By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
This Plastic Free July, we have been thinking about how we can help reduce plastic pollution on a more personal scale. We have previously spoken about how Keeeps contributes to keeping it green as a small business, with pottery being a more eco-friendly choice than plastic (pottery over plastic always!) and how Keeeps uses 100% plastic-free packaging, but Plastic Free July has got us thinking about how we can all reduce the plastic we use in our everyday lives.
So, what is Plastic Free July? It’s a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities”. We confess that we only became aware of this incredible campaign from recent research, as sustainability is one of Keeeps’ core values. People from across 177 countries take part in Plastic Free July, and as a result, its participants contribute to a total saving of 940 million kg of plastic waste each year and 8.5 out of 10 people have made changes which have become a new habit/way of life.
We believe the trick is that when plastic-free becomes a habit, it’s easy. It’s knowing where and how to start that is the hard and time-consuming part. It’s so convenient to continue to nip into Waitrose and buy the same things. So, that’s where we come in! By no means do we want this blog to sound preachy, as we too are guilty of contributing to plastic pollution at times (our latest batch of corn packing peanuts just arrived in a huge plastic bag, boo!) but the great news is that we have found some fantastic products that are practical alternatives and not a compromise.
We started by having a look at the worst plastic offenders, those plastics that are found washed up on beaches or found in our oceans and these include:
- Food wrappers – we’re talking mostly cling film and food packaging
- Disposable cutlery
- Coffee cups and lids
- Shampoo/conditioner/shower gel bottles
- Milk bottles
So, let’s start with those...
5 EASY WAYS FOR YOU TO SWAP OUT PLASTIC NOW!
1. Food Wrappers
Cling film (a.k.a Glad Wrap to our Ozzie readers and Saran Wrap to our American readers), was actually a mistake of chemistry, a plastic residue clinging stubbornly to the bottom of a beaker in a 1930s laboratory. Originally used by the US military to line boots and to spray protect planes, it soon caught on that it was also for a ‘wonderous’ invention to keep food fresh. Fast forward almost a century, and that mistake has led to 745,000 miles of cling film being used by UK households every year – enough to go around the circumference of the world 30 times over! Tragically, a lot of this ends up in the sea which is easily confused for jellyfish by turtles and other marine animals which causes them to choke.
The good news is there are a few excellent solutions to the cling film cock-up (as we like to call it). We already mentioned in our picnic blog post, how great the wraps made by The Beeswax Wrap Company are, but they deserve another mention here. They can wrap literally everything and come in all different sizes for different items. Best of all, they come in gorgeous patterns, and are easily cleaned in cold soapy water!
Another great product is Silicone Stretch Lids, available at WearthLondon, which is great for covering over bowls to keep food fresh in the fridge – they fit more snuggly to the container than cling film, so no spillage and they can be reused over and over again.
So that’s a wrap with the cling film issue(!), but it is also frustrating that so much fresh produce is sold in plastic packaging. Seriously, why do apples need to be packed in plastic when there are loose ones right next to them? Carrinet Veggio Reusable Fruit and Veg bags, which you can buy from Lakeland (we also recently saw them in Sainsbury’s and grabbed a few), are washable mesh bags that you can store fruit and veg in to keep it fresh in the fridge. Take them with you to the supermarket/your local greengrocer to avoid plastic packed produce.
2. Disposable Dinnerware
Another absolute no-no. We’re talking plastic plates, cutlery, straws. This includes paper straws too because often these are coated in a type of plastic which then makes them non-recyclable.
On the straw front, we would recommend stainless steel straws. We love Wild & Stone, a female led British brand who sell amazing rainbow stainless steel cocktail straws. Perfect for short cocktails and drinks and comes with a little pouch so you can just pop them in your handbag.
Where cutlery is concerned, our view is that you can just use your normal metal cutlery in your picnic box, lunch box and/or for BBQs. If you are low on numbers, simply borrow more from a friend, but if you do need an alternative Wild & Stone’s Bamboo Cutlery set is a great alternative.
You can even make a show of your cutlery when they aren’t plastic. Check out the gorgeous cutlery holder stocked at Keeeps, perfect for entertaining outdoors and creating a ‘wow’ factor.
3. Disposable Coffee Cups
Coffee cups have a massive impact on the environment with one article calling them a “menace” due to their misleading nature. Contrary to popular belief, paper coffee cups are not widely recyclable. The actual cup is made of paper, which is not the most watertight material so it is coated with a thin plastic layer, which then means it also cannot be recycled so ends up in landfill. In the UK, less than 1 in 400 coffee cups are recycled. Their plastic lids are often made with a petroleum-based plastic which is also very hard to recycle. 
Of course, many companies now sell reusable coffee cups, and we’d recommend that you pop into your local coffee shop as they usually sell reusable cups and you’d also be supporting a local business. Otherwise, a couple of our favourites are Frank Green, stainless steel reusable cups with a ceramic lining (very up our street!) to keep your drink super-hot, or Chillis which we have mentioned before, but we just love the fact they are a UK company, and their designs are so sleek and stylish.
4. Shampoo, Conditioner and Shower Gel/Cream
The UK alone throws away 520 million shampoo bottles every year. With around nine million tons of plastic being thrown into the ocean annually, we need to change the way we wash. Luckily, actual bars of soap (we know, retro!) and shampoo and conditioner bars are becoming increasingly popular. We have tried SO many different brands of shampoo bars, but our favourites are those from Lush (specifically the Montelbano shampoo bar, which smells INCREDIBLE) as they leave your hair feeling super clean and lather up just as much as a bottled shampoo, leaving you squeaky clean and smelling all lemony.
Another favourite is by Ethique, which you can buy from Holland & Barratt. It’s a New Zealand brand which says that one bar of shampoo will save three plastic bottles and five for a conditioner bar! They all smell amazing, but we tried the St Clements shampoo bar for oily hair and it was dreamy. There are bars for all different hair types and a gentle one for your little ones too!
Finally, we must mention Nuddy, which is another fantastic female-led UK brand with an incredible reputation. Their mission is to make soap bars cool again and boy are they doing a fantastic job of it. Plastic free and made in the UK, their mango moisturising soap bar is our absolute favourite!
Soap bars last SO long too, with the shampoos lasting up to three months when using every day – it’s definitely worth giving them a go, you'll be pleasantly surprised! And to keep the bathroom looking stylish, treat yourself to a couple of soap dishes for your new bars. Our colourful ceramic dishes, made by super talented potter Joanna Oliver are both gorgeous and practical, easy to clean and will avoid any nasty soap marks on the suite!
Seriously, I know you’re thinking, “Really? Soap bars?” But they are so much better quality than when we used them back in the day. Hardly any residue, heavenly aromas, and knowing there’s no plastic waste makes you feel good about yourself. Buy one and try it, you won’t regret it.
5. Drinks bottles
Drinks bottles are the number one item found washed up on beaches and yet it is so easy to avoid them! Simply invest in a reusable bottle and carry it with you. Everywhere.
It’s worth knowing that not all reusable drinks bottles are equally beneficial. Whilst plastic reusable bottles exist and are more eco-friendly than single use bottles, they still can contaminate your water with the same microplastics and other potentially harmful chemicals that those throwaway bottles have. “When you expose plastic bottles to regular wear and tear; heat, i.e., in a hot car, heated yoga class, or dishwasher; UV radiation from the sun; or microwaves, the outer layers of plastic can break down” and exposure of those broken-down plastic particles has been linked to chronic diseases, including diabetes, asthma, and cancer.
Metal, glass or ceramic drinks bottles are much better options and this leads us nicely to Ocean Bottle. Their bottles are both practical and chic and keep cold drinks cold, and hot drinks hot. More importantly, they help local coastal communities make a sustainable livelihood by collecting plastic bottles and exchanging them for the things they need. Ocean Bottle save 1000 ocean-bound plastic bottles in weight for every bottle sold and if that isn’t worth the £40 price tag, I don’t know what is.
Another great way of reducing the amount of plastic bottles you are using is to join a milk round. We use Dairy Drop but there is also Modern Milkman if you’re based in the north-west. Both are easy to set up and can be managed via an app on your phone. The milk is delivered in glass bottles which are then collected and reused. It’s not limited to just milk either, with fruit juice, milkshake, butter and baked goods all produced by local farms and businesses on the menu. Plus, it feels like going back in time a bit collecting your goodies from the front door!
We hope at least one of these useful tips and products will help get your Plastic Free life started! If you do use any of these products, or discover any new ones, let us know in the comments below as we’re always on the hunt for new eco recommendations for our customers!
All Keeeps products featured are available now at our online store.