Top tips for a ‘Plastic Free July’

To help promote Plastic Free July, CIWM’s technical development executive, Helen Chaplin, shares her top tips for anyone looking to reduce their plastic consumption – good for all year round, not just July.

In the bathroom…

Dental hygiene

Toothpaste tubes are difficult to recycle because they are made of different types of plastic, and often include a layer of metal to keep the toothpaste fresh.

There are various alternatives, including toothpaste tablets and powders that come in refillable containers.

Change your toothbrush for one made from bamboo as it can be composted at the end of its life.

Washable make up remover pads

Did you know 11billion wet wipes are sold in the UK every year, and 90% of these contain plastic (BBC, War on Plastic)?

Investing in some make up remover pads which can be washed and reused is one way to cut down the amount of plastic you use.


There are lots of plastic free deodorants these days. For example, it’s possible to buy deodorant sticks in cardboard that can be recycled when empty, deodorant balm in jars or even refillable versions.

Toilet roll wrapped in paper

Ditch the rolls wrapped it plastic, and opt for ones wrapped in paper or with minimal packaging – some of which is  made from bamboo. Some even come as a subscription service, so you will never forget to buy toilet paper again!


Switch your liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners for bar form. These last longer and use less packaging than their liquid equivalents.

The pump mechanisms include a mixture of plastics, and a metal spring, which make them difficult to recycle. Teracycles has a scheme to recycle them, and there are new innovators creating a range of recyclable pumps. Alternatively, refill empty bottles with product from a local zero packaging shop.

Plastic free periods

Did you know that on average there are 5 plastic bags worth of plastic in a pack of menstrual pads (Hubbub)?

Not forgetting all the packaging, and plastic applicators, that is a lot of plastic! There are a number of sustainable alternatives such as reusable pads, reusable tampon applicators, menstrual pants and menstrual cups.

In the kitchen…

Beeswax paper

Clingfilm will be a thing of the past once you discover beeswax paper, and other methods of covering food such as silicone covers. Alternatively, use re-usable Tupperware to store left over food, or cover a bowl with a plate.

Produce bags

If you are looking to carry your loose vegetables in something, get a cloth or netted produce bag. These can be reused and easily washed if they get dirty.

Many supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, recently stopped supplying plastic bags for fresh fruit and veg, opting to give customers the option of purchasing reusable netted bags, which are easy to wash and are reasonably priced.

Tea bags

Did you know that tea bags contain small amounts of plastic? Opt for loose tea leaves and get a tea infuser (basically a reusable tea bag).

Or you can shop around for plastic-free bags, such as Clipper, Teapigs and Twinnings pyramid range.

Dish scrub

Wash the dishes with a cellulose sponge or a brush with natural fibres rather than a plastic sponge or disposable brush. Once it reaches the end of its life it can be composted.


Buy unpackaged fruit and vegetables where possible. Small independent shops and local farmers markets are the best places to find these. Look to see if you can also buy items in bulk as this reduces the amount of packaging.

If you are lucky enough to have the space, you could also try growing your own vegetables. This eliminates their packaging needs and reduces their carbon footprint.

Take up home baking and make your own confectionary items – homemade cakes are renowned for tasting better than shop bought anyway!


Make your own fresh sparkling water on tap without the need for buying the plastic bottles. Buy a drink carbonator, such as SodaStream, and make your drinks to your taste. You can even experiment with different flavours.

At work …


Making your lunch at home and taking it to work with you will reduce the amount of single use plastic packaging used if you usually buy your lunch from a shop or cafe, as well as saving you some money. Double win!

When you are out and about, remember to take your reusable coffee cup and water bottle with you. Look out for the Refill sticker in windows to know where to refill your bottle.

With the imminent ban on single use straws and cutlery coming into force, opt for a reusable straw (if you need to use one at all), and keep a set of cutlery in your bag.

Refillable pens

Instead of all those single use pens you inevitably collect at conferences and events, why not invest in a refillable pen, where you only need to change the ink cartridge? Alternatively, why not take this opportunity to go paper free and use your phone, tablet or laptop for note taking – you’ll never need a pen again!

Old pens, highlighters, felt tips and markers can be recycled via a Terracycle scheme.

Your suppliers

Talk to your suppliers and see if they can reduce the amount of plastic packaging, they send your products in, or if there are alternatives they can use.

Additionally, see if you can save up your orders and do them in bulk to get a fuller order.

When ordering multiple items at online retailers such as Amazon, make sure you request to have these items sent together, reducing the amount of packaging, which often includes plastic.

In summary…

Don’t expect to swap everything overnight. It’s best to attempt to make changes gradually as you run out of the items.

Once you get into the habit of making changes, think further beyond what you can do as an individual and think about what your workplace can do, what your local community could switch and how you could help your gym or a local school, for example. Share what you’re doing with your family and friends, and support each other on your journeys.

Good luck!

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