When we first started reducing plastic, we knew of the basics — like reusable coffee mugs and bamboo toothbrushes. But beyond that, things became a little daunting. What are soap nuts? How do you replace face wipes? That’s when we uncovered a whole new world of zero-waste swaps.
Read on for seven easy zero-waste swaps you probably haven’t heard of!
1. Soap nuts
Soap nuts are dried fruit shells from the same family of plants as the lychee. They contain a natural detergent called “saponin”, which makes them perfect for washing clothes. You simply put a few soap nuts into a muslin bag (or a sock!) and throw them in with your wash. They wash clothes just as effectively as conventional detergent. Best of all, one batch of soap nuts can be reused up to four times, so your cost per wash is a bargain.
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2. Plastic-free water filters
BRITA water filters may be one of the most wasteful kitchen appliances. You have to replace the plastic filters every month, which is heavy on cost as well as plastic waste. The filters look high-tech, but essentially they just contain charcoal, which absorbs impurities to improve the quality of your drinking water. So, what if you could just have the charcoal without the plastic? Well, you can! You can purchase sticks or slabs of charcoal online to add to a jug of water. They last for months at a time, and are another great money-saver, as well as waste!
3. Konjac sponge
This isn’t a sponge for your kitchen! A konjac sponge is a zero-waste swap for a number of wasteful skincare products. It gently buffs away dead skin cells to reveal smooth, brightened skin. You can use your konjac sponge to remove makeup — bye bye face wipes — or in place of a cleanser or scrub. Konjac sponges last for three months, and since they’re made entirely from the root of the konjac plant (pictured below), can be home composted. Skincare fanatics are going mad for these little sponges, which is good news for the environment!
4. Plastic-free chewing gum
Did you know that most chewing gum is made from plastic? Popular chewing gum brands use polyethylene (the same plastic used to make plastic bags), or polyvinyl acetate (one of the ingredients of PVA glue) to make the stuff we love to chew. Once you spit it out, gum takes hundreds of years to break down — and even then, it’s just breaking down into smaller pieces of plastic. The good news is, plastic-free chewing gum exists! Look out for Simply Gum in Iceland supermarkets, or Chewsy online.
5. Toothpaste tablets
Wondering what to do about plastic tubes of toothpaste? You can get toothpaste in tablet-form! You pop one in your mouth and brush as normal to turn it into a minty paste. They come packaged in tins or cardboard, making them a huge plastic-saver. You can even get them without fluoride. Many online retailers stock Denttabs, or you can check if your local plastic-free supermarket stocks them.
6. Reusable makeup rounds
Cotton rounds are as single-use as it gets — think of how many must get thrown away every day. They tend to come packaged in plastic bags, which aren’t easily recycled in the UK. Investing in a set of reusable rounds saves so many resources — from packaging, to cotton and energy. Simply throw them in the washing machine or wash them by hand to use them again and again. Tabitha Eve uses organic cotton and bamboo to make its makeup rounds, which are packaged in a paper sleeve. It doesn’t get much better than that!
7. Biodegradable glitter
Conventional glitter is essentially pretty-coloured microplastic. When you wash it off, it goes down the drain, where it escapes through water filtration systems. That’s how it inevitably ends up in the sea. The impact on marine ecosystems is so bad, that scientists have called for a total ban on plastic glitter. Thankfully, great alternatives exist! Biodegradable glitter is made from cellulose film, which is broken down by microorganisms found in sewage systems, soil and water. Festival lovers, rejoice!
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