No, you don’t go completely single use plastic free from day one.
Our recommended approach is that you start with 10 items, step by step and then progress slowly to more once you feel more confident.
Here is the list and we’ll explain each of them while listing a few tips:
The very first thing to do when starting your plastic free journey is to stop drinking bottled water. It seems pretty obvious to the “zero wasters” but why are there are billions of people on earth still using it and therefore increasing their demand on the market?
We understand that in some countries tap water is not safe, but this is not the case for many other countries, including Australia.
It takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water contained in the bottle itself. Isn’t this already reason enough to stop?
Tip: on a low budget? Reuse a glass bottle from juice or passata bought at the supermarket and use an old stubby cooler to help prevent breaking.
This is the second step.
You don’t have to buy new fancy grocery bags if you’re on a low budget. There are plenty of bags in circulation already, so just get enough bags together for your usual shopping round.
Tip: If you go shopping by car, just leave them in the car and remember to put them back directly after shopping. If you’re not using your car, then put a few foldable bags in your bag or backpack or at your house/apartment door.
Once you get the hang of the reusable shopping bags, go to the next step and purchase some reusable produce bags. We have some made of recycled plastic on our directory that come with a handy cover to keep them all together.
Tip: as for the reusable shopping bags, just leave the reusable produce bags in the car and remember to put them back directly after shopping. If you’re not using your car, then put a few of them in your bag or backpack, so you’ll have them with you when you need them.
If you are used to buying yourself a coffee/latte on the go, then yes please invest a few dollars in a reusable coffee cup. In our opinion, glass or stainless steel are the safest materials to use with hot coffee or tea.
Tip: If you are on a low budget, you can use a glass jar from your jam/peanut butter etc. with a few elastic bands around it, so as not to scold yourself.
Are you a straw user? Do you have sensitive teeth or hate lip stick stains? Have your reusable straw always with you. There are now several models on the market, including reusable compact straws that you can carry in your purse, even the smallest one.
Tip: They key is to remember to say “no straw please” when ordering every drink! You’ll be surprised where the barman can place a straw, we saw that happening even with tap water! If you like smoothies, pearl tea or slushies there are straws also with a larger diameter.
Every dentist would tell you to change your toothbrush every three months right? In Australia alone, over 30 million plastic toothbrushes are used and discarded each year (approximately 1,000 tonnes of landfill).
Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush and snap off the head and compost the handle at the end of its life. You can even take some pliers and snap off the nylon bristles if you like. Some toothbrushes claim to be completely biodegradable but please ask the manufacturer if that means home compostable or not. Biodegradable is a term often used in “greenwashing” aka the attempt to make a business seem interested in protecting the environment, when it is not. The bristles might biodegrade only in a certain environment under certain conditions. Most bamboo toothbrushes have nylon bristles.
Tip: don’t put your bamboo toothbrush straight into a container after washing it, the water will gather at the bottom and will make the bottom of your toothbrush handle mouldy. Lay the toothbrush horizontally directly on the washing basin or dry the bottom tip of the handle with your towel before placing it in the toothbrush container.
Plastic cutlery is one of the most common forms of litter… you see them in every park and on the streets, they cannot be recycled and end up in our waterways often breaking up into microplastics.
If you’re often on the go or are used to buying a takeaway lunch every day at work, please buy a reusable cutlery set or at least a spork which is a spoon & fork in one. Keep them in your everyday bag. There are many sets available from bamboo cutlery sets, to stainless steel foldable camping sets.
Tip: if you are on a low budget, make yourself a set by just gathering together old cutlery and wrapping them in a cloth bag.
Lunch is often served in plastic containers that will stay in the environment for ever. Plant-based plastic containers made with PLA can only biodegrade in a commercial composting facility under certain conditions of temperature & humidity.
By bringing your reusable lunch box to work or with you if you’re going to night markets etc. you avoid single use resources.
Tip: have a specific bag ready market bag or work bag ready and put the containers straight back in the bag once washed.
If you’re used to wrapping your left-over food or veggies in plastic wrap, it’s time to stop. I know we have been brainwashed for decades about how convenient it is to use it but there are many great alternatives to use instead. Beeswax food wraps or vegan wraps are a fantastic way to wrap your kids’ sandwich lunch or your veggies. Look also for cotton bowl and dish covers to protect your food, plus there are new wrap on the market that are completely home compostable.
Tip: if you’re on a low budget, you can also use a Tupperware or glass jar to store your leftovers in the fridge or simply place a plate on top of a bowl.
This is an easy way to reduce the consumption of plastic hand wash bottles. Yes, it’s handy and less messy to use a liquid soap but by simply using soap bar on a little plate, you are saving many plastic bottles a year. Make sure to choose a palm oil free soap which is not wrapped in plastic. Alternatively, we also have innovative hand wash powder on our directory that is packaged plastic-free in home compstable sachets and only require water to dissolve into a truly zero waste liquid soap bottle. See this video to discover how it works.
Once you feel confident about these 10 swaps, you can continue your journey to more items. We have compiled a free four page “plastic free living checklist” on how to remove unnecessary plastic and waste from your house, room by room. Download your copy from this page or from our homepage.
We hope this simple guide answers the “How to go plastic free?” question and that you feel inspired to start today!
You can browse our eco-friendly swaps here.
I’m Plastic Free