12 steps to a plastic-free bathroom
By BEL JACOBS
Plastic-free campaigning often focuses on the food industry - rightly so. It’s a mess out there - but toiletries and cosmetics come a close second. How on earth are we going to find substitutes for those flip lids, syringe pumps and roller balls found on everyday bathrooms shelves, all made from often non-recyclable plastics?
It’s not easy, says Hanna Pumfrey, founder of plastic and waste-free natural beauty platform, Acala: “We have a goal to be a zero waste business, working with suppliers to make sure that everything comes to us plastic-free and in packaging that is reusable or biodegradable. But, for legal and health and safety reasons, there is often packaging that is unavoidable.” The answer? “ We promise 100% transparency with quarterly sustainability reports about the progress we’re making.” It’s the best we all can do until more of the world wakes up to the worries of plastic waste.
The good news is that alternatives are out there and, what’s more, they’re often super natural formulations that work just as well - sometimes better - than petrochemical-laden, bunny-hurting mainstream options. “Many people still associate eco beauty products with a ‘hippy’ lifestyle and think they’re not as good as conventional products,” agrees Pumfrey. “But there are so many eco-friendly, responsibly packaged products that are really simple switches.” We round up some of the best.
SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONERS: Single-use plastic tends to be the default packaging option for most commercial shampoos and conditioners. Embrace the bar, which is the same thing - without excess liquid.
BODY WASHES: Ditto body washes. Return to the joys of soap.
We love the Organic Nettle and Rosemary Soap from Happy Holistics, which comes wrapped in a natural, organic unbleached and Fairtrade muslin square, £4.75.
SKINCARE: Several of my (former) favourite facecreams come packaged in various dense moulded pots. Not so, Lush’s sophisticated range of facial oils, moisturisers, toners, scrubs and lip balms.
We love the Banana Skin Naked Facial Oil, £9.95.
RAZORS: Two blades, three blades, who cares? Disposable razors are the bane of beachcombers. When you think of the destruction plastic wrecks on the planet, all those ergonomically shaped handles look like such a waste of time. Go metal.
FACEWIPES: We've all heard how bad micro beads are for the environment, and even worse are makeup wipes that end up in landfill, on our beaches.
DEODORANTS: Earth-friendly have upped their game, replacing smeary pots with cardboard stick applicators, making the application of deodorants so much more - familiar. Plus, natural formulas tend to do away with aluminium, parabens or carcinogens.
TOOTHBRUSHES: Almost 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes make it to our landfills every year, and it takes up to 1,000 years to decompose. Bleurgh. Make like the pandas and try bamboo (but don’t eat it).
DENTAL CARE: Taking care of your teeth seemed to involve LOTS of plastic, from floss to toothpaste to toothbrushes themselves. No longer.
PERIODS: Stats by eco-friendly sanitary brand Natracare and the Marine Conservation Society revealed that, on average, we use 11,000 menstrual products in our lifetime. One hundred billion period products are thrown away every year. Given that those ubiquitous plastic applicators (the ultimate single use plastic and ‘affectionately’ known as ‘beach whistles’ by surfers) take over 500 years to break down (and even then, they’re merely degrading into microplastics), this is a serious problem. And the most difficult to change. When you’re ready to, however, look no further than Earthwise Girls, which offers a range of reusable tampons and sanitary pads. Or go half way and pick up a Dame, the world’s first reusable tempon applicator …
As they say, “why throw away billions of pieces of plastic if you can keep one?”
COTTON BUDS: Cotton buds with plastic stems are one of the top 10 items found on beaches by volunteers for the Marine Conservation Society. Choose buds with biodegradable paper stems and, while you’re at it, go organic.
TOILET PAPER: Even when you find your green toilet paper of dreams, chances are they’ll be wrapped in plastic.
Who Gives A Crap is made from 100% recycled materials and plastic-free packaging; 50% of profits help build toilets for people in need of better sanitation. Sorted.
BUY IN BULK: Bulk buying is a great way to ease into reducing your plastic consumption and the carbon footprint of shipping the products. We love Faith in Nature , an award-winning organic, vegan beauty company that uses 100% PET recycled plastic for all its packaging.