Alternative Products to Plastic

After 6 months of attempting to change to a plastic-free lifestyle (aiming to eventually be zero waste), I have found a lot more alternative products than I ever thought possible!

This is an update to my original post which only had about 4 items on it’s list!
Our oil reserves are not renewable. There will be a time when we have to dramatically change the way we live when these reserves reach a critical point, or run out. As plastics are made from crude oil, by minimising the plastics I use I’m minimising the use of new oil. Many plastics are newly made rather than using the recycled plastic.

When plastic is left in a landfill it leaches toxic chemicals into the surrounding soils, which is then washed into the water course when it inevitably rains. Due to this toxic chemicals are commonly found in out oceans as well as in our water supply, which can cause harm to both animals and humans. (

  1. Cotton buds

“My first mission was to replace the everyday cotton buds with plastic sticks to some without, mainly because they are often too small for the sewage filters and hence end up out at sea and washed up on our beaches.”

12918m_lAlthough I was very unsuccessful at first, I have now found products with paper sticks and with bamboo sticks, which are biodegradable! These can go in your compost and hence reduce the waste produced. Off the highstreet Boots produces paper based cotton buds (although their packaging still has a plastic window). I am reluctant to buy everything online as I am very aware that this increases my CO2 consumption by transporting the goods from further afield.

2. Make-up remover.

Previously I had used make-up remover wipe which are disposable after one use (but instead use them until they were full up). No more. I went on the hunt for reusable pads with liquid/gel remover (preferably recycled plastic). Finding reusable pads was more difficult than I originally anticipated as many of the packets were also made from plastic. This was when I found this:

I can make my own reuseable pads using recycled fabrics! I have succcessfully made a number of these which can be washed and hence reduce waste.

Now just the challenge of finding a non-plastic make-up remover…. the hunt continues.

3. Bottles from toiletries.

Many of these are made from non-recycled materials and in many places the plastic is non-recyclable as well. I’ve found numerous local stores (as well as Lush, M&S and Tesco) who sell soaps in cardboard/paper packaging. That seemed to be the easy part.

However shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, mouthwash, cleansers and moisturisers have often been problem items. I have recently found that Lush accepts back it’s bottles to reuse themselves. Their range includes shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, cleansers and moisturisers. So I’ve been shopping there a lot more than I used to!

I’m still stuck on a few items like nail polish remover and mouthwash, and have recently been going without, which is a good solution, but not necessarily the one

For a while I toyed with the idea of upcycling bottles from toiletries, but this was firstly very difficult, and secondly, there were more bottles than I could cope with.

4. Say no to plastic bags

Although there has been a plastic bag ban throughout the UK, this only applies to large chain stores, and many have tried to get around this by making bags with no handles so they by-pass the law.

Prevent waste from entering your home, and then you won’t have to deal with it. Refusing packaging also makes a public statement and educates people about zero waste. Take along reusable produce bags for small items that can’t be kept loose. I purchased some organic cotton mesh bags with a drawstring that can be easily laundered.

5. Buy food from local fruit/veg/bread stalls

This not only reduces the packaging (supermarkets tend to heavily package fruit and veg due to the distances it is traveling to get to the store, whereas local farmers/sellers tend to package in paper), but also helps the local farmers.

6. Set up a good backyard compost system


This is something which I have yet been unable to do, but is definitely something I would like to attempt as it would reduce my waste considerably. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a garden to do this with, but maybe sometime in the future.

7. Ditch the disposables

There’s no need to keep paper towels, paper napkins, garbage liners, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and disposable plates or cups in the kitchen. Though it may seem strange at first, you will always find reusable alternatives when the need arises. I find it’s better just to get rid of those ‘tempting’ items and make do without. It makes for a lot less stuff in the trash can.

The same goes for thing like disposable razors, tissues (which come in plastic handbag-size pouches), etc.

8. Never drink bottled water


Bottled water not only creates unnecessarily high amounts of waste, but it also costs you over 1000x more than drinking filtered water, is bad for your health (BPAs) and only 1 in 5 plastic bottles actually gets recycled. See my blog for more details:
And for alternatives:

9. Shop in bulk

The more items you can buy in bulk, the more you’ll save in packaging. So while some items are, unfortunately, very difficult to buy without packaging, it does reduce the amount of plastic that you are producing. While this mentality has been the norm for years at special bulk food stores, it’s fortunately becoming more common in supermarkets. You’ll save money in food costs and petrol costs.

14. Use natural cloths instead of plastic scrubbers


I’ve recently found that instead of plastic scrubbers there are a wide variety of alternatives, including coconut, copper, and metal scrubbers. I am just about to try the coconut scrubber as the metal ones scratched my pans…. and with the zero waste mind-set I don’t want them to run out before their lifespan. The coconut scrubber also has the added bonus of being degradable after it’s lifespan.

15. Use metal reusable straws rather than single-use plastic ones when out and about.

Many different fast food retailers (and many restaurants) use single-use straws continuously. Many of these straws actually find their way into the oceans via water courses. Even if they are placed into a landfill site, they can still be washed out during heavy rain, especially as they are such a small item. By saying no to single-use plastic straws you can reduce your plastic consumption and let others know that disposable single-use plastic is not okay.

16. Upcycle clothing

Although it used to be common practice to mend any tear or wear in any clothing, however this has become less and less common, with cheaper clothing and the throw-away society. People often want to be seen wearing clothing that does not look mended or worn, and in some cases, mending can be uncomfortable.“An estimated £100 million worth (based on 2015 prices) or around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.” ( Clothing accounts for 10% of the global carbon footprint, and hence to upcycle them can have a massive impact on the global carbon issue. “extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints” (

By mending clothing it can reduce this huge amount of waste. One items are too small, try selling them on or taking them to a charity shop. If they’re broken, why not try making them into new items, such as making jeans into shorts or skirts or bags, or making scraps of clothing into bookends, doorstops, scarves or bags.

See my blog for more info:


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