There’s the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in your shower, the toothbrush, paste and floss by your sink, and the cupboards full of face creams, hair-styling products and make-up.
But it needn’t be so. A delightfully minimalist, clutter-free bathroom could be yours, as this is the one area of the house where it is relatively easy — fun, even — to start cutting back on plastic.
Your bathroom is one room in the house that is chock-full of plastic but it is relatively easy to start cutting back
All this week in the Daily Mail we are serialising an exciting new book, Life Without Plastic, by husband and wife duo Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha, international pioneers of a worldwide movement to reduce our reliance on plastic.
They are experts in finding ingenious ways to cut back on plastic and small changes you can make to your everyday life to dramatically slash your environmental impact.
For instance, you might think you simply couldn’t survive without a pump-action plastic bottle of liquid soap at every sink, or a handy bottle of shower gel in your shower.
But just think about how many bottles you’d save each year if you embraced the retro charm of a good old-fashioned bar of soap. That impact will be boosted even further if you select a bar wrapped in paper rather than plastic.
Some of the easiest switches when cutting back on plastic are toiletries and beauty products. Once you’ve found a plastic-free product that works and that isn’t contributing to our massive worldwide plastics problem, why would you need to switch back?
Electric razors last much longer, which, despite the fact they also are made from plastic, makes them preferable.
The ultimate plastic-free shaving choice, however, is using an old-style metal razor with a removable double-sided steel blade, such as the safety razor (£25, labourandwait.co.uk).
If you’re taking one with you on a plane, either remove the blade and check it in with the luggage or buy new blades when you arrive at your destination.
Stop using shaving foam or creams, too (most come in difficult-to-recycle containers) and return to the retro charm of moisture-rich shaving soap (£10, moltonbrown.co.uk), which you lather up with a brush, or shaving oil.
TUBES of toothpaste are almost impossible to recycle because of their small size, blended plastic materials and the leftover toothpaste inside. You can minimise your plastic impact by buying the largest tube you can find. If it lasts twice as long as your normal tube, that’s potentially half the plastic impact.
Given the mix of toxic chemicals in plastics that can leach into the soil and contaminate your fruits and veggies, it makes sense to use as little plastic as possible when you garden...
Look out for powders or pastes at farmer’s markets and health stores, or buy a selection of toothpastes in pretty glass jars (£6.90 a pot, georganics.co.uk).
Lush sells ‘toothy tabs’ (£5.95, uk.lush.com) which are pill-sized tablets of baking powder and essential oils (in a returnable plastic bottle), which you crunch between your teeth and then simply start brushing with your wet toothbrush.
Or why not make your own? Mix 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda with 1 tbsp coconut oil in a small glass jar with a few drops of essential oil (try cinnamon, clove, lemon, mint, orange, peppermint, sage or vanilla). If it’s too bitter and salty, add a little sugar substitute such as stevia or xylitol to sweeten it up.
IF YOU use floss, never flush it down the toilet, as it can wreak havoc with plumbing systems or make it through the system and out into waterways. Being small and lightweight, it easily leaks out of waste management systems into the environment, where its strength and length make it a risk for potentially strangling and choking wildlife.
Most commercial dental flosses are made of nylon (which doesn’t break down easily) and come packaged in hard plastic containers. If the floss isn’t bad enough, this packaging is very wasteful because it ends up in landfill after just a few weeks of use.
However, you can buy natural silk floss (which does break down) packaged in metal or glass. Try organic silk floss sachets (£4.99, mypure.co.uk) or cardamom silk floss (£4.90, georganics.co.uk). Eco-Dent Gentle Floss is nylon, but comes in a cardboard box (£7.99, amazon.co.uk). Or if you like toothpicks, Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers are thin wooden mint-infused ones (£4.41 for 160, amazon.co.uk).
OUR use of face wipes is ever-increasing (according to Mintel, 47 per cent of us use them). Problems arise if you treat them just like tissues and throw them in the lavatory. Tissues speedily turn to mulch, but an estimated 64 per cent of the wipes sold in the UK contain polyester (some are more than 70 per cent polyester), which isn’t biodegradable.
Cotton takes between one and five months to decompose, wool takes one to five years, and nylon 30 to 40 years, but polyester takes up to an estimated 500 years. Never flush a face wipe and switch to using a washable face cloth instead, such as Liz Earle muslin cloths (two for £4.50, boots.com).
Choose cotton buds with cardboard stems instead of plastic stems. As we often flush used cotton buds down the lavatory, hundreds of thousands of plastic stems find their way into water treatment plants each week. They are so small they pass through the filters and out into open waters, where they break down into microplastics and form part of the oceanic ‘plastic smog’ — huge patches of pollution in the sea.
Where possible, look for beauty products sold in glass jars. while you can cut your plastic use immediately by switching from liquid soap at every sink in your house to a bar of soap
Most large supermarkets in the UK — Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op — are now meeting these concerns by committing to use biodegradable cardboard for their own-brand cotton buds. Johnson & Johnson has also made the switch to paper stems.
IF WE listen to our dentists, we should replace our toothbrush every three months, but that’s four plastic toothbrushes per person, per year — and more than 300 over an average lifetime — that end up in landfill. Multiply that by the UK population of nearly 66 million and you can see how a toothbrush could cause such consternation.
Toothbrushes can’t be recycled because they are made up of three components (the handle, bristles and staples that hold the bristles in place), which have to be separated before they can be processed.
Bamboo toothbrushes (pictured) are easy to find online (£3.99, anythingbutplastic.co.uk). While the bristles are still nylon, the handle is compostable so you can keep 90 per cent of your toothbrush out of landfill. You can buy bamboo brushes for £4.49 from mahinaturals.com/woobamboo or £14.99 for four at natureandmy.com, too.
MIX together 2 tsp sugar with 1 tbsp olive oil. Apply to face and wipe off the wash with a warm cloth.
MASH 2 ripe strawberries with 2 tbsp finely ground oats (use a coffee grinder) and apply to the face as a mask.
Leave on for 15-20 minutes, then wipe off with a warm cloth. You can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
MELT 80ml coconut oil (which softens the skin and helps it to retain moisture) on the stove in a small pan over medium heat. Once melted, remove from the heat. Meanwhile, use a coffee grinder to pulse fresh coffee beans (coffee boosts circulation and has beneficial anti-inflammatory properties) into a medium to fine grind (or measure 45g pre-ground coffee grains).
Combine the melted coconut oil, ground coffee, 23g sugar (try coconut sugar) and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a small glass container with a lid.
Or try the Radius brush (£12.49, mypure.co.uk), which has a handle made from wood cellulose and bristles made from castor bean oil.
MERELY by using a combined shampoo and conditioner you can effectively halve the amount of plastic you use in relation to hair washing. But why not experiment with a shampoo bar, which you lather up in your hands just like soap and use on your hair just like normal shampoo?
They’re a lot more sophisticated than they used to be, with deeply conditioning options suited to different hair types.
Try the range of shampoo bars from Absoapstudio (from £9.20, etsy.com). The collection includes a chamomile version to bring out highlights in blonde hair, nettle to bring shine to dark hair, silk to promote the elasticity of curly hair, rosemary essential oil for thin or lifeless hair, or tea tree and neem leaf for flaky scalps.
At Lush, you’ll find solid shampoos for dry or coloured hair, and solid conditioner (from £6.25, uk.lush.com).
If you’re not ready to make the leap, aim to buy in bulk if you can — one-litre refill bottles of Paul Mitchell and Aveda hair products are available at lookfantastic.com.
YOU can cut your plastic use immediately by switching from liquid soap at every sink in your house to a bar of soap.
You may have to hunt a little to find soaps wrapped in paper, but they look delightfully retro in your home, sitting on a soap dish made from wood, ceramics, stone or enamelled metal.
Try switching your plastic-housed cleanser for a cleansing bar such as Estee Lauder’s Micro-Algae bar (£20, boots.com) or a facial cleanser and moisturiser bar (£3, anythingbutplastic.co.uk). Alternatively, buy liquid soap and shower gel refills (plus shower oil, shampoo, conditioners and facial cleansing foam) at L’Occitane, which use 80 per cent less plastic than the original bottles (uk.loccitane.com). Marseille liquid soap comes in glass pump-action jars, and one-litre refills of body and hand wash are available for £16.50 (frenchsoaps.co.uk).
You can even make your own liquid soap. Use a cheese grater to grate half a bar of soap (or use the ends of old soaps) then fill a large pan with four litres of hot tap water, tip in the grated soap and stir until dissolved. Let your liquid soap mixture sit overnight, then blend it with a stick blender and transfer into reusable pump containers.
WHERE possible, look for beauty products sold in glass jars. This might take a little detective work, as plastic is far cheaper to manufacture and safer to transport. But beauty ranges such as Aurelia and Perricone MD (cultbeauty.co.uk) have excellent skincare ranges in glass, and Neal’s Yard has always prided itself on its blue glass bottles (nealsyardremedies.com).
At Lush, you can buy a Full of Grace solid facial serum (£8.25, uk.lush.com), which melts in your hands. Check out the Body Bliss lotions (£6.80 for 100ml, purenuffstuff.co.uk), which are loaded with essential oils to soften your skin, too.
Or you could try making your own. Just warm a little coconut oil until it melts, then add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and let the mixture cool before applying to your face and body. Store it in a screw-top glass jar.
Left: Peppermint, £9.95, parfumdreams.co.uk. Centre: Citrus and fern, £22.50, henrytibbs.com. Right: Rose, £20, traditionalshaving.co.uk
Thanks to the Daily Mail microbeads campaign, launched in 2016, the Government-enforced manufacturing ban of products containing microbeads has finally come into effect. As of last month, companies can no longer use microbeads in ‘wash-off’ beauty and personal care products such as exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste in the UK.
UK cosmetic manufacturers have been working on a voluntary plan to remove the beads since 2015. Boots and Unilever phased out microbeads in their products in 2015, while Colgate-Palmolive removed them in 2014.
A ban on the actual sale of products containing microbeads is set to follow in July. In the meantime, be vigilant for products which contain these microscopic specks of plastic, as they will still be on the shelves.
As of last month, companies can no longer use microbeads in ‘wash-off’ beauty and personal care products such as exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste
Microbeads are one of the most pernicious examples of plastic product design. Bad product design, that is. The tiny pieces of synthetic plastic are used as colour additives, scrubbing agents and abrasive exfoliants in a variety of personal care products: everything from toothpaste, facial scrubs and body washes to soaps and shaving foams.
Try squeezing a product containing microbeads into a glass of water, stir to disperse it and then pour that water slowly through a white T-shirt. All the little coloured particles you see are plastic microbeads.
When conducting this experiment with a facial scrub use a black T-shirt, as most of the microbeads in scrubs tend to be clear or white. They will show up as little white particles on the shirt. These minute beads of plastic are generally less than a millimetre in size — about the size of a grain of sand — and are designed by the product manufacturers to wash straight down your drain.
The microbead particles are generally too small to be caught by conventional municipal sewage treatment facilities, so they waltz through filtration systems and head straight into our rivers, lakes and, ultimately, oceans.
According to Greenpeace, one tube of face wash can contain up to 360,000 of these plastic spheres. That means that once we have finished washing our faces or brushing our teeth, we unwittingly release thousands of pieces of plastic into the environment, where they go on to ‘gently exfoliate’ the digestive tracts of seabirds and even enter the food chain.
Plastic microbeads act like little sponges, soaking up toxic chemicals that might be in the water (such as petroleum products, radioactive waste and ‘persistent pollutants’ that never break down). Researchers estimate that, as a consequence, a single microplastic particle in the ocean can be a million times more toxic than the water around it.
Microbeads also resemble tiny eggs or morsels of food so are gobbled up by fish and birds. They then leach toxic chemicals into the animal’s muscle and fat, which ends up in food on our dinner plates. Eating fish could mean ingesting a toxic smorgasbord.
Plastic microbeads are essentially a cheap filler for beauty products: their popularity has swelled in recent years as they are less expensive and not quite as abrasive as environmentally friendly natural alternatives.
Check you don’t have any in your bathroom (the word ‘polyethylene’ on the ingredients list is a sure sign) and, if you do, stop using them. Greenpeace recommends sending any products containing microbeads back to the maker for them to handle responsibly.
Replace them with products that boast natural alternative ingredients such as sea salt, ground coffee, coconut husks, apricot shells, walnut shells, crushed cocoa beans, seaweed and orange rind. Or better still, see the box above to learn how to make them yourself...
Left: Strawberry and papaya, £4.95, thesomersettoiletryco.co.uk. Right: Orange zest, £3.95, tesco.com
Left: Argan oil, £3.95, waitrose.com. Centre: Coal tar, 85p, superdrug.com. Right: Italian scent, £4.75, escentual.com
Having a young family can hugely increase your reliance on plastic, particularly single-use plastics, but if you’re keen to make a difference, there are still plenty of easy ways you can cut back...
Having a young family can hugely increase your reliance on plastic but there are still plenty of easy ways you can cut back
CONSIDER using reusable fabric nappies instead of disposables. It doesn’t even have to be a 24/7 commitment. Why not try just using reusable ones at home and disposables when you are out? Or use disposables when your baby is tiny and needs frequent changes, and ease into reusables as your child gets a little older. See goreal.org.uk for more advice and local listings.
There are nappy laundering services in London and some UK local authorities offer subsidised nappy schemes to encourage the use of ‘real nappies’.
PLASTIC toys often break so they don’t always get passed to the next sibling, instead ending up in landfill.
Local recycling centres won’t accept plastic toys and games as part of the kerbside collection service. You can dismantle them to recycle batteries and battery packs. Toys in a good condition can be passed on to local playgroups, charity shops and hospitals.
However, be wary of tired, old, or damaged plastic hand-me-downs. A recent study by the University of Plymouth warned that while toys made after 1995 must be safe, there is no retroactive regulation regarding older toys.
The researchers found many second-hand toys released bromine, cadmium and lead at levels that exceed the limits set by the EU Toy Safety Directive.
The lead researcher Dr Andrew Turner said: ‘Consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mouthable old plastic toys or components.’ While it’s good to recycle, ‘previously used toys have the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children.’
Roar Rude Trangbaek, a spokesperson for Lego, has said: ‘You should not be concerned if you have old bricks in a good shape and condition. But if you have old bricks that are broken, you should dispose of them.’
Choose wood and retro toys and search for soft toys made from natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo in order to avoid ones which contain plastic stuffing and flame retardant chemicals.
Find a range at beehivetoyfactory.co.uk, gltc.co.uk and mulberrybush.co.uk. There’s a good selection of wooden toys at argos.co.uk, too.
ALTHOUGH UK experts say the potential health impact is minimal, if you are worried about the possibility of plastic toxic chemicals leaching into your children’s food, explore non-plastic cups, plates and bowls. Stainless steel dishes are a rather great durable option, and can be completely sterilised in a dishwasher at high temperatures, too.
Paper plates might seem easily recyclable, but once contaminated with food they can only be put with the rubbish.
The recycling rate of squeezable plastic-aluminium food pouches is thought to be 50 times worse than single-use coffee cups — less than one in 20,000 is recycled, and two thirds are sent to landfill.
One baby food company, Ella’s Kitchen (ellaskitchen.co.uk), offers a recycling service with drop-off points around the UK.
Switch to glass jars if you can, or, when you’re out, decant pureed food into reusable food pouches, such as Fill n Squeeze refillable baby food pouches (£4.50 for ten, boots.com) or pouches from Ocado (£10.99 for three, ocado.com).
Adapted by Louise Atkinson from Life Without Plastic: The Practical Step-By-Step Guide To Avoiding Plastic To Keep Your Family And The Planet Healthy by Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha, published by Page Street Publishing at £13.99 © Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha 2018.
Lion, £17.75 (for dinner set), yourssustainably.com. Tortoise, £17 (for dinner set), hippychick.com
120cc Transparent Plastic Pet Bottles
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