10 Simple Swaps To Cut Down On Plastic

The BBC documentary ‘Drowning in Plastic’ highlighted the horrifying scale of the plastic crisis and the devastating impact single use plastic is having on ocean wildlife. Here, Melissa Hemsley shares ten simple swaps to help cut down on single-use plastic in the home:


Credits: S’well

1. Swap single use plastic bottles for stainless steel bottles like Swell or Klean Kanteen. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and patterns for homemade smoothies, juices and hot drinks and soups too

Hot Drinks

Credits: Joco

2. Swap one-use coffee cups for your own quality one – try a KeepCup (design your own) or Joco. Don’t be shy to take them into coffee shops – most baristas are happy to use them. You might even get a discount or some free coffee love if you go regularly with your reusable.


Credits: Bee’s Wax

3. Home cooking instead of buying ‘readymade’ is a great step forward in reducing plastic. Cooking in batches saves time, energy and money (win, win, win). Think double (or triple!) batches of curry, lasagne, fish pie, banana bread – one for now; one for the freezer for a rainy day and one for a friend or neighbour. Hopefully they’ll return the favour – it’s food karma! For the freezer, go for glass packaging (leaving an inch at the top for the liquid to expand) or plastic free containers. For the fridge, swap cling film and foil for wax coated wraps (BeeBee and Beeswax). Or just pop a plate over a bowl. Save jamjars and use them to store leftover dressing and pestos.

Ice Cubes

Credits: Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks

4. Swap plastic ice cube bags and trays for stainless ones – yes, they’re expensive but they’ll last a lifetime and they feel much more elegant when you’re mixing up a cocktail. Also I like to keep one of my ice cube trays for pestos/leftover red wine/curry paste/chicken stock. Call me OTT but when you remember you’ve got osne of those flavour bombs in the freezer, you’ll thank yourself!


Credits: Waking Times

5. Buying bulk in nuts/ seeds/ quinoa/ beans is much more affordable. Store them in your saved jamjars. For inspiration, read my guide to bulk buying and find a full list of UK-based bulk-buying stores here.


Credits: Elephant Box

6. Packed lunches are cool – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Look for stainless steel containers and if your work don’t provide cutlery, keep your own set at work.  It’s soup season again so get yourself a flask that will last and make my Squash & Sage soup (below) on a Sunday to warm you up throughout the week. If you have breakfast on the run or find yourself buying porridge from the high street, try this quick quinoa, banana and berry porridge recipe.You save a fortune if you regularly bring breakfast or lunch to work.

Bathroom Bits

Credits: Who Gives A Crap

7. Buy the bigger bottles of handwash (if you don’t like soap) / washing up liquid / clothes wash / shampoo / conditioner. Better yet, have a Google to see if you can refill them in your local area (find a full list of plastic-free stores here). Check out this loo roll company thoughtfully named ‘Who Gives a Crap’?Hello! We do! Who wants to carry a big plastic bag of loo roll on the train home anyway when you could get it delivered? Plus they give 50% of their profits to build toilets in developing countries

Shopping Bags

Credits: Hobbycraft

8. If, like me, you have a drawer or a mountain of tote bags and all the best intentions but then forget to take any when you’re out or need to impromptu shop, your best bet is to find a bag from your stash that rolls up really small that you can chuck in your handbag so you always have one when you’re in need. 


Credits: Ecostrawz

9. Yes they come in handy when you’ve got a crushed ice mojito going but most of the time, but many of us can live without them. Thankfully lots of restaurant and cafes have replaced them with recycled paper versions – if you want your own, try these and these.


Credits: Gessato Shop

10. Next time you need a toothbrush, washing up brush or loo brush, look out for the wooden handled ones – they look far more stylish anyway (as much as a loo brush can look stylish!)

And get used to speaking up. Next time you go to the shops or order something online, tell them as a customer what you do and don’t want from them. Write them a quick email; tweet and tell them you don’t need that much plastic packaging and that you’ll be a loyal customer and buy from them if they change to plastic free packaging. Copy and paste a few lines then it just takes 30 seconds of your time to press send. They’ll listen: they need you to keep coming back. Check out ethical online grocer FARMDROP – as well as ticking the must do boxes of paying farmers properly; sourcing locally and using electric delivery vehicles, they have added a filter to their website meaning that you can also buy items plastic free packaging.

For more guidance on how to reduce use of single use plastic, read Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic.