A small estuary seahorse, Hippocampus kuda, drifts in the polluted waters near Sumbawa Besar, Sumbara Island, Indonesia. Photo credit: Justin Hofman, SeaLegacy
A year on from Blue Planet II and a week after the EU Parliament proposed a ban on single-use plastic items including cotton buds, we’re sharing some simple plastic-free swaps for your everyday beauty kit.
Photographer Justin Hofman’s heartbreaking image of a tiny seahorse swimming with a discarded plastic ear bud sent shockwaves around the world when it was selected as a finalist in the Natural History Mueseum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” Hofman wrote on Instagram. “This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans.”
Since that photo was shared in September 2017, a ban on single-use plastic items has been proposed by the EU Parliament to come into effect in 2021. This will include plastic ear buds – a bathroom staple in many households. Luckily there are increasing numbers of alternatives out there to help you build a plastic-free and environmentally-friendly beauty kit. Here are some of our favourites:
Biodegradable Bamboo Cotton Buds
Replace plastic cotton buds for these 100% biodegradable ear buds from Hydrophil, made from bamboo and soft cotton. While plastic cotton swabs are discarded after seconds of use but live on for years as one of the biggest river and ocean pollutants, these can simply be thrown in your organic waste or compost bin. They also come in recycled cardboard packaging, further reducing plastic waste.
Available to buy for £2.50 at www.plasticfreedom.co.uk
Reusable Ear Buds
For a cotton-free alternative to the earbud, Eeears reusable ear cleaners 2.0 launch this month after a successful kickstarter campaign. After discovering that 22 billion cotton buds are produced each year just by the market leader and concerned about the impact of the use of plastic and cotton in traditional ear buds on the environment, the creators of Eeears designed a reusable ear cleaner that would safely clean the outer cartilaginous portion of the ear canal. The Eeears device is made from soft medical-grade silicone and has an estimated lifespan of 5 years – after use you can simply clean with water and store to be used again.
Pre-order yours now at www.eeearsofficial.com
Reusable Organic Muslin Face Cloth
Ditch the plastic-packaged face wipes (which are not only bad for your skin but are also littering coastlines and can take 100 years to biodegrade) and choose a reusable face cloth. These lightweight muslin cloths are made from 100% organically grown cotton and are unbleached and undyed. Simply use with soap and warm water to polish away makeup and everyday impurities.
Available at www.nealsyardremedies.com
Plastic-Free Vegan Dental Floss
While flossing every day is great for your teeth, it can be terrible for the environment. Commercial dental floss you find in high street stores is usually made of synthetic polymers such as nylon, with a rigid plastic case and additional plastic packaging when you first buy it – generating a whole host of waste.
This plastic-free and vegan alternative from Georganics is made with 100% sustainable bamboo charcoal fibre, candelilla wax and peppermint essential oil. The refill pack comes with 2x 30 metres floss in a glass container with a metal dispensing lid.
Available to buy for £7.00 at plasticfreedom.co.uk
One of the most simple swaps you can make is switching your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush such as this one. The Environmental Toothbrush is made in Australia from environmentally sustainable ‘panda friendly’ Moso bamboo, which grows a metre a day without the need for fertiliser and is not eaten by pandas or grown in an area they inhabit.
Moso bamboo re-generates itself naturally with minimal rain and without the need for harmful pesticides. Rather than being grown on a plantation, it is grown by by many local farmers, who are paid fairly. The bamboo handle has been heat-treated to carbonise the surface which provides water resistance and prevents the growth of bacteria and mould.
The vegan-friendly bristles are made from a BPA free Nylon 6. When finished, removed the bristles and recycle and compost the bamboo handle to return it to earth.
Available for £2.65 from www.boobalou.co.uk
Conventional toothpaste often contains plastic microbeads, heaps of toxic chemicals and always come in plastic tubes.
This plastic-free toothpaste is locally made from all natural, organic and vegan ingredients and packaged in a recyclable glass jar, aluminium lid and recyclable box. The jar comes with a compostable bamboo spatula to help serve the paste onto your toothbrush.
Available for £6.90 on georganics.co.uk
Disposable razors are unlikely to ever be recycled, so reduce plastic waste by changing to a plastic-free safety razor. Naked Necessities Shave Kit contains a traditional wooden-handled safety razor, with 5 spare replaceable platinum blades and a vegan friendly, paraben, palm oil and cruelty free soap bar.
The kit is put together in Devon, UK, and comes packaged in 100% recycled and recyclable cardboard, which manufactured using renewable energy and stamped using acid-free inks. Items are held in place with compostable and sustainable jute twine.
Naked Shave kit is available to buy for £26.00 from www.nakednecessities.co.uk
Switching to a natural deodorant means your pores will not be blocked and / or filled with nasties, but instead you can let your body do its job – sweating regulates your body’s temperature and releases toxins – and your natural deodorant will take care of the smell. Finding a deodorant that works for you might take some time as we are all different, but don’t throw in the towel after your first try. At Eco-Age we love this one as it’s completely natural, free from preservatives, artificial fragrance and palm oil as well as certified cruelty-free and vegan. Only their 55gr tub is plastic-free while they work on getting all other sizes to plastic-free too.
Available for £11 at naturaldeoco.com
Reusable Nail Polish Remover Wipes
If you love having happy nails and have been using cotton rounds to remove your nail polish, but want to move away from disposable items made from resource-intensive materials look no further. These reusable wipes are made from bamboo felt, can be used with normal nail polish remover and should be rinsed just after use.
Available for £4 at tabithaeve.co.uk
Bamboo Soap Bag
If you’ve already swapped out your plastic bottles of body wash for a soap bar, having a soap bag takes care of the exfoliation.
Simply place your soap into this bag, wet it and start scrubbing away. The bag is made from 100% bamboo so it’s antibacterial and antifungal as well as super soft – perfect for sensitive skin and suitable to be used on the face too. After a few uses you can also add it to your laundry and machine wash at 30 degrees.
Available for £3.95 at allnaturalsoap.co.uk