Ready to Start Ditching Single Use Plastic? Try these 27 Zero Waste Swaps

Climate Change Jul 01, 2020

Global citizens, July is our time to collectively address one of the world’s greatest environmental threats (with the exception of the climate crisis as a whole)... single use plastic (SUP).

Reducing SUP is important because:

🦕 Plastic is made from fossil fuels. The more plastic that is produced, the more C02 is emitted into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
🌊 8 million tonnes of plastic (yikes!) goes into our oceans EVERY YEAR!
🐳 Marine life eat plastic, both large plastic chunks & micro plastics, often killing the animal and/or disrupting eco-systems.
🍣 Micro plastics can remain inside animals and transfer into the human food chain.
💳 We eat 1 credit cards worth of plastic EVERY WEEK!
💦 Micro plastics are even being found in rain and snow.
🦊 Plastic damages habitats & kills wildlife both on land and in the sea.

Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July started in Australia in 2011, as a small movement. It has since exploded with millions taking part worldwide. The goal is to build awareness for sustainable, plastic free alternatives and encourage the use of them.

How to get involved

❌ Avoid buying single use plastic.
🧼 Commit to one specific swap. When you’ve got it dialled, find another swap to work on.
📅 Commit to a full day without plastic. When you’ve mastered it, see if you can stretch to a whole week without SUP, and then the whole month!

Before You Start

If you're curious about going plastic free, but feel overwhelmed here are some pointers and tips.

Be Kind To Yourself: 99.9% of people don't go plastic-free overnight. This is a journey, everyone's journey takes time, no one's journey is the same, and there is no perfect way to do it. It only takes one small change to get started. By committing to that one change, you have started the journey. If you can do more, great. If not, don't sweat it.

Audit What You Buy: Want an easy place to begin? Look at what you're buying and trashing, that contains single-use plastic. Make note of which items reoccur the most. Finding alternatives for these items could make the biggest impact, decreasing your SUP usage. Remember, use up anything you already have, before replacing it with a sustainable option.

Research: Find local spots that stock zero waste goods. Zero waste stores are popping up all over the world, from cities to tiny towns. If you don't have a zero waste store near you, there will still be a few places that offer zero waste options. For example, a bakery will stock plastic free loaves of bread.

The 3 R's: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This is your new mantra. Reduce what you can, reuse as much as possible, recycle the rest.

Challenge Your Buying Habits: Asking questions before making a purchase can help you determine if something is single-use or an unsustainable item. The more you practice conscious buying, the easier the process becomes. Ask yourself:

  • Do you need it?
  • Can you buy it second-hand?
  • How long will it last/Is it durable?
  • How will you dispose of it when the time comes?/Can it be reused or recycled?

Getting Started

There are a whole bunch of everyday items that can be switched for sustainable options. A massive list, like the one below, can often be overwhelming so, to make it less daunting, find just one item you can change and commit to it. When you're ready, make another change.


1 | Deodorant

Ditch: Deodorant in plastic packaging.
Switch: Solid deodorant bars wrapped in paper or deodorant paste in glass or metal pots.

Plastic free July natural deodorant

2 | Soap

Ditch: Common bathroom items such as liquid soap, shower gel and bubble bath in plastic bottles.
Switch: Before soap came in a plastic bottles people used a good old solid block of soap! Be sure to find a brand that doesn't wrap the bar in plastic.

Plastic free July naked plastic free soap

3 | Shampoo

Ditch: Shampoo and conditioner that comes in a plastic bottle.
Switch: Solid shampoo and conditioner bars. These bars are long-lasting, often longer than a bottle of shampoo, and are really convenient when travelling.

Plastic free July naked shampoo bar lush

4 | Body Scrub

Ditch: Body scrubs that come in plastic packaging and contain a synthetic 'scrubbing' agent, such as microbeads.
Switch: Sure, you can buy another solid bar with an abrasive texture or even a loofah. But, you can also make a natural body scrub with as little as one ingredient, that you'll likely have in the house. Coffee! It's super simple to make! No micro beads here!

Plastic free July homemade zero waste coffee scrub

5 | Toilet Paper

Ditch: Toilet paper wrapped in plastic. Ewww.
Switch: Plastic free toilet paper, a bidet or reusable cloth wipes.
Need more reasons to switch? Read about how unsustainable toilet paper can be.

Plastic free July who gives a crap toilet paper

6 | Menstrual Products

Ditch: Tampons and pads. These are not only wrapped in plastic, but can contain plastic too.
Switch: Period underwear, a menstrual cup, or reusable cloth pads.

Plastic free July menstrual cup lily cup

7 | Shaving

Ditch: Disposable plastic razors.
Switch: A long-lasting metal safety razor.

8 | Moisturiser

Ditch: Bottles of lotion.
Switch: Lotion can be replaced with any number of oils. Coconut oil was the holy grail for a while and can be bought in a jar that can later be reused. Cocoa butter and shea butter are also great options, and are available in solid bar form.

9 | Dental Care

Ditch: Traditional dental products that contain plastic;  toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste, and even floss! Read about plastic dental products for another reason to ditch them.
Switch: Bamboo brushes, dental tablets, and natural floss made from silk or bamboo.
Glitch: Some bamboo toothbrushes have plastic bristles, which should be removed before the handle is composted.

Plastic free July zero waste dental tab, bamboo toothbrush, zero waste floss


10 | Covering Food

Ditch: Clingfilm.
Switch: Wax wraps. They last 1+ year with good care and are as effective as cling wrap.

Plastic free July zero waste wax wraps

11 | Groceries

Ditch: Foods wrapped or contained in plastic.
Switch: Zero waste stores are a great option for buying plastic free produce. If you don't have access to one, buy naked produce, avoid items wrapped in plastic, and buy items in cans and glass.

Plastic free July groceries

12 | Milk

Ditch: Milk in plastic bottles or cartons.
Switch: Buy milk in a glass bottle or make your own plant milk at home! There are lots of sustainable options to choose from.

13 | Meals

Ditch: Pre-packaged meals.
Switch: The best way to avoid plastic is by buying zero waste/plastic free items and making meals from scratch. If you're short on time, try planning ahead and making big batches that can be frozen or stored until a later date.

14 | Sponges and Scourers

Ditch: Disposable cleaning items that are made from plastic and can't be re-used.
Switch: Use wooden scrubbing brushes or plant husk scourers that are compostable. Use reusable cloth wipes that can be washed and reused multiple times.

Out and About

15 | Hot Drinks

Ditch: Disposable cups.
Switch: A reusable option made from glass, aluminum or natural wood pulp, all of which can be recycled in the future.

16 | Bags

Ditch: Plastic bags.
Switch: A reusable tote or backpack. If you already carry a backpack, it can be handy to fold a tote inside for last minute grocery shopping.

17 | Water

Ditch: Single use water bottles.
Switch: A reusable water bottle.

Plastic free July reusable water bottle

18 | Take Out

Ditch: Single use take-out containers, plastic cutlery, and straws.
Switch: Carrying a lunch box is super handy for getting take out, storing leftovers, or even for groceries (think fresh bread or non-packaged meat). Try to also carry come cutlery (just grab a spare pair from home), and a straw (if you need one) made from metal, plant or glass.

Plastic free July tea

19 | Food and Drink

Ditch: Take out altogether.
Switch: Maybe you forgot you're to go cup or food box? Instead of ordering take-out drinks and food, opt to eat in, avoiding the single-use waste.


20 | Laundry Detergent

Ditch: Bottled detergent.
Switch: Look out for natural detergents that come in cardboard boxes, make homemade detergent from white vinegar and essential oils, or buy soap nuts.

21 | Drying

Ditch: Dryer sheets.
Switch: Use a drying rack/clothes horse. If you use a dryer, use dryer balls.

Plastic free July dryer balls

22 | Clothes

Ditch: Buying new synthetic fabrics that will release microplastics into water systems. Try to avoid petroleum-based fabrics; polyester, nylon, acrylic, viscose, spandex, fleece and elastane.
Switch: Clothing made from natural fibres; cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool, cork, jute, leather, and flax.
Glitch: Recycled fabrics and semi synthetic-fibres, such as modal, pinatex, tencel, and bamboo, are more sustainable than newly made fully synthetic materials. However, they still produce plastic micro fibers that end in the ocean.

Plastic free July natural fabric clothing cotton leather


23 | Gift Wrapping

Ditch: Wrapping paper, which is nearly always coated in plastic.
Switch: Reuse old wrapping paper, newspaper,
and plain brown paper. Fix wrapping in place with paper tape, string or ribbons.

24 | Gift Giving

Ditch: Joke presents and disposable gifts.
Switch: Experiences, meals, charity donations or something they genuinely need.

25 | Decorations

Ditch: Disposable decorations.
Switch: Make your own! Use cardboard, felts, paints and natural elements.

Plastic free July zero waste homemade decorations

26 | Cleaning Products

Ditch: Cleaners in plastic bottles and tubs.
Switch: All-purpose homemade cleaners, made with white vinegar, citrus, herbs, essentials oils and/or baking soda.

Plastic free July lavender and citrus homemade zero waste all purpose cleaner

27 | Terra Cycle

Ditch: Trashing rubbish.
Switch: Look on Terra Cycle to see if there is a scheme that will accept your trash.

As always, thanks for reading.
Chelsea ✌️🐌


Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, feminism, greenwashing, and fossil fuel fuckery.

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