Tuesday 20 September 2016

100 ways to reduce your plastic use

Synthetic plastic has only been around since 1907 yet it is now found in almost every aspect of our lives.  Looking at my somewhat chaotic desk I can see plastic in or on all these items - the film covering books, a pack of labels and some chocolate I am trying hard not to eat, my laptop and mouse, my phone, a lamp, my glasses case,  a pen pot, a lighter, a flexi dog lead, sellotape and its holder, a tube of glue, a plastic bag full of loose change, a thermometer, a small pot, pens, scissors, a DVD case, the plastic coating on my spiral notepads ..... OK so I have a messy desk but it makes you realise how all pervading plastic is.  Recently I bought a jar of rollmop herrings.  I thought I was doing OK not buying plastic as they came in a glass jar with a metal lid but when I opened them I saw that the rolled herrings were no longer held together with a small wooden peg as previously but with a PLASTIC one.  Plastic is everywhere and this is not a good thing for us or our environment.

Why is Plastic Bad for the Environment?

1.  Plastic is made from non-renewable petrochemicals and natural gas whose extraction process produces large amounts of toxins that are harmful to wildlife and the workforce involved.
2.  Its manufacture adds to atmospheric CO2 levels leading to global warming.
3.  It is non biodegradable but it will break down to toxic components which can affect wildlife and enter our drinking water thus affecting us.
4. It is difficult to recycle so most ends up in landfill.  That plastic bottle you put in the recycling does not get made into a new bottle but gets down-cycled to polyester which is then not recyclable.
5.  It is a major constituent of litter - this is both unsightly and a danger to wildlife.  Much of this litter ultimately ends up in our oceans causing major problems to the marine ecosystem.  It is estimated that the weight of plastic in the oceans is equal to 50% of the total weight of marine life.

What can we do?

As we are today it would be almost impossible to completely remove all plastics from your life.  However there are many simple steps you can do to reduce your "plastic habit":

Ways to reduce plastic in your life:

Food and Drink, Shopping

1.  Buy food from bulk bins that use paper bags
2.  Store loose food in glass jars - mason or kilner jars look great
3.  Say no to fizzy drinks and water in plastic bottles
4.  Squeeze your own fruit juice
5.  Make your own coleslaw and other salads
6.  Buy loose fruit/veg not those that are pre-packed in plastic bags or trays
7.  You don't need to place a single fruit or veg you buy in a bag at all 
8.  Avoid ready meals
9.  Eat less take-aways
10.  Make your own ketchup/mayonnaise etc or buy these in glass bottles
11.  Stop chewing gum - it's made from plastic
12.  Grow some of your own food
13.  Shop at farmers' markets and take your own non plastic bags
14. Use local shops (butcher, baker etc) who will allow you to take your own non plastic bags
15.  Use you milk man
16.  Buy an ice cream cone rather than  plastic wrapped ice cream/lolly
17.  Make your own yoghurt
18.  Make your own snack bars, cakes and biscuits
19.  Avoid multi-packs with products wrapped in plastic film or cans with ring holders
20.  If you must buy something in plastic buy the biggest size possible which contains proportionally less plastic per kg/litre of product
21.  Buy wine with real corks, not plastic
22.  Buy refills which use less plastic packaging than new products
23.  Do not use coffee pods
24.  Do not buy individually plastic wrapped tea bags

Out and About 

25.  Say no to plastic straws in food outlets
26.  Say no to plastic bags in all shops, not just supermarkets
27.  If you find somewhere that doesn't use plastic throw away cutlery, tell the world about it via your friends and social media.  The Lost Gardens of Heligan use wooden cutlery, not plastic.
28.  Say no to "cardboard" coffee cups - they are lined with polyethylene aka plastic.  Take your own mug instead. 
29.  Take your own wooden chop sticks to your local Chinese restaurant. 
30.  Ask for a finger bowl and cloth instead of plastic wrapped wipes in restaurants
31.  Don't buy plastic wrapped magazines

Babies and Children

32.  Switch from disposable nappies to washable cloth ones
33.  Ditch disposable wipes and use a washable cloth
34.  Buy glass feeding bottles 
35.  Buy wooden toys 
36.  For pack lunches avoid plastic wrapped foods and offer sandwiches wrapped in foil or greaseproof paper, a piece of fruit, a home-made snack and a drink in a reusable bottle.
37.  Pass on unwanted plastic toys to younger children/toy libraries/play groups etc


38.  Make your own cleaning products with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar ensuring these are bought in cardboard boxes and glass bottles
39.  Use washing powder sold in cardboard boxes rather than washing liquid
40.  Use soap nuts or washing balls instead of washing liquid
41.  You don't need wipes - use a washable cloth 
42.  Use dishwasher tabs in biodegradable film

Personal Care

43.  Ditch disposable razors for a metal safety razor or go hirsute 
44.  Use a bar of soap not liquid soap in a plastic bottle
45.  Use shampoo bas
46.  Stop using shower gels that contain micro beads - these are made from polyethylene i.e. plastic
47.  Buy wooden handled tooth brushes
48.  Buy a wooden handled hairbrush 
49.  Use washable menstrual products
50.  Make your own remedies for minor ailments eg elderberry port for sore throats stored in a glass bottle
51.  Use a handkerchief not plastic wrapped tissues
52.  Give up smoking!


53.  Avoid clothes and shoes made from synthetic materials
54.  Make your own clothes using old materiel when you can or upcycling old clothes to new
55.  Buy second hand clothes that have minimal plastic packaging

Around the house

56.  Use glass, metal or wooden storage containers
57.  Use wooden or metal cooking utensils
58.  Do you really need to bag it before you bin it? 
59.  If it's broken can you mend it?
60.  Say no to junk mail - sign up to The Mail Preference Service
61.  Download music and films instead of buying CDs and DVDs
62.  Use matches not a disposable lighter
63.  When doing DIY and house renovations go for natural products - wooden door frames, cotton curtains etc
64.  Use old sheets as dust covers not new plastic ones
65.  Wash and reuse that plastic freezer bag

At work

66.  Take in your own mug for water and drinks from the machines
67.  Use all paper jiffy bags, not those with plastic inside
68.  Buy envelopes without plastic windows
69.  Go for paperless billing to avoid plastic window envelopes 
70.  Buy a "real" pen that uses a refill
71.  Do not upgrade to a new phone etc.  You were quite happy with your old one when you first got it! 


72.  So no to plastic pet toys
73.  Avoid plastic feed bowls
74.  Avoid pet food in plastic sachets
75.  Make your own pet treats

Christmas, Easter, birthdays etc

76.  Give service gifts such as a free baby sitting night, evening at the theatre, a meal out, sponsor a child or support a wildlife/environmental charity
77.  Wrap gifts without sellotape - use raffia or string and get creative.
78.  Make decorations from natural materials
79.  Make plastic free gifts such as preserves and handmade clothes/accessories
80.  Send e-cards
81.  At parties ask guests to bring their own cutlery and crockery rather than supplying plastic throw away ones
82.  Make your own chocolate gifts at Easter to avoid all that plastic
83.  Avoid buying online where products are often sent with lots of plastic wrapping 
84.  Grow your own flowers/pot plants as gifts

In the garden

85.  Use terracotta or biodegradable plant pots 
86.  Re-purpose plastic fruit/veg trays as seed trays
87.  Re-purpose yoghurt pots as seedling pots
88.  Use plastic bottles to help direct water to the roots tomato plants etc - details here: water-wise tomatoes
89.  Use polystyrene as crocks in your plant pots
89.  Make your own labels from plastic bottles or buy those made from natural materials

In Summary

For the foreseeable future plastic is going to be part of our everyday lives but we can take steps to reduce how much we use which can be summarised thus:

90.  Get into the habit of seeing where plastic exists is the first step to reducing how much of it you have in your life
91.  Think before you buy and switch to non plastic alternatives where possible - silicone is a safer option
92.  Re-use the plastic you do have as much as you can
93.  Upcycle plastic into new things
94.  Ask yourself "Do I really need to buy this plastic product?" 
95.  Write to manufacturers to say you are boycotting their plastic based products or packaging
96.  If you must buy plastic then look for second hand rather than new
97.  Work towards eliminating single use plastic in your life
98.  If you have to buy a plastic item (not something in plastic packaging) make it the best quality possible to ensure it lasts as long as possible
99. If you follow the 4 Rs you will help reduce your plastic use - reduce, re-use, repair and recycle (the first 3 being the most important).
100.   Finally and perhaps most important of all we need a fifth R - Raising awareness.  When people are aware of a problem they are much better placed to find a solution so please, share this post and let's help everyone to reduce their plastic habit.

Post Comment Love


  1. Hi Rosie, that is one hell of a list you've made! I think there is a lot of plastic used needlessly. I always put my fruit and veg into paper bags, when I'm shopping and will avoid them if possible. And I do have a box in the boot of the car to reduce the need for bags at all when shopping.

    The fact that the amount of plastic in the sea could equal 50% of the mass of the marine animals is quite shocking. It will take a long time before things change, but if we all do our little bit, it will all help.... Including the amount of plastic water bottles are disposed of in Greece! Tap water is still not drinkable in most places and where we live the earthquakes have damaged the free water supply pipes making it not really drinkable.


    1. It is nigh on impossible to make our lives plastic free but this list hows there is plenty we can do to reduce our dependence on it.

  2. I will be going through this with a fine-toothed comb. I know my family should reduce it's reliance on plastic. I have to say, I intensely dislike it when stores over-package fruit and veg in plastic boxes. So unnecessary. #TheList

    1. Yes, it is the unnecessary plastic that annoys me the most.

  3. What an amazing list! I'm pleased to say that I do some of these things and I think it's so important to cut back on the use of plastic but there are some more that I think I can start changing straight away now I'm thinking about it. #PoCoLo

  4. I am with you 100% and we definitely need to reduce plastic. A very though provoking list and I will be implementing some for sure. X

  5. Wow what an extensive list. Great tips. Thanks for linking up to #TheList x

    1. It was only meant to be a short list but grew and grew!

  6. Great list Rosie. And I learnt at the weekend that those plastic covered dishwasher tablets aren't good for the dishwasher either, as they gunk up the machine and can cause it to fail, so it's much better to use dishwasher powder, which if I'm honest I didn't even know existed. Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

    1. I didn't know about the potential problems with those dishwasher tabs (which is what I use) or about dishwasher powder. I shall have to do some investigating.


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