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Plastic-free swaps

In association with: Tearfund UK

Discover some of the easiest, permanent plastic-free swaps you can make in different parts of your home.

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As we increasingly realise the impacts that plastic pollution is having on our planet and our global neighbours, we might start thinking about how we can reduce our waste. And as well intentioned as our recycling efforts are, the biggest impact we can have is by minimising our reliance on single-use plastics and packaging as much as we can.

Whether you’re looking for a specific swap, want to try a few new ideas or want to make changes room by room, here are a few easy plastic swaps you can make today.


Soap and hair care

Among the biggest contributors to bathroom plastic waste are the bottles containing essentials like soap and shampoo – but this doesn’t have to be the case. There’s evidence to suggest hand soap bars have been around since the Ancient Egyptians and you can now find solid alternatives to almost everything that lathers, including shampoo. Shampoo With A Purpose and Lush are just two examples. If you prefer liquids, you could make use of your local refill shop to top up and reuse bottles of liquid soap and hair care products.

Toilet roll

Toilet roll normally comes wrapped in plastic, and whether it’s labelled as biodegradable or recyclable it’s best avoided. There are plenty of plastic-free options available nowadays, including online subscriptions like Who Gives A Crap and off-the-shelf products in your local supermarket. Many of the alternatives are also free from the chemicals and bleaches that make toilet paper perfectly white. (You’ll be surprised how bizarre regular bright-white toilet paper looks to you in a matter of weeks.)

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Oral hygiene creates an oversized amount of plastic pollution for the four minutes a day we spend on it: toothbrushes, disposable electric-toothbrush heads, toothpaste tubes and even floss. Plastic toothbrushes can be replaced with bamboo (although sometimes the bristles still pose an issue) and there are recycling services for used electric toothbrush heads and other dental hygiene products. Some local councils offer this service, or check out TerraCycle. There are toothpaste options that come in glass or even toothpaste tablets that you chew to create a paste in your mouth. Finally, there are several places selling plastic-free floss made from materials like cornstarch, bamboo and charcoal.


Cling film

The UK alone uses nearly three quarters of a billion miles of cling film every year – enough to circle the planet nearly 30 times. The worst part is: the vast majority of this is only ever used once. But there are plenty of ways to avoid it: from the trusty Tupperware to beeswax (or vegan wax) wraps. There’s a little more washing and maintenance needed but pulling ourselves away from the cling film habit can only be a good thing.

Sponges and brushes

Most of the items we use to scrub and wipe our dishes are made of plastic. They’re normally impossible to recycle and can introduce microplastics (plastic pieces smaller than 5mm) into water supplies. Consider switching to a multi-use dish cloth or to some of the other plastic-free alternatives, made from biodegradable materials like wood cellulose and coconut husk.

Paper towels

Similar to toilet paper, kitchen towel normally comes wrapped in tricky-to-recycle plastic. There are plastic-free alternatives out there – from many of the same places that you might be getting your new plastic-free toilet rolls – but it is even more sustainable to use an old-fashioned fabric cloth, and wash and reuse it when it gets dirty!

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Other swaps


There are brands selling plastic-free detergents but to get really natural you could try soap nuts, a plant native to the Himalayas and some tropical regions that has been used as a cleaning product for centuries. They can be used in place of most soaps and shampoos. They can be used for multiple washes and are then 100% compostable!


Not only do most commonly available deodorants come encased in plastic, spray deodorants and their aerosols can have a negative impact on the environment and even our health. A range of products are now available that allow you to buy a refillable case and simply swap out the solid deodorant component when it’s used up.

Greeting cards

Birthdays, weddings, Christmas, anniversaries – there are plenty of occasions in the year for us to send cards. Unfortunately, many still come wrapped in a thin layer of plastic that is difficult or impossible to recycle. Helpfully, some suppliers have realised these are unnecessary and done away with them. As a bonus you could also look out for cards made entirely of recycled paper or even ‘plantable’ cards with wildflower seeds embedded in the paper so that once they’re finished they can create new life.

One last step

During 2023 and 2024, nearly 200 governments are meeting to develop the first-ever international agreement on plastic pollution. This agreement could help end the world’s rubbish problem. Together, through the Rubbish Campaign, we’re calling for an effective, binding plan that holds big polluters to account, reduces plastic production and ends the impacts of plastic pollution on people living in poverty. Let’s make sure the Australian Government works towards a plastics treaty that helps end the world’s rubbish problem. Sign the petition here:

Add your voice to thousands of others calling for an end to plastic pollution and its impacts on people living in poverty.

Take Action Today

This is an edited version of an article by Adam Aucock, Tearfund UK.