The Ultimate Guide to Your Plastic-Free Bathroom
Bathrooms are literally awash with plastic. Shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, deodorant, hair products, hand wash... There’s even plastic in razors, toothbrushes, make-up, wrapped around the toilet roll... Taking steps to reduce the presence of bathroom plastic can seem daunting, particularly with personal hygiene being such an important part of everyday life. It can feel like these plastics are unavoidable but this Ultimate Guide is here to help you. We take a deep dive into the sneaky plastics hiding in your bathrooms and the easy sustainable swaps you can start making today to reduce your plastic footprint. You can even save money while you save the planet 🌍
Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gels & Soaps
A huge source of bathroom plastics are soaps in all forms – shower gel, body wash, hand soap, bubble bath… they are all effectively the same thing. The good old fashioned bar of soap is making a huge comeback and natural ingredients can be antibacterial and antiseptic - so no excuses there either 😉.
You can easily replace hand wash, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, shaving foam, travel bottles and even deodorant, with a plastic-free solid bar or liquid in refillable, recyclable containers. What an incredible reduction of unnecessary plastic packaging and hard-to-recycle pump bottles!
They last a lot longer too. A conditioner bar can last months and is zero waste. There is no liquid running out at an uncontrollable rate. Toiletry manufacturers actually make the holes big enough for too much product to be dispensed so you need to replenish more often! Look out for bath salts too, rather than bubble bath, and check bath bombs don’t come wrapped in plastic.
Taking solid bars on holiday avoids all the liquid restrictions imposed by airports too!
If moving to solid bar hair care is too big a step to take in the first instance, there are many products sold in extra large bottles or choose brands that offer refills. Faith In Nature sell whopping 5 litre refill containers of shampoo, for example, and there are a number of shops throughout the UK that offer refills of their products too.
Oral Health & Dental Care
Following dentist’s advice, we’re recommended to replace our toothbrush every three months. That’s four toothbrushes a year per person, or over 300 in the course of an average lifetime. It’s estimated that 150 million plastic toothbrushes are discarded in the UK every year and because they are made up of plastic, nylon and rubber, they cannot be recycled at kerbside in the UK.
The plastic they are made from won’t break down in our lifetime, or our children’s lifetime, or even our grandchildren’s lifetime. That’s not a legacy that we should be leaving behind.
The same goes for the plastic toothpaste tubes, mouthwashes usually come in plastic bottles (there are some contained in glass) and even dental floss is often made of plastic (nylon) and comes in plastic casing. But there are plastic-free alternatives to all of these. Toothpaste in glass jars or recycled cardboard tubes; toothpaste tablets in paper bags or tins; mouthwash in aluminium bottles or tablet form; and dental floss in a refillable glass tube that's made from sustainable bamboo fibre, PLA (plant based bioplastic) or responsibly sourced silk.
Those pesky little plastic sticks get washed up on beaches by the thousands. In fact, 27 per 100m of beach were found, on average, on beach clean-ups according to the Marine Conservation Society.
Switch to paper or bamboo - so simple and so much choice in supermarkets, chemists and online now.
There are lots of fabulous natural deodorants in tins or cardboard tubes available nowadays, in a range of wonderful scents or fragrance free. Another brilliantly simple plastic free swap!
Disposable plastic razors are big business and are a prime example of unnecessary single-use plastic. The old fashioned safety razor actually gives you a closer, cleaner shave and replacement blades are almost always cheaper than the disposables you find on the high street.
Additional positives - they are unisex and look stunning, made from sleek stainless steel. Don’t forget your solid shaving soap before you reach for that shaving foam aerosol, and vegan shaving brush for the ultimate lather.
Wet Wipes & Make-Up Pads
One word – FATBERG! Disposable wet wipes and make-up wipes have become the scourge of sewers everywhere with a 700% increase in their usage over the last decade and 11 billion used in the UK each year!
Don’t believe the hype (wipe)! False advertising dupes people into thinking some wipes are flushable and break down – they don’t. EVER. Instead they clog up sewer systems and drains, eventually drifting to the coastline, beaches and oceans.
Reusable fabric wipes and pads made from natural materials are now plentiful, such as Honour Your Flow, Bambaw's super-soft multi-purpose bamboo wipes and make-up pads. Just use them and throw them in the washing machine with your eco-friendly detergent 😀
You don’t need to buy new though. Cut up old towels, flannels and muslins into wipes and cloths. Super-useful for household jobs as well as for skincare!
Skincare & Haircare
If you use moisturiser, toner, facial oils, eye cream, lip balm, hand cream, body lotion, face masks… or any other popular skincare product, there’s a very high likelihood they come in single-use plastic containers. The same goes for haircare products – gels, mousses, dry shampoo, hair dyes…
There are plenty of natural skincare products available in recyclable materials like glass or metal jars, glass bottles and aluminium tins. Even more preferable is if you can find refillables too. Neals Yard Remedies are famous for their iconic blue glass bottles but take a look at many small producers (local if you can) that hand make vegan, organic or natural skincare products in small batches, such as White Rabbit Skincare and Blushberry Botanicals.
Many natural oils and butters, such as coconut and shea, have multiple beauty applications. Coconut oil is a fantastic make-up remover as it breaks down waterproof mascara, and shea butter is wonderful for moisturising dry skin. Just be sure to check the origin of the products is ethical and sustainable.
Sustainable haircare products are also out there if you know where to look, Kitenest for example.
Is there any make-up that is not sold in single-use plastic? There is now! Brands are slowly emerging that offer refillable make up in sustainable casing (bamboo or cardboard), like Zao. Rather than throw away the entire product when it’s finished, you keep the bamboo casing and insert a refill. The refill part is often still in plastic but usually made of recyclable materials and still halves the amount of plastic thrown away each time. R&D into more sustainable solutions is constant so watch this space.
If you have any unwanted full or part used make-up (or toiletries of any kind) you can send them to the Toiletries Amnesty who distribute them to those in need. A great way to divert plastic from landfill!
Another plastic-free source of make-up is to make your own. There are lots of recipes and guidelines on the internet for homemade make-up and make-up remover.
Another common unflushable clogging up our waterways and costing the UK £88 million a year to unblock, are menstrual products. Did you know the average disposable sanitary pad contains the equivalent amount of plastic as 4 carrier bags!?! Every day the UK ‘disposes' of 1.4 million pads and 2.5 million tampons!
If this isn’t for you and you prefer disposable protection, there are organic products which are far better for our bodies as well as for the environment. No bleaching, no ‘fragrances’ and very importantly, no chemicals associated with plastics. Take a look at TOTM.
These still must NEVER be flushed down the toilet!
A double-faceted bad boy. Not only does commercial sunscreen come in in difficult to recycle plastic tubes and bottles but its ingredients are bleaching corals and poisoning the seas. One of the key ingredients in most chemical sunscreens is oxybenzone, a synthetic molecule known to be toxic to corals, algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals. A single drop of this compound in more than 4 million gallons of water is enough to endanger organisms (read more about it at The Ocean Foundation).
Other Sneaky Bathroom Plastics
- Plasters – wrapped in plastic and made of plastic. Look for sustainable alternatives like PATCH. Their plasters are made of bamboo and natural oils, and come wrapped in rice paper & biodegradable paper, sat snuggly in a recycled cardboard tube.
- Shower sponges – usually a ball of plastic mesh, most shower ‘sponges’ and puffs are made from synthetic fibres. Choose natural options like loofahs, sisal soap pouches, sea sponges and plant-fibre body brushes. Always check they are ethically farmed or grown.
- Brushes - hair, shaving, nail, beard and make-up brushes & combs are usually made entirely from plastic. Opt for wood, bamboo and natural bristles over hair-snagging, static-making plastic.
Do remember, although we are constantly surrounded by plastic packaging and products that contain ingredients we can’t even pronounce, (let alone know whether they are good or bad for us!) we do have the power to change the negative impact we are currently having on our environment, one simple swap at a time.
By spreading the news, putting pressure on manufacturers to rethink, pledging to make one positive change a month, and remembering it’s all about progress over perfection, we can all make huge difference to the fate of the planet by becoming less wasteful and more sustainable.
Some great general sustainability rules to remember are:
🌍 Create less waste going to landfill:
- Keep used containers and refill them with anything else, anywhere in the house (Pinterest and the internet have a wealth of creative ideas)
- Buy in bulk and/or choose refillables
🌍 Choose sustainable packaging:
- If it has to be thrown away, choose plastic-free, biodegradable, recyclable or recycled packaging
🌍 Research ingredients:
- Always remember to research the ingredients in your products and to choose eco-friendly companies that are cruelty free, toxin-free, etc. and use sustainable packaging. For example, Friendly Soap have certified credentials: free from palm oil, parabens, sulphates, triclosan, phthalates and cruelty to animals. As well as being boxed in plastic free, recycled (and recyclable) packaging, they are also registered with The Vegan Society, Cruelty Free International and have a 'Best' rating with Ethical Consumer. A shining example 🌟
We’re always here if you need any help or advice!
Creating a better Tomorrow, Today.
Photo credit: @plantedinthewoods