Reduce plastic – 11 tips

Filed in by on June 12, 2008 16 Comments

plastic packaging
A friend recently told me that she wished we could recycle more plastic. I think that is the cry of many householders in the UK! My friend is often left with plastic containers, trays, packaging and carrier bags that she cannot get rid of and she feels guilty about.

I shared with her some of the ways in which we have managed to reduce our consumption of plastic over the course of our zero waste challenge.

They require simple lifestyle changes and some forward planning, so why not commit to doing just one a week?

1- Hang loose

Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a farm shop, farmers market or supermarket rather than ones pre packed in plastic. The advantage of this is you can choose just the amount of food you need which might result in less food waste too.

The other idea is to sign up for a vegetable box scheme. You don’t even need to leave your home and you’ll get a fresh supply of local, seasonal goods delivered to your door.

2- DIY

Why not start to grow some of your own fruit and vegetables? You don’t need a huge garden or a lot of time to be a little self sufficient. Tomatoes and strawberries which often come in non recycleable plastic boxes, can be grown in hanging baskets. Salad leaves can be grow in window boxes and herbs will enjoy a sunny kitchen windowsill.

3- Go to your local

If you buy meat from a local butcher, you’ll be able to buy products like bacon, sausages and other meats wrapped in a thin plastic bag. This is much less packaging than supermarkets who use a thick plastic or polystyrene tray covered in shrink wrap.

4- Bake your own

By making your own bread you’ll reduce on the amount of plastic packaging you send to the landfill each week. If you think you don’t have time, then think again! With a bread maker, all you do is add the ingredients, switch the machine on and leave. You can put it on before you go to bed and wake up to fresh bread in the morning.

5- Get a delivery

Support your local economy by asking your milkman to deliver milk to your door. Glass bottles can be cleaned and reused by the dairy which saves on plastic bottles. Some milkmen will deliver fruit juice in glass bottles too.

6- Get a refill

Some companies such as Ecover offer a refill system. You take along your empty bottles and get them refilled for a reduced fee. Search the Ecover database for details of your nearest refill stockist,

7- Ditch the plastic bag

Over a million plastic bags are consumed per minute worldwide. Treat yourself to a fabulous reusable bag from onya bags (and see our Discount promotion) or a funky one from Doy. Doy’s bags are made from recycled tetrapaks. If you like sewing then visit the Morsbag site for instructions on making your own reuseable bags.

8- Don’t suffocate it!

If you have leftovers to store, don’t cover them in cling film. Use a dish covered with a plate or reuseable storage container with a lid instead.

9- Reuse

If you take sandwiches to school or work then don’t buy special plastic sandwich bags. Look for ways to reuse things in your home. The inner wax wrapping from breakfast cereals, old bread bags, grease proof paper, old foil or paper bags can all be used.

10- Leave your litter.

You are entitled to leave any unnecessary packaging at the supermarket checkout. So if you have the confidence to do it, then make a statement to leave excess packaging at the till for the company to dispose of.

11- Be a savvy shopper

Instead of products such as mustard, honey, salad dressing and tomato ketchup sold in squeezy bottles, choose glass packaging instead. Many of these plastic containers cannot be recycled, plus you get loads left in the container that you cannot get to, resulting in food waste!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

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  1. Zero Waste = Healthier Us | Every WIN-ning Moment | January 22, 2014
  1. Andrea says:

    Another easy way to reduce plastic waste is by purchasing refillable cleaners, like JAWS, the Just Add Water System. The liquid cleaning agent comes packaged in little cartridges which are inserted into the cleaning bottle after you’ve added water. Then just fasten the spray nozzle and you’re ready to clean.

    Cleaners are mostly water, and we continue to throw these bottles into landfills after one use…why? Like any other plastic, these packages are perfectly reusable, and JAWS makes it easy. Check out the website:

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @Andrea: Thanks for telling us about your company. Andrea – looks great though I’m not sure about the packaging for the refills? What is it made from?

  3. Andrea says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi! Our ultimate goal once we get greater distribution is to start a reclamation program – the cartridge refills are reusable if returned to us, we can wash and refill them. The cartridges are made of polypropylene, are recyclable, and result in 59% less packaging waste vs. traditional ready to use cleaners. Thanks for your question!

  4. Jane says:

    Plastic shoe polish containers with sponges which dry up are about to get the boot in our house. They never work when you want them to and you can’t squeeze whatever is left in them out. I have now returned to shoe polish in a little tin. We had to buy it at a shoe shop rather than a supermarket.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Andrea: Thanks for that, Andrea; I’ll look out for any steps forward on this; sounds good 🙂

    @Jane: Oh yes! I’d never thought about those scuff coat shoe polishes. Mr G is of the old school and uses the old tins – I think ours hark back to his public school days LOL!

  6. Poppy says:


    That surprised me Jane. We’ve had no problem buying shoe polish in a tin. You do have to search for it, but it’s usually there somewhere. We’re getting through a bit more recently …. a combination of junior doing his own and the horrible state he gets them in on an almost daily basis! Grrr! Football and mud!

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: I saw shoe polish in a tin in Clarks today I think. I didn’t investigate, but saw it out of the corner of my eye …

  8. Jane says:

    @Poppy: @Mrs Green: School shoes worn when playing football in the school playground need a lot of tlc! We had to take a bag of shoe cleaning stuff to boarding school. So from age 9 it was a Saturday chore – shoes had to be clean for Sunday’s church and the following week. Kids nowadays often don’t seem to look after their own clothes/shoes etc at all nowadays. This is a little something we should share more – I wish I had.

    Of course I couldn’t find the shoe cleaning brushes I saw last week. I’d thoroughly recommend an old and not tumble-dried sports sock terry-towelling side out for polishing .

    Any ideas for how to deal with the rather dried polish I’ve found (not the right colour for the shoes I needed to polish initially). I wonder if it is possible to heat it gently and add something to it to make it useable?

  9. Jane says:

    BTW this is 20 yr+ polish in a little jar with a metal lid needing to be given a last chance – so quite a difference from some of the modern stuff in plastic!

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Great questions, Jane. I’m not sure about rekindling old polish; it’s pretty toxic stuff so I’m not sure heating it would be wise. Unless you only heat it with a gentle source such as inside an airing cupboard?? Failing that, wait for summer and put it in a sunny windowsill and see what happens 😀

  11. nicola baird says:

    @Jane: nicol
    Hello Jane and mrs Green – I had ancient shoe polish that I got going again by adding a drop of olive oil (although I am sure spit would have worked).

    Also been searching for whoever wanted to find a new use for a shower curtain – although it doesn’t happen often they are the ideal mat for a homebirth. Indeed I removed one from the landfill box of a colleague at work to do this – and my lovely daughter is now 10. Admittedly I did then chuck the shower curtain (well, I didn’t was far too busy admiring the baby, but someone did, possibly the midwife or my partner). I’d have thought that with a funky design the pvcness would come into it’s own for outdoor nappy changes, impromptu picnics on classic wet grass or perhaps even as a camping ground sheet? Really with pvc you have to use it forever. Happy valentine’s day! nicola x

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @nicola baird: Thanks for sharing your tips about the olive oil, Nicola – hope that helps Jane! Loving your shower curtain ideas too – thank you – how the years fly by … LMG will be 10 next month.

  13. A World Without Plastic

    It would be fantastic,
    If we stopped using plastic,
    And eased the world’s pain,
    With a healthy food chain.
    Turtles would no longer gag,
    On a supermarket’s bag.
    Sea birds could have a meal,
    Of food that was real.

    To read more go to :

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