Author: Jodie Yates (Socitm Advisory Consultant)
Socitm Advisory are dedicated to reducing their use of single-use plastic within our organisation and within our staff's personal lives. As part of showing our support for Plastic Free July, we have put together a series of blogs throughout the month giving tips and information on how to reduce your use of single-use plastic that we are following too.
Did you know... every plastic toothbrush ever made still exists on the planet?
Scrubbing up well can leave an ugly stain on our oceans and soils. Pretty much all the bottles, tubs and single-use items that go in the bin, eventually end up in landfills or the natural environment. Companies need to design unnecessary plastics out of their products and packaging. But in the meantime, let's not wash our hands of the problem.
When it comes to wasteful plastic packaging, the bulk of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of large industrial companies. However, we as consumers are not exempt. If we think of our shopping habits like a voting system, every time we buy a non-recyclable plastic product, we are voting for companies to continue producing them. By changing the way we shop, we have our say. Opting for sustainably-packaged, plastic-free products tells the big companies "we want more of this!".
So, learn how to clean up your grooming routine with these sweet-smelling tips...
The main culprit: the toothbrush
Before the early twentieth century, toothbrushes were made of natural materials. But during the days of plastic innovation, manufacturers switched to nylon and plastic, and never looked back. Because plastic is essentially indestructible, that means nearly every single toothbrush made since the 1930s is still out there in the world somewhere.
On average, every human being can save around 300 plastic toothbrushes from going to landfill - that's 21 billion in the UK alone - by switching to an eco-friendly alternative toothbrush, which there are many. Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming increasingly popular replacements; be aware though, the bristles are usually still made from plastic, so you'll need to cut them off before composing or reusing your bamboo toothbrush handle. Another option is to purchase an electric version that allows you to recycle your old brush head when you send away for a new one.
Bring on the soap bars
With most of us washing everyday, our bathing routines certainly contribute tonnes of packaging materials to landfill each year. Our liquid shampoos, conditioners and body washes with plastic containers are wasteful and unnecessary.
Switching to bar soap is a great alternative to liquid formulas, and eco-friendly brands like Lush provide top-of-the-line shampoo, conditioner and body wash bars that will help you cut down on plastic use in your shower - and they last a lot longer than their liquid counterparts so they will save you money in the long run.
Rethink your razor
It is estimated that the average disposable razor should only be used 6 - 9 times before being thrown away. This means that after every purchase of a disposable razor, in about 2 - 3 weeks, they'l be on their way to the landfill.
Instead, you could invest in a one-time purchase of a metal safety razor with removable razor heads. Before plastic razors were invented, metal razors were all the rage. Thankfully, new technology helps prevent rust so you can switch to metal razors without fear. Some brands offer to recycle your used, metal razor head when you need to swap it for a fresh one.
A typical box of menstrual pads contains around the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags. Tampons have plastic in them too - and the applicators are made from polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).
Although no period products should go down the toilet, it is estimated that every single day in the UK about 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million pads are flushed down the toilet, making their way to our oceans and beaches where they are the fifth most common item to be found – more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.
Periods are expensive – but they don't have to be. Invest in a menstrual cup and you can save money whilst being kinder to the environment. Made from silicone, they are reusable, environmentally friendly and leak-proof so you can move comfortably and spend less money during your following periods.
There are many emerging brands now selling organic and sustainable period care – like TOTM, whose menstrual cups come in three sizes.
Care for your skin and the planet: reusable face wipes and cotton pads
Let’s face it, single-use makeup and wet wipes and cotton pads are insanely convenient. But they are notoriously bad for the environment, made of non-biodegradable plastic fibres and are key players in catastrophic sewer build-ups, like the giant 'fatberg' in London's sewer in 2017 that was as big as 11 double-decker buses. They also litter beaches around the world, with the Marine Conservation Society estimating an average of 35 wipes found on every kilometre of beach in the UK.
Microfibre cotton pads and cloths are great alternatives to single-use versions; completely free of chemicals and plastic, they can remove makeup and cleanse your face with just water – and they are machine-washable!
Use up what you have first
Last but not least, and maybe the most important tip to remember, is to always use up what you have first before going out and buying anything new. Instead of tossing full bottles of shampoo or body wash just to buy a shampoo or body soap bar, use them up and later dispose of them properly. In the end, it’s more important to have many people doing small efforts than a handful doing everything.
Changing your lifestyle and reducing your use of plastic is a journey. It is important to always do your best – even if you don’t have the time or the financial resources to execute all changes as quickly as you’d ideally like to.