10 Plastic-free swaps for a low-waste home

In one of my previous articles “Things to consider before you buy plastic“, I talked about some of the disadvantages of plastic in our economy. As a result of those findings, I want to reduce the amount of plastic I waste.

In order to accomplish that, I am going to write down a plastic-free shopping list. In other words, I’m going to go through my room and look for disposable products made of plastic.

After that, I’m going to search the internet for some alternatives and share them with you. That way, I always have a list of substitutes on hand and won’t buy the plastic version out of comfort.

#1 Toothbrushes

Toothbrushes are not a thing you buy every day, but when I think of all the toothbrushes I’ve thrown away in my life so far, the amount becomes a little more significant. Those products aren’t meant to stay with you forever.

And if they shouldn’t stay with you, there is also no space for them somewhere else. The alternative to toothbrushes was quite easy to find.

Photo by Superkitina on Unsplash

These so-called bamboo-brushes are currently being sold by various companies at various prices. The only thing you have to make sure is that the bristles are compostable, too. But the handle itself already makes a difference.

Bamboo toothbrushes become more and more frequent nowadays and I even found some at the drugstore, so keep your eyes open.

#2 Plastic Bottles

Needless to say: Plastic bottles are one of the bigger problems. Most of them are actually recyclable, but only some of them even make it that far. The rest ends up burnt, in landfills or in the ocean.

The first thing I would recommend is to always carry a glass or stainless steel bottle with you. I personally love my “S’well” bottle, since it additionally keeps my drink cold or hot. Of course, sometimes I do forget, in that case, I try to find a store that sells beverages in glass bottles.

If you want to have sparkling water at home on a regular basis, I would actually recommend getting a soda stream, or similar. That way you firstly, don’t have to carry those bottles from the supermarket and you won’t waste so many bottles. If you buy water regularly there’s actually a huge amount of plastic that adds up.

Sometimes, the local water also doesn’t taste very good, in that situation, there are some water filters, that filter the bad chemicals and taste and will make your water safely drinkable again.

However, sometimes you do just end up buying a plastic bottle. In that case, make sure to recycle it afterwards.

#3 Bathroom necessities

Okay, to be honest, I currently own a lot of scrubs, cleansers, cremes, shampoos and shower gels. My bathroom is basically full of plastic and finding an alternative for all that stuff is pretty hard.

Most of the companies that sell eco-soaps and other similar things, do actually still pack their products in plastic. Therefore, I would just look out that whatever you buy comes in a recyclable bottle.

Solid Cleanser and Shampoo bar by LUSH

Furthermore, Lush, for example always sells their products in already recycled plastic and now even has some zero-waste, package-free products, like solid shower gel or shampoos. Also, their soap comes in big bars and you can also get your piece unpacked.

Some other things like scrubs are easy to make yourself. My all time favourite would be the coffee scrub. For that, I just use some ground coffee (or the leftovers from our coffee machine), olive oil and brown sugar.

#4 Microplastic

A lot of the toothpaste, scrubs, shower gel and more we use doesn’t only come in plastic containers but also contains microplastic. These are little bits of plastic that are directly flushed into the ocean and start to build up a kind of “plastic fog”.

Even these little pieces aren’t decomposable and hence stay in the ocean forever. To make sure that you don’t contribute to that irreversible mess, I would recommend looking for microplastic-free products.

In order to do so you can look up lists of microplastic-free products online, one site I found quite helpful is “Beatthemicrobead”.

Furthermore, I would recommend doing some stuff yourself. Scrubs, for example, are easily made and often work even better than bought ones.

Another producer of microplastic is cars. Their tires emit a lot of microplastic while you drive, however, this was pretty new information to me, so if you have a car you can inform yourself here.

#5 Straws

Straws are one of the utensils I heard most of recently. Once they land in the ocean, they will often end up getting stuck in nostrils of marine animals or fall apart to become microplastic.

For a lot of people, straws are not essential, so you could simply stop buying them. If you need a straw or wish to have one, you could get a compostable one or a reusable steel straw.

The problem with plastic straws is that due to their light weight, they can’t be sorted out for recycling, even if you put them in the right bin. Therefore, reusable steel straws should be your go-to.

#6 Lunch Boxes and cutlery

Also, if you’re a fan of takeaway food, you might consider bringing your own container to the restaurant to not waste any packaging. Some restaurants even offer reusable containers you can lend when you buy food.

Bamboo cutlery
Photo by Maria Ilves on Unsplash

For cutlery, there are several options you can take with you. I love to bring my stainless steel cutlery box with me. It is small and you can bring it anywhere. I got mine from my best friend who brought it from China, but nowadays these to-go cases can be found in several places.

#7 Phone cases

This one is rather small and maybe not that big of a deal. Anyways, I was always tempted to buy several phone cases for my phone. Especially because they’re often sold for really low prices.

One company that has some sustainable cases to take care of that issue is Pela Case They produce compostable phone cases you can bury in the garden once you’re not content with them anymore.

I got one and I have to say I love using it. It’s thicker than I thought and easily bendable and therefore perfectly protects my phone.

Clumsy as I am, it already fell several times with the case on it, and it never broke. If it will, they even cover the expenses (at least it says so on their website).

As you can tell, I’m super content with my case and would recommend it as a substitute. It may not be the cheapest, but it will last long.

#8 Coffee cups

Coffee cups are also one of the items that are being thrown away in bulk daily. My favourite way to avoid using one is to bring your coffee.

This way you won’t only save some waste, but also some money. I love to bring mine in either a cup made out of bamboo or a stainless steel bottle. For the stainless steel bottle, I again love to use the “S’well” ones as you can easily transport hot beverages and it keeps them warm for hours.

The ecoffee cup

The bamboo cup I use is called “ecoffee cup” which is my all-time favourite brand for reusable coffee cups. It is a cup made out of bamboo and silicone. I got mine about four years ago, and it still looks perfectly fine.

The reason I say that is because it’s compostable. Once you don’t need or want it anymore, you can crash it and bury it in your compost. The company even offers to do this for you, if you send your cup back after you don’t want to use it anymore.

It’s also lightweight and even has a lid so you can close it, so out of all reusable coffee cups, the ecoffee ones are my favourite. Also, sometimes Cafés offer you a discount when you use a reusable cup, so make sure to bring it with you and save some plastic!

#9 Free things

This one isn’t actually a substitute, but something you should consider to stop getting. Gifts that people distribute on the streets, like ballpoint pens, keychains or similar often end up in some drawer of our room.

First off, life’s more comfortable without it, because honestly who needs “I may need that someday”-junk to take up their space? Secondly, by not taking it you won’t have to throw it away one day.

I know that if you don’t take it, probably someone else will, but it’s all about demand. If the request for products that end up being useless sinks, they will have to think of something else.

I’m not saying this will work, or that it can happen overnight, but it’s a good start.

#10 Clothing

Clothing may be a thing you didn’t expect on this list, but it’s a huge problem. The majority of our clothes nowadays is made out of synthetic fabric. Nylon, polyester, acrylic and more contain plastic.

This plastic is bad for the environment in two ways. Firstly, it gets into the ocean in the form of microplastic when we wash it in the washing machine. As the water is discarded after washing, it contains microplastic that the fabric shed.

You can avoid that by buying non-plastic clothing or by using a laundry bag called “Guppy Friend” you can put your clothing into during the washing process. I heard about this through DariaDaria. The bag prevents any microplastic from getting into the water.

Photo by Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash

The second problem with clothing is that we throw away a lot of it. Trends come and go and due to that many people also frequently change the content of their closet.

The thrown away clothes, therefore, also often end up in landfills and release toxins into the ground. If you want to know more about that, make sure to watch “The true cost“, a documentary about the problems of our clothing industry.

As there is not really a substitution to that problem, I would kindly ask you (and myself) to consume less. Next time you see a cheap shirt, trousers or anything else, ask yourself: “Do I actually need that?”.

However, if you do need some things you could either buy fair fashion made out of organic, plastic-free fabric or buy some second-hand clothing. However, as a lot of it is still made out of plastic, make sure to get the “Guppy friend” then.

These were ten things I will try to substitute in my life. I hope some of the ideas and brands could help you, too and if you have anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments. I always love to find out about new products or better ways to live.

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