How to use less plastic: Easy swaps to help the environment

Single-use plastic is having a devastating impact on our environment, and the need to urgently reduce plastic waste around the world is becoming increasingly pressing. These easy plastic swaps are a step in the right direction.

Single-use plastic is having a devastating impact on our environment, and the need to urgently reduce plastic waste around the world is becoming increasingly pressing. When confronted with such a global problem, the sense of powerlessness can be frustrating, but small changes on a mass scale can drive forward progress. What can you do to help? These easy plastic swaps are a step in the right direction.

Plastic pollution is one of the most serious issues our planet faces. David Attenborough shocked us all when he told us that eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, with devastating consequences for wildlife, and reports have also shown that plastic production is accelerating climate change.

The efforts to reduce single-use plastic are improving daily, with cafes and restaurants banning plastic straws and Glastonbury Festival going completely plastic-free. But there’s still a long way to go, and while urgent action needs to be taken by governments and businesses, we can all do our part.

Dougie Poynter, musician and environmental campaigner, is passionate about the mission to cut out single-use plastic and believes in encouraging and empowering the younger generation to really make a difference. His inspiring guide, Plastic Sucks!, speaks directly to young people and is full of infographics, useful tips and easy swaps that explain to kids exactly why plastic is so harmful, and what we can all do about it. As Dougie says, ‘sometimes it's making small changes at home that make a huge difference to the environment.’ Here, Dougie tells us about some of his favourite innovations in the fight against plastic, and we share some easy swaps from Plastic Sucks! which make cutting down on plastic as painless as possible. These are little actions that everyone, from your partner to the kids, can get involved in. Together we can all make a difference.

Bathroom swaps

From bottles of toiletries to cotton buds, our bathroom products are one of the worst offenders when it comes to plastic in our homes. These easy swaps will reduce the amount of plastic you use, and some will even save you money too!

  • Swap your plastic hairbrush and comb for a wooden hairbrush and comb
  • Swap liquid shampoo and conditioner for shampoo and conditioner bars or refillable bottles
  • Swap liquid soap and shower gel for a bar of soap with paper wrapping
  • Swap toothpaste for microplastic-free toothpaste or tooth powder
  • Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush
  • Swap your plastic razor for a reusable metal safety razor
  • Swap sanitary products for washable cloth pads and menstrual cups
  • Swap cotton buds for cotton buds with card or bamboo sticks
  • Swap dental floss for bamboo or charcoal floss
  • Swap single-use face wipes and cotton wool pads for natural, reusable and washable cotton cloths or flannels

Kitchen swaps

These simple swaps will help you to reduce your plastic use in the kitchen, while still keeping everything clean and hygienic.

  • Swap bottles of laundry detergent or plastic tubs of liquitabs for a box of washing powder or soap nuts
  • Swap bin bags for compostable bags
  • Swap plastic washing-up sponges for wooden dish brushes
  • Swap a plastic dustpan and brush for a stainless-steel or bamboo set
  • Swap cling film for beeswax wraps

Food swaps

So much of our food comes packaged in unnecessary plastic these days, but making these swaps when doing your food shopping will help to make a real difference.

  • Swap milk in plastic bottles for milk in glass bottles
  • Swap tea bags for loose-leaf tea and a teapot
  • Swap plastic coffee pods or takeaway coffee for ground coffee and a French press
  • Swap plastic-wrapped fruit and veg for loose fruit and veg
  • Swap butter in plastic cartons for butter wrapped in greaseproof paper
  • Swap cheese wrapped in plastic for cheese wrapped in paper

In this episode of Book Break, Emma talks to Dougie about how to avoid single-use plastic, and tries out his tips when she attempts to go plastic-free for a day:

Plastic Sucks! You Can Make A Difference

by Dougie Poynter

Book cover for Plastic Sucks! You Can Make A Difference

Plastic Sucks! is an inspiring guide written by musician and environmental activist Dougie Poynter which will show you how to get involved in the mission to cut out single-use plastic. Full of top tips and easy steps, Plastic Sucks! shows us how we can all make small changes and become champions for our planet.