Plastic Free July: 20 ways to reduce plastic in your life

Beach littered with plastic – Plastic Free July is fighting back
We produce 400 million tonnes of plastic waste globally a year – Plastic Free July® fights back. (Getty Images)

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Plastic Free July is a global movement that encourages millions of people around the world to help combat plastic pollution by refusing single-use plastics.

We produce 400 million tonnes of plastic waste globally every year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

The worst part? Nearly half of that is single-use plastic and a staggering 91% of the world’s plastic still isn’t recycled. Instead, it ends up in landfill, being burnt, littering our streets or polluting our oceans.

Watch: Millions of People Around the World Join Plastic Free July

Here are 20 simple swaps to start your sustainable journey:

Use a refillable water bottle. According to, there are 20,000 plastic bottles used every second. That's more than a million bottles every minute being added to landfills around the world.

Grab a reusable tote. Every year, we use five trillion plastic bags. That’s 160,000 a second. We can do better than that.

Read more: Road-test: ‘I tried M&S period pants and they really work’

Swap traditional pads and tampons for reusable alternatives. Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches. In fact, the Women’s Environmental Network estimates that there are around nine plastic applicators and 23 sanitary pads for every kilometre of a beach in the UK.

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Try a toothpaste tablet. If you haven’t already heard of toothpaste tablets, welcome! They’re just as effective as regular toothpaste – you just need to chew them and add a wet toothbrush.

Shop: PÄRLA - Original Naturally Whitening Toothpaste Tabs 62s | £7 from Boots

Ditch disposable razors. Safety razors are much more environmentally friendly than cartridge or disposable models. Their handles are often made of metals that last a lifetime and the double-edged blades they use are made solely from sharpened metals.

Shop: Estrid Razor Starter Kit | £12.95 from Estrid

Don’t forget your coffee cup. Just one takeaway drink per day creates over 10kg of waste each year. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to invest in a reusable coffee cup.

Shop: KeepCup Cork Brew Reusable Coffee Cup | £22 from John Lewis

Swap cling film for wax wraps. Beeswax wraps are flexible and self-sealing and let your food breathe. Even better, they’re also reusable and completely biodegradable.

Shop: Bee’s Wrap Assorted Reusable Food Wraps - Pack of 3 | £19.99 from Lakeland

Choose solids over liquids. Solid products like shampoo bars and bar soap last approximately two-five times longer than their liquid equivalents. Plus, they’re so much easier to travel with.

Shop: Lush Solid Deodorant | £6.50 from Lush

Use a bamboo toothbrush. Bamboo is a natural plant and fully biodegradable. It’s also one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, so we don’t need to worry about running out any time soon.

Shop: Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes | £14.99 from Amazon

Make sure your floss is plastic-free. Traditional dental floss can be a sneaky source of plastic waste, and on top of that, is usually packaged in a hard plastic container. Instead, opt for biodegradable floss that can be composted.

Read more: How to shop sustainably

Switch to refillables. There are some products we simply can’t cut out of our lives. Everyday items like hand wash, cleaning products, shampoo and conditioner are a few examples of essential products that are usually packaged in plastic containers and then thrown away after a single use. Switch to refillable products instead.

Bring your own cutlery. Summer weather means it’s officially picnic season. Avoid using single-use cutlery and instead, bring your own.

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Check your bathroom loo. On top of the paper waste, most store-bought toilet paper is wrapped in unnecessary amounts of plastic packaging. If you buy it in bulk packages, it's sometimes wrapped in plastic twice. There are sustainable alternatives for that.

Shop: Premium Bamboo Toilet Paper (48 Rolls) | £40 from Who Gives A Crap

Skip straws. If you don’t need a straw, ask your server not to give you one when you place your order at the bar. And if you really love them, invest in reusable ones made from bamboo or stainless steel.

Shop: Set of 6 Reusable Straws with Brush | £7.50 from M&S

Cut down on sponges and paper towels. It’s not just the liquids you’re using to clean with that are a problem – chances are that your cleaning cupboard is home to at least one plastic-fibre cloth, scouring pad or scrubbing brush.

Shop: Mabu Biodegradable Cleaning Multi Cloths - Pack of 3 | £6.99 at Lakeland

Read more: Earth Day 2022: 7 ways to reduce your carbon 'foodprint' to save the planet

Grab a dryer ball. Dryer balls are a great alternative to single-use dryer sheets in a tumble dryer, as they last for multiple uses and are free from nasty chemicals and synthetics. Usually made from tightly compressed wool, they reduce drying time and help prevent laundry from clumping together by tumbling between layers and separating fabric.

Shop: KinTor Wool Dryer Balls XL 6-Pack Reusable | £8.99 from Amazon

Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops to harvest. (Getty Images)
Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops to harvest. (Getty Images)

Say no to cotton buds. It’s estimated that in the UK alone we use 1.8 million cotton buds every year. Not only are cotton crops one of the thirstiest crops to grow, but most of the cotton swabs have a plastic stem. Instead, use a reusable bamboo and silicone bud as they negate the need for either plastic or cotton – and they’re great for make-up application, too.

Shop: Hydrophil Bamboo Cotton Swabs | £3.55 from Planet Organic

Buy loose fruit and veg. Does fruit and vegetable packaging really serve any purpose? Instead of buying pre-packaged goods, check out your local farmers market for loose produce (and don’t forget your reusable bag).

Try reusable nappies. This one’s not for everyone, but if you want to limit your waste and reduce the plastic you use, then you could try switching from single-use nappies to reusable.

Shop: Bambino Mio Reusable Nappy Set | £75 (Was £83.99) from JoJo Maman Bebe

Drink loose tea. It might surprise you to learn that most tea bags – especially the fancy 'silken' ones – are made from plastic. And for those of us who drink a daily cuppa (or more) – that adds up. One of the best ways to avoid your tea being steeped with a side of microplastics is to simply sip loose leaf tea.