At #PlasticPatrol we are big believers that little changes can make big differences, and a great example of this is product choice in the bathroom. Does your bathroom have shelves littered with little plastic containers, plastic toothbrushes, razors, and shampoo bottles? How many of these personal care products do you really need, and how can you reduce the amount of plastic in the room? These great tips below outline simple ways of reducing the plastic footprint of your bathroom routine. You may own a few products that you ‘cannot live without’ and making changes can be difficult, so experiment and try out some of these eco alternatives to see what works for you. Or take the leap and go completely plastic free!
- Use shampoo bars
You may well have heard of shampoo bars, which are all the craze right now. So, what exactly are shampoo bars? They are a form of solid shampoo, with zero packaging and zero waste, unlike the bottles of liquid shampoo and conditioner. Being more concentrated than liquid shampoo, less is needed per wash, making it a very cost-effective purchase. Lush produces a large range of colourful shampoo bar varieties, and claims that by creating the solid alternative it has saved nearly six million plastic bottles a year. Other companies to look out for include Soapnuts, which uses natural soaps found in dried fruit shells, The Funky Soap Company, or PureChimp, whose products can be easily purchased online.
- Brushing your teeth
It’s recommended that you change your toothbrush every three months; if you follow this advice you will have used 320 toothbrushes by the time you reach 80 years old! This part of our daily routine sees billions of plastic toothbrushes headed to rubbish dumps or waterways every year. Using an electric toothbrush whose detachable heads are half the size of a normal toothbrush, will help to reduce the problem, but not solve it. Could you go one step further and use plastic free bamboo toothbrushes? These are totally biodegradable and can be thrown away on your compost heap. Beware of nylon bristles which need to be pulled out before composting – but can be recycled.
- Stop using exfoliating scrubs!
You may not know that the gritty particles in exfoliating scrubs that remove dead skin and leave you with lovely smooth skin, are in fact plastic. Commonly known as ‘microbeads’, these tiny pieces of plastic wash straight down the drain. Their small size means that they are not removed by water treatment filters, and invariably end up in the ocean where they are mistaken for food by filter-feeding animals such as plankton and some fish. Luckily for you, and marine life, exfoliation can be achieved without rubbing yourself with plastic. Flora & Fauna International have developed ‘The Good Scrub Guide’, listing products free from microbeads currently available in the UK. If you are on the go, the ‘Beat The Microbead’ app allows you to scan the barcode of a scrub to see if it is hiding plastic within – very handy! Avoid anything with ‘polyethylene’ listed as an ingredient. This means plastic.
Instead of using an exfoliating scrub, try a body brush, which does the same job and improves circulation at the same time. A bonus is their wooden handles and zero packaging!
- Make the switch from plastic to metal razors
This is an easy choice that we can all make. Using endless disposable plastic razors makes lots of plastic waste. Stainless steel razors however can be recycled, last longer, and will also save you money in the long run. Seems a no-brainer to me!
- Shave with soap, not canned foam
Perhaps not as easy to do as giving up your plastic razors, but think of all the saved packaging, bottles, and lids! Using a solid soap bar can work up just as good a lather as the popular foams and gels, and luckily are readily available both online or in stores.
- Buy toilet paper without plastic packaging
We all go to the loo, it’s a fact of life. But why is it so hard to go to the toilet plastic free? Finding toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped up in plastic is a bit of a nightmare, and you will probably have to order it online. Greencane toilet paper can be ordered by the case from www.ethicalsuperstore.com, and as well as the packaging being plastic free and 100% biodegradable, there are also no inks, fragrances, or plastic in the products themselves. If sourcing these loo roll packs proves tricky, buy it in bulk, to reduce the quantity of plastic packaging.
- Have your period plastic-free
Ladies, did you know that in your lifetime you will use an average of 12,000-16,000 disposable feminine hygiene products, of which 90% of the materials used contain plastic? A plastic pad or applicator can take 100 years to degrade. In the UK alone, more than three billion sanitary items are bought every year, so by making your time of the month plastic free, you could make a real difference. Alternatives to pads and tampons with plastic lining or packaging are re-usable cotton pads, tampons with cardboard applicators, or internal menstrual ‘mooncups’. Though the latter may seem uncomfortable to some, and perhaps messy, this toxin-free, easy-to use, and money-saving alternative is gradually converting the masses, and is a good step forward in the battle to reduce waste.
- Buy in bulk, or re-fill containers
If plastic packaging or containers are unavoidable, go super-sized. The bigger the container, the longer it will last, and the less packaging you’ll throw away over time. Some stores will let you take back containers to be re-filled – if you are going to use plastic, make it last.
This may seem obvious, but according to ‘The Recycle Now’ campaign, only 50% of packaging is recycled in the bathroom compared to nearly 90% in the kitchen. Much of this difference is due to confusion over what can and can’t be recycled. You can recycle your empty shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and moisturiser bottles, aerosols for deodorant and shaving foam, bathroom cleaning bottles, the list goes on. Re-cycling does not solve the problem, but can dramatically reduce wastage and energy. For example, to make a plastic shampoo bottle from recycled plastic rather than virgin materials, 75% less energy is used. I know we all forget sometimes, but to help you remember, put a re-cycling bin in the bathroom.
- Cut down on your bathroom products
Less is more! Perhaps the simplest way to cut down on plastics in the bathroom is to use less products. Are your shelves lined with different creams, gels and salves, of which some you rarely use? Think about what products you can do without, or double up on. Do you need a separate face wash, shower gel, hand soap, or could one good quality block of handmade soap do the job? By gradually reducing the number of items that you use, and just sticking with the essentials, you can save time, money, and of course the plastic that they come in.
To find more plastic-free products or ideas to re-invent your bathroom cabinet, check out ‘The Plastic Challenge Shop’ (www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge) by the Marine Conservation Society. This site has lists of many plastic free items, from natural deodorants, to bamboo cotton swabs and cotton pads and panty-liners, as well as where to buy them.