Over the past couple of months, I have been exploring how to reduce my single-use plastic waste. My initial interest in reducing my plastic consumption stemmed from making an effort to purchase toiletries and cosmetics that were cruelty-free. Whilst there are, increasingly, some really great cruelty-free choices out there, I began to realise that ‘kind to animals’ didn’t always mean ‘kind to the planet’. For me, that didn’t add up.
There began my search for plastic-free products (which for the most part tend to be cruelty-free too). Don’t get me wrong, trying to reduce your plastic waste isn’t always a walk in the park. Plastic-packaged products often provide serious convenience, which is pretty addictive; you may have to let go of some of that convenience when sourcing alternatives to plastic.
The other thing to be aware of when trying to swap out plastic is the sustainability of the material that you’re replacing it with. Natural materials that can biodegrade won’t pollute the environment like single-use plastics will, but they can cause their own harm to the environment if they are intensively grown or farmed (and ultimately aren’t sustainable). The trick is to not only reduce single-use plastic, but to reduce as many single-use items, plastic or otherwise, as possible.
Having said that, the point of this post is not to shame anyone for having plastic in their lives. Instead, it’s about helping people to make informed choices about the viable alternatives that are available. Due to factors such as finances or ability, it may not be possible for some people to rid their lives of plastic. My thinking is that, if those of us that are able to reduce our plastic waste do our best to, hopefully, it could take some of the pressure off of the environment and leave the single-use plastics for those that truly need them.
So, with all that being said, let’s get into the swaps I’ve been making to reduce my plastic waste. I’ve mostly been swapping out single-use plastic toiletries as a starting point and have shared my honest opinions on the products I’ve tried out below (* please scroll to the end of the post to read my disclosure about affiliate links in this post).
These are a really great alternative to plastic toothbrushes and there’s quite a lot of variety out there (just buying these for myself, I’ve not found them drastically different in price point to plastic toothbrushes. They look, feel and perform like a plastic toothbrush and, as far as I’m aware, bamboo is a sustainable material. Something to check when purchasing a bamboo toothbrush is that some do still have plastic bristles. However, these ones from TOMARCO don’t and are 100% biodegradable.
What’s the use of a plastic-free toothbrush if your toothpaste is in a plastic tube hey? I know Georganics do a plastic-free toothpaste that comes in a glass jar but, friends and family that have used it, as well as some reviews I’ve read, are not keen on the taste and consistency of this paste. It’s also really expensive in comparison to a tube of the regular stuff.
I skipped trying the glass jar option and instead went for Denttabs plastic free toothpaste tablets from Anything But Plastic. You just chew the tablet until it foams up into a consistency that is pretty much the same as regular toothpaste, wet your toothbrush and brush as normal.
Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Once again, this is another plastic-free alternative that I’m really sold on. I first tried out solid shampoo and conditioner bars whilst on a camping holiday and let me tell you, having two bars that I could wash my entire body with wash a heck of a lot easier to deal with whilst living that field life – you also don’t have to worry about liquid limits when travelling by plane.
Pro tip: to get the most out of solid bars, remove them from the shower/ bath area when not using them and let them air dry. You can also cut them up into smaller pieces and just use one at a time to avoid the whole thing dissolving quicker than it should.
With that being said, my search for the perfect alternative to plastic bottled shampoo has not been easy and I have tested out at least 5-6 types and brands before finding something that was truly a viable option for me. I won’t go into too much detail here because I can, and will, dedicate an entire post to finding the best solid shampoo bars, but the main issues I came across were:
- some solid shampoo bars contain SLS which can cause skin irritation for some people, there is also a suggestion that it can be harmful to the environment once it gets into the water system (although I don’t know how thoroughly researched this has been).
- natural shampoo bars don’t work for every hair type or water type – I live in an area of the UK with very hard water and just found this worked against all the goodness of the shampoo bars I was trying out.
- natural shampoo bars (on the whole) do not contain any form of detergent (likely because detergent is often harsh and not naturally derived). Because of my hair type, I do use product in my hair, I’ve found that I need something with a mild detergent in it to remove the product from my hair.
The Best Solid Shampoo Bar
The best shampoo bar I’ve found that leaves my hair feeling clean, fresh and not full of product residue is, in fact, more of a cube, or rather Beauty Kubes. They contain a mild detergent that, in its chemical form, looks like SLS- but it’s not. They do have a higher price point than buying the regular, bottled stuff but you can order two sample cubes (for £1.50) and see if they work for you before having to commit to the full priced packet.
Funky Soap London
Full disclosure: I did not get on with this as a shampoo bar. The bar came with really great instructions and did warn of an adjustment period after switching from the (often) chemical heavy plastic bottled stuff. But I just could not get it to work for my hair. However, I’ve included it because there are plenty of reviews which suggested other people have got on with it (as well as some who haven’t). I’ve also included it because it’s one of the lower-priced options and I ended up using it as a face and body wash – which I found it fine for.
Lush Solid Shampoo
I have to admit, I really loved the solid shampoo bar I bought from lush when I first decided to switch to something plastic-free. However, I was really disappointed to discover it contained SLS as this was also something I was trying to cut out. What I will say is that, if you are solely looking to cut out plastic and don’t mind SLS, or if you are new to trying out solid shampoo, this might still be a suitable option for you.
The Lush shampoo bars are around the same price as Beauty Kubes so might not work for every budget. I haven’t tried them personally, but I have seen bars that look similar to the Lush ones available at Soul and Soap which are cheaper, although you do have to pay shipping.
Solid Conditioner Bar
Whilst I didn’t get on with Funky Soap’s solid shampoo bar, I am really happy with the solid conditioner. It is more expensive than your average bottle of conditioner but it lasts so long. I’ve been using mine for just over two months now and I’ve barely made a dent in it. I rub it onto the ends of my hair after shampooing and let it soak in for a while before rinsing it out.
Reusable Cotton Rounds
Cotton pads are a good example of a biodegradable single-use item (which usually comes in plastic packaging too) that can still have a detrimental impact on the environment. Cotton is apparently a crop which takes a lot of land, water, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers to grow, all of which can take its toll on the environment. Switching to reusable cotton rounds will reduce the consumption of single-cotton, as well as cotton in general. If you’re able to source organic cotton rounds, then there won’t be the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides either.
Something else that’s good about this particular product is that it comes in a cotton drawstring bag which can be used as a washing bag when washing the reusable rounds in a machine.
Trying to find plastic-free products that work can be a bit of an adventure but it’s certainly one worth taking. Hopefully, you’ll find some alternatives to plastic that are suitable swaps for you. I certainly won’t be stopping at toiletries when it comes to reducing my plastic waste. Reducing food packaging and switching out our household cleaning products are also next on the agenda.
How have you found living without plastic (or rather, less plastic)? I’m interested to hear about your favourite plastic-free products (and even the ones that were complete fails).
* Please note, some of the links in this post contain affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and make a purchase then I will make a small commission from the purchase (at no extra cost to you). All of the products featured in this article have been purchased by me, with my own money and I have not received any sponsorship to create this post – the views are entirely my own.