The ultimate guide to a plastic free life

A Guide to Living with Less Plastic

As David Attenborough said — “[We] now have the choice to create a planet that we can all be proud off, Our Planet, the perfect home for ourselves and the rest of life on earth. We have a plan, we know what to do. There is a path to sustainability. If enough people can see the path, we may just start down it in time”.

Only 9% of all plastics in the world is recycled. It is literally everywhere and the effects of this cheap, non-eco friendly, non-biodegradable material can be seen across our planet from oceans, rain forests, cities, towns, and villages. Plastic is filling up landfills across the globe for decades — and it’s not decomposing anytime soon.

We use 1.6 million barrels of oil in order to produce plastic water bottles, which takes over 450 years to decompose. Talk about a massive carbon footprint! While most household plastic items can take 1’000 years to decompose, plastic bags — an item used by many, takes 10’000 years to decompose.

The Time it Takes for Items to Decompose

Household Item Time Taken to Decompose
Plastic bottles 450 years
Clothing 3 months – 40 years
Sanitary pads 500 – 800 years
Tin cans 50 years
Coffee cups 50 years
Batteries 100 years
Aluminum cans 200 – 250 years
Styrofoam Does not biodegrade
Tinfoil Does not biodegrade

How to Reduce Plastic Waste

Living a plastic-free life is something we should all consider — but I get it. It can be a bit daunting. Start off small, and tackle small sections within your house, Maria Kondo style.

To start you off, incorporate the 5 R’s. These are, Reduce / Reuse / Refuse / Recycle / Rot. Your best bet is to begin with the most problematic areas, the two being the kitchen and the bathroom as they tend to contain the highest percentage of plastic within the average household.

Steps Towards A Plastic Free Bathroom

From toothpaste tubes, shampoo bottles and plastic toothbrushes, the plastic waste in the bathroom is unreasonable. Here are a few tips on choosing alternatives to plastic.

  1. Cotton buds are made from polypropylene and are therefore largely made of plastic. They have such a bad effect on the environment as many people flush them down the toilet, which eventually makes their way into the sea. They are also one of the top ten items found on beaches. As a result, governments are aiming to ban them. You can take action on your next grocery trip, by purchasing 100% cotton buds with a wooden or bamboo handle.
  2. Shampoo, conditioner and shower gels are always sold in plastic containers. So, to combat this, opt for finding these products in disposable plastic packaging, or switch to solid soap bars.
  3. Lush are a great brand to reduce plastic waste in your bathroom. They sell shampoo, conditioner and shower gels in solid form. If you’ve bleach blonde hair and aim to keep those brassy tones away, they also sell purple shampoo and conditioner in solid form. I swear by it, but it does take time to get used to it seeing as it doesn’t contain sulfate that helps lather the product in your hair.
  4. Bath Bombs are another product that typically comes in plastic packaging. Lush is known for their amazing bath bomb smells and colors. Hempskins, an Irish CBD and Hemp cosmetics company sells whole plant-based, handmade (with love), vegan-friendly and cruelty-free bath bombs that are beautifully packaged, and guess what, plastic-free!
  5. According to Eco Planet Bamboo, “in the US alone between 850 million and over a billion toothbrushes , representing over 50 million pounds weight (22 million kgs) of waste, are discarded and end up in landfills each year”. To help combat this, purchase biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo, wood, or take a smaller step and just replace the head of your electric toothbrush.

Steps Towards A Plastic Free Kitchen

The kitchen is the busiest room in the house, and naturally — the room where there is plenty of storage, which probably means, plenty of plastic items. All of which could be switched out for non-plastic items.

For example, we’ve all seen the yellow sponges with the coarse/scouring green side. It’s more than likely that you own a few yourself, right? These little guys seem totally harmless, but the fact of the matter is that they are made from petroleum. They shed microplastic in our drains as they start to break down.

Here are items you could swap out in your kitchen.

  1. There are plenty of plastic free sponges on the market which are usually around 5quid The Plastic Free Shop sells a range of house cleaning goods from organic cotton sponges, coconut fiber brushes, to 100% organic bamboo reusable multi-purpose wipes.
  2. Hemp is a great versatile plant that can be crafted into almost anything. Choosing 100% hemp-based products is also an option (this includes clothing and grocery bags too). For the kitchen, you could make a choice in buying hemp kitchen towels, aprons and napkins.
  3. Change your shopping habits. Many produce in supermarkets are contained in plastic packaging. As a result, your weekly shop will consist of a plastic nightmare. Trying to source produce that doesn’t contain such packaging can be a difficult task. It might mean that you may have to shop elsewhere. Your local farmers market is a great place to start. Make sure you bring your own reusable bag, such as a hemp bag or a mesh cotton bag to hold your fruit and veg. Read the small print on the products you’re not sure off. (Google is your friend for this one). Avoid the ingredients that are causing harm in today’s world such as palm oil and sugar.
  4. If you’ve got kids who are at the age where ceramic plates and mugs are out of the question, and it’s your natural instinct to go for plastic plates, spoons, cups etc. Try switching to cups, bowls, plates and cutlery made out of bamboo. This goes for those pesky plastic straws too! Reusable straws are the new “in thing”, whether they are made from stainless steel or paper. Their impact on marine life has been detrimental, as a result, the EU plan to make plastic straws illegal by 2020.
  5. Switch out your cleaning products. Standard cleaning products and full of toxins. Glass cleaner, oven cleaner, smelly spray stuff, stain remover — they’ve all come in plastic bottles. Why not make your own from natural ingredients which you can store in glass containers? It’s cheaper, one less trip to the grocery store, and if you love DIY, then it’s totally up your alley. For most cleaning products, all you need are:
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice (for smell and bleach
  • Essential oils
  • Natural salt
  • White vinegar

While these are big lifestyle changes — every small step towards making your home that little bit more plastic free is a step closer to a sustainable planet.