Plastic is everywhere in our daily lives and consumption habits.
UK supermarkets produce 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year and because plastic does not breakdown or degrade it ends up in our waste, toilets and oceans.
Consider these consumption statistics.
- It has been estimated that 1.5‐2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets.
- Around 5.5 billion disposable razors are used annually in the UK.
- According to Zero Waste Week, the beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging; most non-recyclable and made of plastic
- To stop plastic cotton buds being flushed down the toilet instead of being binned, Waitrose supermarket saved 21 tonnes of plastic by switching to biodegradable cotton buds.
- Reduction in plastic use and consumption and waste is gradually occurring but more can be done.
- Harvard Business Review has been studying sustainable consumption for many years and discovered that telling shoppers that other people buying eco-friendly products led to a 65% increase in making at least one sustainable purchase.
So Earthbits, along with many industry experts, are attempting to influence others to change a little of their purchasing and consumption behaviour.
The question we asked experts
We recently reached out to 48 industry experts and asked them one question:
What’s the best actionable tip to reduce plastic or waste AT HOME starting TODAY ?
We had an amazing response from our experts all over the world; double the responses we expected in just 4 days.
And without further ado, here’s the tips our experts recommend to reduce plastic consumption and waste TODAY.
Swap out single use plastics in our bathrooms for reusables
One thing we can all do is swap out the single use plastics in our bathrooms for reusables.
Things like reusable cotton pads, or safety razors are much more economical in the long run & more environmentally friendly.
Reduce your waste & save money - win win.
Bake your own bread
Most bread contains lots of additives and comes in plastic so by baking your own bread you can reduce plastic and homebred bread taste better anyway.
CEO, Zero Waste FamilyLinks
Green vegetable smoothies from your local farmer
I admit it, I almost never reach my daily portion of fruit and vegetables at work and while traveling.
Especially on the road I want to try everything I can’t get at home.
But since I work from home every day and have extra time through the week and during the weekends, I take some extra care of myself.
Nowadays, I start every day with a green smoothie full of Belgian leafy vegetables and some fruit to sweeten it.
Our fruit bowl and refrigerator are loaded with apples, pears, spinach, salad, celery and so on.
After sipping vitamins for 2 weeks, I already notice a huge difference in my energy levels and happiness.
Founder & RebelLinks
Recycle your gadgets
One way of reducing e-waste in the environment, is to recycle your gadgets, like old phones or unused tablets/iPads.
Use a reputable recycler and not only are you keeping the gadgets in the second-hand market and contributing to the “circular economy”, but you’ll also recoup a bit of cash for yourself as well!
Plan your purchases in advance
The biggest step to reducing waste in your home — whether it's food waste, plastic, or otherwise — is by planning your purchasing in advance.
No more last minute buying decisions for things you don't need, instead take time every week to make a purchasing plan and only buy from your designated list.
For food, this means creating a weekly meal plan to reduce wasted food (and save on grocery money!).
For home goods, this means buying reusable products that replace single-use items (washable kitchen towels in place of paper towels, dryer balls instead of fabric sheets, etc.).
And finally, if you're new to low waste living then start slow. You won't get to your zero waste goals overnight, so reduce overwhelm and pick one household item to reduce or replace each month.
Over time this will become a habit and lead to a life with less!
Kristina Todini, RDN
Dietitian and Creator of Fork in the RoadLinks
My two favorite easy swaps are...
1) switching your plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush - it's so easy, works really well and will dramatically reduce the amount of plastic you use in your life.
2) swapping from liquid shampoo or conditioner to a zero waste shampoo and conditioner bar.
They work really well & smell delicious too! Plus all the shampoo bars on Zero Waste Cartel come wrapped in compostable wrappers and are 100% plastic-free.
Co-founder, Zero Waste CartelLinks
Zero in on the 4 biggest offenders
My best tip for reducing plastic waste at home starting today is to zero in on the 4 biggest offenders
- plastic bags
- water bottles
- takeaway coffee cups
- and straws
Invest in reusable options, or go without altogether when possible. And as you build up your arsenal of reusables, don't rush to Amazon.
A major tenet of plastic-free living is preventing additional products from entering the waste stream.
Use what you already have, or give existing items new leases on life by thrifting for quality reusables.
Cut out the cling film
I tried out lots of eco-friendly alternatives in an effort to improve my single-use plastic consumption.
Wherever you look, everyone talks about reusable bags and water bottles as key sustainable swaps.
I certainly agree, and these are two lifestyle changes easy to implement from your home with little effort.
Looking beyond these swaps though, the best action I have taken is to change my food storage methods.
Whether you are storing food in the fridge, or travelling with food, cling film and foil were in common use and my household used rolls and rolls of these single-use products.
Since switching to the likes of reusable containers, beeswax and cloth wraps, silicone and fabric container covers, cling film is a thing of the past, and all down to a few simple and easy changes.
Invest in a water bottle
There are many ways to reduce plastic waste.
One of the main ones I found is to stop buying water/drinks in plastic packaging and instead invest in a water bottle.
Also, try using a bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic one.
Editor-in-Chief, Our Culture MagLinks
Use it again
As crazy as it sounds, using up all those plastic (and other) things you already have in your house is the single best thing you can do.
Even better, however, is to use them all more than once. Whether it's a plastic bag or a to-go container, try to wash it and find another purpose for it.
When you've used it so much, it can't be used again, make sure to recycle it properly.
Through all this, you'll start to see how much you use these "single-use" items and if you're anything like me, you'll soon be irritated with getting everything cleaned and recycled properly.
During this time, you can start searching for reusable replacements when you've finally run out of it all.
Founder, Luci's MorselsLinks
Consciously research the alternatives
I’d say the very first thing to do to reduce waste in our lives is researching alternatives.
It might seem trivial, but in our fast-paced world, our choices need to be quick too. And this doesn’t always result in the most sustainable option.
Setting aside some time to research means consciously choosing the option that’s best suited for us (for instance fully recyclable packaging vs buying in bulk), while taking the time to get properly organized (for instance getting all the containers we need for bulk purchases).
Again, this might seem minor, but it’s actually essential to make sustainable choices convenient and practical, which in turn will help us stick to them in the long run! Because sustainable choices should not feel like a burden!
Last but certainly not least, taking a moment to pause and think is important to get into a conscious consumption mindset. Which area of our life generates the most waste and why? Which one will be the easiest to tackle? Why do we even want to reduce our waste?
Asking these questions will give a much deeper meaning to our own “sustainability journey". It will make it more genuine and ultimately more rewarding too!
Interior designer and Content creatorLinks
Just do one thing
Even if it's a small thing. Don't be so overwhelmed at where to start that you do nothing.
Then next week, try adding one more thing. It will grow and grow.
Founder, Cheeky WipesLinks
Start a trash audit
Start by doing a trash audit. Get to know your trash!
When you look in your garbage can, what do you see the most of? Is it food packaging waste, paper towels, coffee cups?
For me, it was food scraps, food packaging and paper products.
So, I made sure to tackle these issues first by shopping plastic-free at the farmers market and bulk food store, composting my food scraps, and transitioning to a paperless kitchen.
Once you see what it is that's the problem, you're better able to address and solve it.
Blogger and FreelancerLinks
Measure what’s coming in (and going out!) of your house.
One of the easiest free zero waste hacks is to simply… not buy stuff.
No, it’s not a particularly exciting answer, but it’s true.
Reducing your waste at home should always begin with the first R of zero waste - refuse. Just say no to the things you don't need.
On the output side of things, consider doing a trash audit to figure out exactly what kind of trash you’re creating.
Know your problem, start to solve your problem.
Owner, Barks ConsultingLinks
Be aware of waste you are creating
Before you can cut back on your waste, you have to be aware of the waste you are creating.
I suggest doing a trash audit to really put a finger on where you are creating the most waste.
Save your trash for a week then pull it out and take a look at it.
Maybe you take a step as simple as taking your own bags to the grocery store or using a reusable water bottle.
If you are further along in your low waste journey, the items in your trash will look different.
You don't need to judge yourself against other people's journeys.
Start where you are and do what you can.
Owner, Bestowed Essentials and Hippie Haven ShopLinks
Stop buying plastic sandwich bags
Stop buying plastic sandwich bags and cling film right away and invest in a reusable alternative.
Beeswax Wraps, Stasher Bags, Tuppaware... anything is better than single use plastic that we use for a moment and they take a lifetime to disappear!
Owner of The Beeswax Wrap Co.Links
Use Reusable Produce Bags While Shopping
We think the easiest way to reduce plastic use at home is to use reusable produce bags while shopping.
Most people these days already use the big shopping bags, but many are still using the small produce bags that are just as bad.
You can buy a set of mesh reusable produce bags in different sizes, chuck it in your big reusable bag and bring it to store with you any time!
Oksana St John
Drink Tea & Travel, Award-Winning Sustainable Travel BlogLinks
Audit your waste bin
I'd say the best actionable tip I can give is to start with a little audit of your waste bin and choose one thing you are trying to substitute with a plastic free, reusable product.
It could be plastic bottled shampoo in your bathroom or a plastic brush in your kitchen.
Most likely you will find a reusable solution for nearly anything.
Then you might add more products at a time.
Do not get overwhelmed. Every little helps.
Director - A Fine Choice LtdLinks
There are lots of amazing independent shops and it's these very shops who are leading the way in providing so many plastic free alternatives.
It is far too easy to contribute to the plague of plastic by shopping in supermarkets and chain stores.
Director, Heavenly Organics Skin CareLinks
Replace your beauty and cosmetic products
The cosmetic, beauty, and cleaning products that most people have in their homes are the biggest source of unnecessary plastic that they could easily replace.
For every hand soap, moisturiser, shampoo, hair product or washing up liquid there is a plastic free alternative available.
Recently the choice of products has expanded considerably so that there is so much choice that you can find the right one for you, rather than make do.
Even better, most of these companies are small businesses run by real people that often place their ethics before profit.
If they're like us then they cut down their carbon footprint as much as possible and have also cut plastic out of all their products, and production too.
Unpackaged Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many ways to make a change but I think the thing that has made the biggest difference in cutting down plastic waste in my life is buying only unpackaged fresh fruit and vegetables.
I reuse the paper bags that I already have to bring them home or don’t use them at all (as there is a significant carbon footprint in their production).
There is so much plastic waste associated with pre-packaged food just because it is convenient.
Most plastic has a limited ability to be recycled so best avoided if at all possible.
Director, Truthbrush LtdLinks
Collect veggie scraps to make veggie stock
I would recommend eating less or no meat as the best, actionable way to reduce emissions.
However, if you’re looking for something more unique, I have a great food waste tip.
My favourite tip to reduce food waste is to collect veggie scraps to make veggie stock.
I recommend keeping all veggie scraps in a container or bag (produce bags work well) until it’s full.
- When your container or bag of veggie scraps is full, pour them out into a big pot.
- Next, fill your pot up with enough water to submerge your veggie scraps.
- Place your pot of veggie scraps on your stovetop and turn the heat on high.
- Once the water is boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1h 30.
- Place a thin mesh strainer over a bowl, and pour your stock into the bowl.
- The strainer will catch your veggie scraps, so it’s easy to toss them in the compost!
- To get the veggie stock out of the bowl, I recommend using a ladle and placing the stock into a mason jar.
- If you plan on freezing the veggie stock in a glass jar, make sure you pour just enough stock in the jar to leave an inch of room from top, and let the jar cool down to room temperature first.
- If you fill your glass jar up to the top and don’t give it time to cool down, it could crack in your freezer.
Sole Proprietor, ReduceWasteNowLinks
Use natural fiber brushes
A clean kitchen without plastic is possible by choosing cleaning equipment that is made with natural materials and using natural cleaners that you mix together in a bucket or a jar.
It’s about going back to basics as our grandparents lived: simply and smartly.
Pure cellulose sponges are made from cellulose that has originated from wood pulp and a natural fiber such as cotton as reinforcement.
They are the most environmentally-friendly sponge as at the end of their life they fully biodegrade and can be thrown in your compost.
Do make sure you look for 100% cellulose with no polyester filling.
Switch from disposable face wipes to cloth ones
Use cotton facecloths instead of disposable wipes.
Don’t underestimate the versatility of old rags!
Some cleaning cloths are made from cotton and cellulose, work like a cloth, absorb like a sponge, and can take the place of 15 rolls of paper towels.
And of course, good old rags made from old clothing and towels are free and probably the greenest option of all.
They’re also chlorine-free and contain water-based colors and inks. While highly absorbent like sponges, they are thin and dry out fast.
Start using reusable fresh produce bags
One way we saw a dramatic decrease in the amount of plastic at home was to start using reusable fresh produce bags and bags for life at checkout. We aim to exclusively buy produce that has no packaging. This alone has reduced the amount of plastic we bring home and throw away.
CMO, Dolma Vegan FragrancesLinks
Composting is one of the most impactful yet underrated actions you can take to reduce household waste while at the same time creating a valuable resource that your garden will love.
There are many ways to start!
You can opt for an in-ground composter, a tumbler or if you're game, a worm farm (great fun for kids) - most are available at your local garden store and some cities even offer discounts on composters to help encourage this sustainable community activity.
Founder, Sustainable JungleLinks
Start when it’s easiest
There isn't a on-fit-all starting point as we all have different needs and lives, so my suggestion would be to start where it's easier for you, this may be using a water bottle, always having a reusable bag on you or choosing more sustainable toiletries.
But do start where it's easier for you, considering your lifestyle and access to options, and don't feel the pressure to change everything at once or to be perfect, every change matters!
Director, Zero Waste PathLinks
Impulse shopping, which used to require a journey to the shops is now just 1 click away meaning we are arguably spending more and buying a lot more that we previously would have had to wait for and possibly in that time decide that we don't need.
All that online shopping is swathed in plastic, not to mention the carbon emissions from all those deliveries and the item itself which is often plastic itself!
Take a deep breath and reassess what it is you actually need (as opposed to want).
If it's an essential you should be able to buy it locally, cutting down on the emissions from shipping and the packaging it comes in.
Do you already have that item at home or can you re purpose it from something else or borrow it from a friend or neighbour?
The less you buy the less waste you will create - after all you bought that 'waste' into your house in the first place!
And if you really do need to buy it can you get it second hand? or a plastic-free alternative? can you save up to buy a better quality product meaning you won't have to replace it so soon?
Reducing plastic and waste in general can only be achieved by stepping away from the consumerist culture we've been indoctrinated with for years.
Choosing to not be part of the system is incredibly liberating!
Founder - Plastic-Free HackneyLinks
Stop buying bottled water.
Buy a reusable bottle and sign up for the 'refill' app to find businesses in your area that will top you up for free.
MD + Founder, Myroo SkincareLinks
Try shampoo and conditioner bars
If you're new to reducing plastic the first step I'd take is to try shampoo and conditioner bars.
Many hair care products come in plastics that are hard to recycle (black and dark plastics can't be detected in recycling facilities) and even the ones that do make it through have only a few passes before ending up as waste.
Moving to a bar that comes in a cardboard packet, or is even hand cut for you by the maker, saves a huge amount of waste, energy and chemicals.
Owner, Rowen StillwaterLinks
Homemade natural DIY products
Switch to making and using your own homemade natural DIY cleaning products; you'll be amazed at how much plastic you can say goodbye to.
Founder, Thoroughly Modern GrandmaLinks
Bring your own bags and containers when shopping
Shop in bulk where possible and take your own bags and containers to minimise plastic packaging.
I alway leave what I call a zero waste kit at the door (bag, water bottle, coffee cup and bamboo straw) so I'm not tempted by the convenience of single-use items when out and about.
Look for other zero/low waste snacks
Snack foods now tend to create the most waste still in our house.
Try to cook much more at home from scratch using ingredients you have bought in bulk from a refill store.
Most things will freeze too so if you are going to cook make double (or triple as in our house!) the amount and freeze some so you don't have to cook so often.
Look for other zero/low waste snacks you can make easily - popcorn is a really easy one.
Homemade mixes of nuts, seeds and dried fruits are also great if you can get all the ingredients from a refill store with no packaging - and usually far healthier than crisps, chocolate bars and so on.
Owner, Naked LarderLinks
The Kitchen and the closet
I believe there are two areas in the home where we create a lot of waste and overuse of plastic products, the kitchen and the closet.
Below are easy, actionable tips that make a big difference.
In the kitchen we go through tons of plastic packaging for food sources, use plastic containers, cups, plates, serving spoons, etc.
By buying food in bulk, we cut down on plastic packaging. This also saves money in the long run as bulk prices are better than the prices you find at grocery stores.
Composting is a great actionable step as it's easy to do and cuts down on food waste. All you need is a large bucket or crate to get started.
Only purchasing products made out of silicone, glass, metal, wood and cast iron, moving forward, cuts down on plastic and creates a healthier kitchen for your family.
In the closet, we are addicted to fast fashion, made from man-made materials, such as rayon and polyester.
These materials don't last long, stain easily and are made from oils and plastic. By buying clothing made from natural products (i.e. wool, cotton, silk, linen, etc.) we can cut down on plastic use.
High quality materials, when taken care of properly, also last longer. This cuts down on plastic products and keeps clothing out of the landfill.
Last, buying clothing used from thrift stores and cosignment stores also prevents those clothes from landing in the trash, and saves you money too.
Owner/Content Creator at The Lavender HomefrontLinks
Look in your trash
Do a plastic waste audit. Look in your trash can.
What do you throw away in a week?
Is it plastic food packaging, body care products or something else?
Find a sustainable alternative to at least one item.
Every little step counts!
Culinary Nutrition ExpertLinks
A great place to start is the bathroom
As you use things up, replace them with a plastic free alternative.
A great place to start is the bathroom.
Why not have a count up of all the single use plastic you have and then change them out one at a time.
Soap instead of shower gel is a really easy place to start, as are bamboo toothbrushes.
Check your progress each month and before you know it you'll have a plastic free bathroom.
But be careful, it can be addictive going plastic free.
Business Owner, Switch and DitchLinks
Waste not want not
Reuse the plastics you already have as much as possible - before you throw something away think how can I reuse or recycle this?
Waste not want not!
If you can't reuse a plastic bag (perhaps the handle has broken etc) you could use it to line a waste paper basket bin.
If you get takeaway food which is often delivered in plastic boxes, wash them out and use them to take your lunch to work!
Founder, White Rabbit SkincareLinks
Don’t buy products with plastic packaging
I have begun as much as possible not buying items with plastic packaging unless there is no alternative.
That will reduce the trashing of plastic at home.
It's not easy but changing some food items helps.
Within home as a family we replaced zip locks and plastic films to washable containers instead of zip locks and plastic.
Carrying own bags to shopping outlets, hand carrying items to cars without packing in plastic bags also reduces bringing home plastic which means less plastic to throw .
Biodegradable garbage bags are a part of no plastic.
Many habits still need to still change in spite of the above.
The bathroom produces the most plastic waste
The bathroom is definitely one of the places in the home that produce the most plastic waste so switching to shampoo bars and skin and oral care products in reusable glass jars is a great place to start.
Buying toilet roll from sustainable plastic-free companies in bulk is a big help too!
Reusable make-up wipes and earbuds are worth swapping for as well.
Media Communications, GeorganicsLinks
Use beeswax wrap
One of our favourite ways to say adios to plastic wrap is by using beeswax wraps.
It's one of those things that you just don't need to replace when you're out and soon enough you'll see you never really needed it.
We have a few tiny glass containers or jars for little things like half a lemon, opened goat's cheese and so on.
Founder at BambewLinks
Create your own toothpaste
You can quite easily switch to a DIY eco-friendly and plastic-free beauty routine.
There are so many natural products to use as a sustainable alternative to mainstream cosmetics.
They are not only better for you and the environment, but they are also multifunctional.
For example, get coconut oil in a glass container and use it for:
- Oil cleansing
- Make-up removal
- Body lotion
- Hair masks
- Face masks
Create your own toothpaste by mixing only 3 ingredients: 1 part coconut oil, 1 part baking soda, and 10 drops of your favourite essential oil (I use mint).
Owner @ Escape WasteLinks
Plan your meals!
Me and my partner look through recipe books once a week, pick out what we fancy, then write a list of what we need from our local for the week ahead.
If you can batch cook and have lunch leftovers the next day, it helps reduce waste as you start to limit the amount of pre-packed snack food you buy.
Director - NutcessityLinks
Audit, use up, switch
For me, I went round each room of my house and started making a list of products I used which were plastic or disposable.
I then started looking into alternatives and then slowly started switching as I used up my old products.
Slowly but surely my home became a plastic free, sustainable zone.
My biggest tip would be to use up what you have first and just take your time finding the right products that will last you.
Reusable products are my favourite!
The Plastic Free LifeLinks
Trash Review then simple swaps
To reduce plastic or waste at home, start with a plastic audit.
You can either consciously think about your day-to-day garbage or physically collect your trash for some time for a proper inspection.
Specifically focussing on non-recyclables or plastic items used for a very short, single-use period, such as cotton buds, cling film and so on.
A trash review will give a clear idea of the critical areas of waste.
For me, the tipping point was the amount of single-use plastic bags I used to use for kitchen foods.
I'd shop from the farmers market in Thailand and street food vendors, and come home with piles of tiny plastic bags.
I was able to reduce my waste by bringing drawstring cloth net bags, tiffin tins and a large reusable bag to purchase food.
The results were immediate.
For my roommate in Germany, they did not trust in drinking tap water and would create mountains of plastic water bottles each week.
We overcame this by investing in a water distiller and on the move, they now use a reusable drinks bottle.
This simple swap now saves them money and plastic in the long run.
Where you make the most single-use plastic depends on your lifestyle, family habits, and geographical area.
By getting a feel for what waste you create, it's easy to see the focus areas of how this can be reduced or avoided.
Just don't be too hard on yourself when starting out, we are all aiming to reduce our plastic, but sometimes there are moments where we forget to bring reusables, or as we have seen in 2020, situations become out of our control.
Plastic waste is an environmental disaster.
Reducing our impact imperfectly is better than not doing anything at all.
Founder, Aim Plastic FreeLinks
Get into drinking tap water.
If the water is clean where you live you can start reducing your plastic waste right away by choosing tap water over plastic bottles.
You won't have to spend money on the bottled water, won't carry it up the stairs, won't have to deal with the empty bottles.
Not only are you reducing your plastic waste and consumption, also you will spend less and have more free time.
Zero Waste Blogger Auf die Hand BlogLinks
Switch yourself to reusable cloths instead of cleaning wipes and kitchen towel
Wipes containing plastic and single use kitchen towels can’t break down properly in landfill so using reusable cloths that you can pop straight into the washing machine when you’re done will not only save the planet, but your pocket too!!
You don’t even have to go out and buy specific clothes, you can use what you have (always the most sustainable option in my opinion!) and make cleaning cloths from old clothes or towels!
Blogger, Love, MaisieLinks
Perform a Trash Audit
Collect all of the plastic you use and would normally throw out over the course of a week.
(Wash & dry it all so it’s tidy!)
At the end of the week, sort through the plastic trash to identify what plastics you need to personally target.
Think up alternatives and items you could switch out instead of plastic!
Plastic Free Mermaid, I Quit PlasticsLinks
Switch to silicone food covers
I made the switch earlier this year and couldn't recommend them more highly - the stretchable lids are the perfect alternative to cling film and great for anyone trying to reduce their plastic use or go zero waste.
Did you know that 740,000 miles of cling film is used in UK homes each year?
That’s enough to wrap around the world 30 times.
Blogger, Sustainably SimpleLinks
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this resource to help highlight ways to reduce plastic and waste.
The tips and suggestions are so varied which highlights how much plastic is used in everyday life and how much we waste.
So pick one tip and start from there.
Do your bit for the planet.