How to live with less plastic

Posted on July 2, 2021

How to live with less plastic

It litters our cities and countryside, pollutes our oceans and beaches, and impacts on the wellbeing of wildlife – yet single-use plastic is a big part of our daily life. Here are 10 practical ways to cut your plastic consumption today.

  1. Bring your own water bottle

In the UK, we throw away 7.7 billion plastic water bottles every year.1 With many shops, restaurants and public spaces offering free drinking water, carrying your own water bottle can help you stay hydrated, use less plastic bottles and save money too. 

  1. Say no to a bag for life

Although bags for life were widely introduced by retailers to reduce our use of single-use plastic bags, these thicker bags contain far more plastic by weight – and many still end up in landfill. Instead, keep a reusable canvas tote in your handbag or car, or make use of the cardboard boxes that supermarkets often give away free of charge.

  1. Buy loose produce where possible

According to research by Greenpeace, supermarkets put over 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging on their shelves a year.2 Although cost and convenience often make plastic-packaged food the best option, swap to loose produce where possible and avoid the single-use food bags that are found in the grocery aisle. It can also mean buying the amount  you need with less food wastage. 

To protect loose fruit and veg in the trolley and on the way home, try a string shopping bag that you can use week after week.

  1. Bring your own cup

Most coffee shops and cafes offer a small discount if you bring your own cup for your hot drink. Takeaway paper coffee cups are often lined with plastic which makes them much harder to recycle, so treating yourself to a reusable cup or insulated bottle means you won’t have to feel guilty about your daily coffee fix.

  1. Choose a reusable lunch box

Taking a packed lunch to work or when you’re out and about at the weekend is a great way to save money – but plastic food bags, foil and cling film are not so great. Instead, choose a reusable container, reusable sandwich bags or beeswax food wraps for a waste-free lunch break.

  1. Say no to straws

…And plastic cutlery too. Grabbing lunch on the go often means more plastic waste, so if you know you’ll be picking up food while you’re out, pop a reusable straw in your bag and take your own cutlery too. 

  1. Use bars not bottles

Switching to soap, shampoo and shaving soap in a bar rather than a bottle is one easy way to reduce the amount of plastic you use in the bathroom. Avoid exfoliating shower puffs too, as these are made of plastic and need to be replaced regularly as bacteria can build up in the netting – creating more plastic waste. More natural shower puffs are now available, known as sea sponges. 

  1. Switch sweet treats

Biscuits, cakes and snacks often come in single-use plastic packaging, which although convenient is often impossible to recycle. When you have time, bake your own sweet treats at home instead – they will be healthier, tastier and, if you bake in bulk, cheaper too. 

When you don’t have a spare hour or two for baking, opt for a packaging-free snack like a banana or apple that just happens to be healthier as well.

  1. Try different tea bags

Many tea bags contain plastic woven into their fibres or are sealed with a plastic-based glue, which means they aren’t suitable for compositing. Do your research to find a brand that has switched to plastic-free tea bags so you can enjoy your favourite brew without adding to the plastic pile. Alternatively you can switch to loose tea, which is also full of flavour. 

  1. Check clothing labels

When synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are in the washing machine, tiny microplastic fibres get washed down the drain. Instead, try hand washing synthetic fabrics to reduce how many fibres are released, use a shorter wash cycle, or invest in microfibre-catching laundry bags. And next time you are shopping for new clothes, think twice before buying synthetic materials that contain plastic.

Living a plastic free life will also make you feel better in yourself, knowing you are helping shape a better future. 


  1. Rebecca Burgess. (2020). Love water not plastic. Available: Last accessed 2nd July 2021. 
  2. Anthony Lewis. (2019). Supermarkets putting more plastic on their shelves than ever. Available: Last accessed 2nd July 2021.