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Little ways to use less plastic at home

21st May 2018

The amount of plastic Brits throw away is predicted to rise by a fifth by 2030. According to research by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), this includes a 34% rise in crisp packets, 41% more plastic straws and 9% more drinks bottles. The report also estimated that in 2018 alone, Brits will use 10.8 billion wet wipes, 16.5 billion pieces of plastic cutlery and 4.1 billion single-use drinks cups and lids. With such shocking statistics about the rise of plastic waste littering our planet, it’s perhaps of little surprise that British people are seeking alternatives to plastic. 


From reusable water bottles to paper straws, there are many little ways to use less plastic at home. But many people are adopting traditional methods in order to do their bit for the environment.

Traditional shopping methods are making a comeback


Prior to the 1990s, getting glass milk bottle deliveries was a common sight in the UK. Milkmen and women used to visit communities country-wide, until supermarkets switched to cheaper plastic bottles and sadly drove many out of business. Fortunately, this traditional method of delivering dairy products is making a comeback, thanks to the UK’s awakening to the rise of plastic waste. As well as reducing the amount of plastic you use at home, you are also helping to support local farmers, rather than spending money with supermarket giants. It’ll also provide a wonderful burst of nostalgia.

Cotteswold Dairy, a family-owned dairy with four depots across the UK, says it has seen increased interest in its doorstep delivery service. The dairy has been delivering in glass bottles for some 80 years, and offers the service via an electric milk float. The team at Cotteswold Dairy shared their thoughts on why glass milk bottles are gaining popularity:

“We work closely with our farmers to ensure that we can deliver a great tasting product that is both ethically sourced and compliant with Red Tractor industry standards. Many of our farmers are small, family-owned and operated farms that practice traditional farming methods and are dedicated to the overall quality of life for the cows. After all, a happy cow produces great tasting milk!

“We have around 50,000 doorstep customers, 30,000 of which are serviced directly by us and 20,000 that are serviced by independent milkmen working directly with Cotteswold Dairy. Of our doorstep customers, around 75% of them get their milk delivered in glass bottles. Although we encourage our customers to take glass bottles, some of our older customers find it difficult to grasp a milk bottle and for that reason, they use poly bottles vs glass.”

Image: Cotteswold Dairy

“On average we produce 60,000 to 80,000 bottles of milk a day and we have seen an increase in demand around 10% in the first quarter of this year.

“People should consider moving back to glass because it is better for the environment and helps reduce plastic waste and carbon footprint. A glass milk bottle can be reused 30-50 times on average before being recycled and re-made into new glass bottles. Also, most are delivered by an electric milk float.”

Supporting your local businesses

Shopping the ‘old fashioned way’ is also proving to be a bit hit among plastic-free campaigners. By shopping at greengrocers or local markets, customers can opt to use recyclable containers to carry their fresh fruit and vegetables home. As well as supporting local businesses, this method of shopping reduces the temptation to package fresh produce in small plastic bags provided in supermarkets. Buying second-hand items is also on the rise, with customers choosing to ‘upcycle’ their furniture, donate to charity shops and engage in clothing swaps to update their wardrobe. Those with limited mobility can even buy second hand stairlifts.

Top tips

  • Consider getting glass milk bottle deliveries from your local dairy farmers
  • Shop the old fashioned way buy shunning pre-packaged fruit and vegetables in supermarkets and either buying it loose (without using a plastic bag) or at your local greengrocer
  • Support your local businesses by buying meat from the butcher and cheese from your local delicatessen
  • Where possible, try to buy second-hand items. Browsing charity shops also means your money is going to a great cause, rather than to a large chain. This is a particularly good option for buying furniture.

Little ways to use less plastic at home

As well as changing your shopping habits, there are many little ways to use less plastic at home. Here are some of the easiest ways to change your plastic-using ways to help the environment.

Bulk buy your items


A recent report by Waitrose suggests that two-thirds of Britons visit a supermarket more than once a day and that customers are choosing to shop ‘as and when’ rather than pre-planning and buying more in bulk. Waitrose said: “Just a few years ago, an average Waitrose would open with around 200 big trolleys and 150 shallow ‘daily shopper’ trolleys lined up outside. These days the tables have turned, with 250 shallow ‘daily shoppers’ and just 70 big trolleys needed.”

This trend could actually be fuelling plastic use. Bulk buying is an excellent way to ensure that you use less plastic, and save money. The more you buy of something, generally, the better the value. If you can afford to buy products in bulk, and have the space to store items, you could try buying larger packs of washing powder, washing-up liquid, kitchen roll and canned foods – these will all help to eliminate mounds of plastic waste through buying single-use products. If you have limited mobility and are worried about carrying your goods home, try shopping online. You can choose not to have your items delivered in plastic bags and instead, the delivery driver will be happy to carry your shopping indoors in a crate and unload it for you.

Swap your washing capsules for powder

Rather than purchasing washing capsules in plastic tubs, why not go back to traditional methods by opting for washing powder in a cardboard box? Gone are the days of poor quality washing powders, today, big name brands are constantly in competition to create the best-smelling and best-performing laundry detergents.

Swap liquid soap for bars

Liquid soap bottles might be convenient and easy to use, but they also create a huge amount of plastic waste. As hand soap pump dispenser lids are often not accepted in local recycling, why not opt for a traditional bar of soap instead? If you’re not prepared to give up on hand soap dispensers, consider purchasing refill bottles to reduce plastic waste. These are available at supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, as well as eco retailers like Big Green Smile.

Use a reusable water bottle

Image: Klean Kanteen

According to Recycle Now, an average of 38.5 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK, but only 19.8 million are recycled. As well as getting better at recycling plastic, we can choose to banish it from our daily routines. Reusable water bottles are an excellent way to ensure that you use less plastic when you’re setting off for an afternoon out. Available in a huge range of shapes, colours and sizes, reusable water bottles by companies such as Klean Kanteen and Chilly’s are stylish and practical. Many bottles are also designed to keep water cold for up to 24 hours, and hot drinks hot for up to 12 hours. So they’re perfect for taking tea or coffee to a picnic. Most cafés, pubs and restaurants will be happy to refill your water bottle for free.

Use bamboo toothbrushes

Image: Bristle

Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush every 2-3 months. But with so many of the leading brands such as Colgate and Oral-B using plastic in their toothbrushes, this may seem like an unavoidable plastic purchase. This is where Welsh brand Bristle has stepped in to help. The team at Bristle have created biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes and offer a handy subscription service. You can choose how often you’d like your new toothbrush delivered. For example if you choose to get a new bamboo toothbrush every 2 months, you’ll pay £3.70 once every 2 months.

Invest in reusable shopping bags

Since the 5p plastic carrier bag charge came into force in England in October 2015, the effects on the environment have been amazing. Between April 2016 and April 2017, 9 billion fewer plastic bags were used by shoppers and major retailers are reporting an 83% drop in the use of plastic bags, according to the BBC. While supermarkets offer ‘bag for life’ alternatives, which you can return to the shop if damaged in exchange for a new one, canvas or fabric bags are a worthwhile investment. Look for natural cotton bags or jute bags, made with natural materials. Take a look at these 10 best bags for life as chosen by The Independent for inspiration. Alternatively, if you’re handy at crafts, you could make your own tote bag.

Useful plastic-free resources

Less Plastic

Based in South Devon, Less Plastic is a family organisation run by Amanda and James Keetley, who are fighting the war on plastic. By offering quick and easy tips to use less plastic at home and in everyday life, the duo hopes to increase awareness of the cause.

Image: Less Plastic

“We set up Less Plastic shortly after moving to the coast and seeing how much plastic was washing up on the beaches near our home,” said Amanda. “We felt compelled to take action to raise awareness of the ocean plastic crisis and offer easy-to-action practical tips to help individuals and organisations use less plastic in their daily lives.

“Our mission is to make using less plastic desirable and achievable for the mainstream, rather than aiming for zero waste perfection for a limited few. Our posters and postcards aim to inspire individuals, schools, businesses and community groups to change their behaviour around plastic, and use it more consciously and sparingly.”

Big Green Smile

Our supermarket shelves are full of plastic, so it can feel impossible to get away from it at times. If you’re looking for 100% plastic-free products and eco alternatives to your essential household items, Big Green Smile is a great online retailer to shop with.

“Big Green Smile is a small and passionate team that have been selling natural and organic products since 2006. We stock the UK’s largest selection of natural beauty, skin care, bath and hair care products, organic baby products and natural cleaning products.

“Our website is super easy to use, customers can search by skin type, whether it’s vegetarian/vegan/plastic-free/ecocert – we work with many accreditation bodies to ensure all products are rigorously checked. We list all ingredients, so great for those who suffer with allergies or sensitive skin.”

Whether you’re looking for sponges, compostable bin bags, sandwich bags, kitchen roll, toilet paper, tea bags or candles, Big Green Smile has a fantastic range of plastic-free products to help you use less plastic at home.

Recycle Now

If you’re struggling to get to grips with recycling, Recycle Now is an excellent resource. As the national recycling campaign for England, managed by WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme), Recycle Now is full of useful information about recycling products at home. If you have an item and you’re not sure how to recycle it, visit the website’s ‘What to do with…’ page, which has an A-Z listing of most items. You can even search for local recycling information and get top tips on reducing waste in your home.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing