How to go plastic-free on a budget
By 2050 there could be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Do you know how much plastic you throw away? Here’s how to reduce your plastic use while saving yourself some cash.
Single-use plastic is just about everywhere you look. Whether you’re buying a sandwich, some loo roll, or a toothbrush, you’re probably buying plastic that you’ll end up chucking in the bin.
The big sticking point is that plastic is often the cheapest and most convenient option for products and packaging. Opting for the eco-friendly choice often means spending more money… Or does it?
Plastic-free living is actually not quite as difficult as you might initially think. We’ve listed the best ways to cut down on plastic while also saving money.
Why go plastic-free?
Almost everything we buy contains plastic in some form. The big problem is that this plastic never really goes away.
Here are some key stats* that shows how serious the plastic pollution problem is:
- Around eight million pieces of plastic pollution enter our oceans every single day.
- 50% of plastic is used once and then thrown away. It cannot biodegrade and ends up in our oceans where it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics.
- Research suggests that 14 million tons of microplastic exist on our ocean floors.
- A plastic bottle can last 450 years in our oceans. It will eventually become microscopic, but it will never go away.
- One in three fish caught in the UK is thought to contain plastic. Not only are our fish ingesting these microplastics, but we likely are too.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France. It would take 67 ships one year to clean up less than 1% of it.
07 ways to use less plastic
Here are the best and cheapest ways to go plastic-free:
1. Use an eco-friendly shampoo bar
To go zero waste on a budget, one of the best ways to start is by getting shampoo bars instead of bottles of shampoo.
Shampoo bars can be free from plastic packaging, they last longer and they’re easy to use. Win-win-win.
It’s worth trying one from an independent seller on Etsy. Or, if you’d rather stick with a big-brand name, you could try Lush. They have loads to choose from so you can get one that matches your hair type.
2. Replace face wipes with a face cloth
Face wipes might be convenient. But sadly, they’re expensive and really bad for the environment. They’re single-use and come in plastic packaging. Plus, it’s generally thought that they’re not as effective at cleaning your skin as regular face wash and water. You can buy a couple of washable cloths for your face and another two or three for your body. That way, you’ll still have fresh, clean ones while the other ones are in the wash.
3. Buy sustainable bars of soaps
It might seem a tad old-fashioned to use a bar of soap instead of a pump but, it’ll last much longer. And it gets a wash after each use (unlike a plastic soap dispenser). Just make sure to find a bar that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. Again, you could look on sites like Etsy for independent soap sellers who use sustainable packaging.
4. Use a wooden toothbrush
Wooden toothbrushes aren’t to everyone’s tastes (we mean literally, it can feel a bit like licking a tree). But they’re much more eco-friendly than regular plastic toothbrushes. Brushes from Save Some Green have handles made from (panda-friendly, sustainable) bamboo. On top of that, the bristles are BPA-free** biodegradable nylon 4 (meaning they are plastic, but they will degrade), and they’re also infused with bamboo. At the time of writing, they were around £2.50 each. You can get them a bit cheaper if you buy them in bulk.
5. Use deodorant bars
Like the other plastic-free toiletry bars on this list, you can get deodorant bars from Etsy and Lush. Although they might take a little while to get used to, they’re more environmentally friendly than using a plastic roll-on or spray can. They last quite a while too. Keeping your bar wrapped in paper will help to preserve its scent.
6. Buy plastic-free makeup
It can be quite difficult to go plastic-free with makeup when all the major cosmetics brands use plastic, but there are alternatives out there. For example, Glow Organic has a large range of plastic-free make-up.
You might not get quite the same level of quality that you might with bigger brands, but you’ll get that extra glow knowing that you’re saving the planet.
7. Try a reusable menstrual cup
If you’re looking for a way to cut plastic out of your periods and save money, you could try out a menstrual cup or reusable sanitary pads (if they work for you). We recommend sticking with the leading menstrual cup brands like Mooncup or Lunette so that you know they use safe materials. Lunette also offers a 15% student discount. We’ve rounded up the cheapest sanitary products in our full guide. It includes reusable options.
As with most things – like quitting smoking or cutting out junk food – it’s better to take small steps that you can maintain over a long period of time, rather than go cold turkey for a week and cut out every plastic product from your life immediately.
So while going completely plastic-free might not be feasible for everyone, we can all take small steps to start phasing plastic out of our lives. This will put pressure on companies to stop selling us plastic at every available opportunity.