beauty Kitchen*.
Cleanser: Similarly, you can get a cleanser bar, but my favourite plastic-free cleanser has to be M.O.A. Green Balm* that you use with a hot cloth. Smells amazing and makes my skin so happy!
Makeup Remover: One of the best beauty swaps is Dr. Hauschka’s makeup remover*. It feels nice, smells nice, and really does the job.
Cotton Pads: Alongside makeup remover, be sure to get washable cotton rounds to replace cotton pads! I got mine from EKKO Skin (gifted) and they’re far softer than the towel ones I was using previously.
Cotton Buds: I covered this in my guide to eco-friendly cotton buds, but there’s basically two types of bud that avoid plastic: ones with bamboo stems, and others with cardboard stems. I prefer bamboo as the cardboard tends to bend, and I’m looking into reusable buds* too.
Toothbrush: I switched to bamboo toothbrushes* in early 2018, and they’ve done me well since then (my orthodontist even sells them!) However, you still have to remove the bristles as these are still plastic. I’m hoping to try Tooth eco brushes next, which has a reusable handle and biodegradable head!
Toothpaste: My toothpaste is still predominantly in a plastic tube, although I did work my way through a pot of Georganics Charcoal Toothpaste* previously. It’s definitely different to regular paste, so I’m still looking for a good like-for-like swap.
Deodorant: There are so many good natural deodorants out there, but my favourite plastic-free ones are from Earth Conscious*, Elsa’s Organic Skinfoods*, and The Natural Deodorant Co*.
Shower Gel: The simplest swap I’ve made is to switch out shower gel, and go for soap. Even better if you use scrubby gloves or a sponge!
Razor: Last year, I started trying out shaving with a metal safety razor, and while I’m pleased to say it works well, it does take some getting used to. If you’re not ready to switch, try an electric shaver instead, and save on disposables.
Tampons: This is one I get asked about a lot – and thankfully there are so many options! Personally I use a menstrual cup, period pants the most. If you’d rather not, go for Grace & Green‘s plastic-free range (and make sure to sign Ella Daish’s petition to stop period plastic!)
Toilet Paper: There’s no real reason why toilet paper should come in plastic wrapping. Switch to Cheeky Panda* or Who Gives A Crap*, or check your supermarket for own-brand paper packed TP.
Makeup: I’m going to be honest, my makeup bag is still pretty plastic heavy. That said, there are a few great plastic-free brands out there to try: Acala, Aether Beauty, Kjaer Weis*, and Zao all do plastic-free packaging with clean ingredients and are cruelty-free too.
Skincare: There’s so many brands making skincare in glass bottles, but my favourite is Evolve Beauty* – high quality, handmade in small batches with clean ingredients that really work.
Perfume: Two plastic-free perfumes I’m loving right now: Floral Street* and socially-focused Sana Jardin* (gifted).
Hair Bands: If you’re looking for simple hairbands made without plastic, for for Kooshoo*, or get a fancy recycled scrunchie like mine from Fabrico (gifted).
Swaps You Can Make Elsewhere…
Bedding: Next on my wishlist is beautiful plastic-free, organic, natural bedding from Panda Bedding*. One day, one day!
Clothing: If you’re looking to avoid plastic-based materials in your clothes, take a read of my guide to sustainable fabrics. This Girlcott Plastic t-shirt (gifted) is an example of just that: organic cotton base, lyocell thread, and fair production methods too.
Clothes Pegs: A small item you may not have thought of is pegs. Go for bamboo pegs* or head on over to a small corner shop to find the more traditional wooden ones.
Confetti: Go for flower petals!
Home Insulation: Springbond, who scooped an award in the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards last year, make insulation from recycled materials.
Microfibres: If you’re concerned about washing plastic-based fabrics, get a Guppy Friend Bag*. I’m trialling one at the moment – can’t wait to do a full review.
Nappies: In my guide to eco parenting, my friend Bertille shared her favourite reusable nappy brands, as well as the huge impact you can make by switching out just a few disposable nappies per day.
Phone Case: Go for a biodegradable phone case! You can choose from Pela*, Skech, or my new favourites, A Good.
Plasters: New to me are PATCH* (gifted), a bamboo-based plaster that comes in a cardboard tube. They’re cute, they stick well, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back!
Shopping Bag: Ah, it’s the old tote bag of course! I’ve been rocking one since I was 14 (although at that time it said “Peace Love Planet” on the side and I just thought it looked cool…)
Wrapping Paper: Switch out traditional plastic-coated wrapping paper for brown paper – as I did for Christmas! – or a reusable cloth wrap*.
We’re Not Done Yet…
I may have been on this sustainable journey for five years now, but that doesn’t mean we’re done yet! There are plenty of places that I still struggle. Plastic-free swaps I’m yet to find:
- Bin bags
- Regular toothpaste
…and a few others that I can’t remember right now but will probably add! I think this illustrates how we can’t be perfect in our personal mission to be eco, but we can ask for better at the places we shop.
Keep on keeping on, and do let me know if there’s any great swaps I’ve missed off the list in the comments!
Disclaimer: This post contains gifted products (denoted 'gifted') and affiliate links (denoted '*')
“Nothing Wasted” and “Brushd” do fantastic plastic-free toothpaste tabs in the UK. I believe there are similar tabs for mouthwash but I haven’t tried them yet!
Thanks for the recommendations Dani! I love what Brushd are doing, and Nothing Wasted is a new brand to me – will check them out!
The co-op are doing a soft plastic recycling unit at some stores. Worth a look https://www.coop.co.uk/environment/soft-plastics
Thanks for sharing H! I spotted this last week and shared on Twitter, good to have it here too. Happy Plastic-Free July!
Hey! I work for Eco Pen Club, I just wanted to say there are heaps of plastic free swaps for sunscreen – especially the brand where I am (Australia). Its not our main, but its definitely big. It’s reef-safe, microbead-free and the packaging is actually a tin – its called SunButter.
Thanks for sharing Emily! Will see if SunButter is available in the UK/Europe and update the list if so!
Depends on the size of your household and therefore your bins, but we use compost caddy liners in our bins, made from vegetable starch.
Thanks for the recommendation Amy! Are those for full-size bins, or just the compost caddies?
there is toothpaste bites which are good and there is mouth wash bite as well which come in a glass container and you add a little bit of water to them mix and wash
Thanks for the recommendations Abby – I’ll keep an eye out for the bites!
Hey with the bin bag thing you can get recycled plastic bin bags – not plastic free but still
This is still a good leap forward! Thanks Susannah, I’ll keep an eye out.
I buy a lot of things that come in plastic bags, unfortunately. E.g. toilet paper, protein powder etc. I then use those bags as bin bags.
Hi Rebecca, thanks for the comment – I think some of that plastic is unavoidable, so it’s great you’re at least repurposing it. Hopefully the list gave you a few ideas on where to find plastic-free items, for example toilet roll that comes without a plastic bag!