If you’re looking to cut back on the amount of plastic you use this year, a quick peak inside your bathroom or beauty cabinet may shock you. You’re probably blown away by the sheer amount of unnecessary stuff in there, right?
As more than eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year, according to NCEAS, we can all do our bit to help by examining our buying habits and thinking about how we can eliminate unnecessary waste at home. The bathroom is a good place to start. Beauty products often contain, or come packaged in, single use plastics, but there are lots of sustainable alternatives out there that are just as effective, so why not give one – or more – a go?
At times, it can seem impossible to avoid the amount of waste involved in having any kind of beauty or skincare regime – even if you’re not a total junkie, who has to buy all the latest products as soon as they comes out (and then bin the remains of your old ones).
10 simple change to reduce your plastic waste
The question is, how can you make small changes to your daily routine to reduce the amount of waste you produce? Here, are 10 ways to reduce plastic waste in your beauty routine…
1. Try ‘naked’ products
Think your shampoo, soap or shower gel has to be poured out of a plastic bottle? Think again. ‘Naked’ – or packaging-free – cosmetics can be just as effective at cleansing without the need for a bottle, just add water to lather up.
Solid shampoo and conditioner bars are growing in popularity, and you can even make your own moisturisers to store in glass jars. With the bars, Lavahun advises getting a tin to keep them in – “so that you can take them home from the shop when you need a new one”.
“Shampoo bars are a fantastic and easy way to start reducing your plastic usage,” says Rowena Bird, Lush co-founder and product inventor. “One Lush Shampoo Bar is the equivalent of three 250ml plastic bottles of shampoo, and lasts up to 85 washes.”
Over the last 14 years, Lush has sold 41.3 million solid shampoo bars globally, saving 124 million plastic bottles, equal to 3,100 tonnes of plastic.
2. Opt for refillable products
“While loads of brands tell you their products are ‘100% recyclable’, that doesn’t take into account that only 9% of plastics are successfully recycled globally,” says Nick Torday, co-founder of Bower Collective, which sells reusable dispensers and refill packs of body wash, hand wash, shampoo and conditioner. “That’s why reuse is so critical in our battle against the major environmental crisis that is plastic waste.”
How do Bower Collective refillables work? “It’s simple: you buy a reusable dispenser or use one you already have at home, and select the product refill pouch you want to fill it up with.
“Once the pouch is empty, collect it along with other empty pouches, pop them in a pre-paid returns envelope and stick them in your nearest postbox. The brand will then collect, sterilise and reuse the packaging.
“Our data shows that if you switch to our reusable and plastic-free household products, you could eliminate 84kg of plastic waste coming out of your home every year.”
3. Buy plastic free alternatives
It’s not just plastic bottles, tubes and tubs we need to cut down on – don’t forget beauty essentials like brushes.
“Plastic hairbrushes, make-up brushes and toothbrushes are all contributing to the plastics crisis we are facing – 111 million plastic toothbrushes are thrown into landfill sites every year,” says Joanne Maclachlan, founder of The Eco Friendly Living Co. “But there is a sustainable alternative – bamboo. Bamboo toothbrushes are toxin free, vegan, eco-friendly, sustainable and come with soft bristles.
“The bamboo is 100% sustainable and can be thrown straight on a compost heap, just snip the soft nylon bristles off first and they can also be recycled in a normal recycling bin.”
4. Use reusable face pads
“If you’re guilty of reaching for make-up removing wipes every night, now is the time to save your skin and the planet,” says Maclachlan. “Not only do these wipes contain lots of chemicals that can irritate, dry out and even age your skin, they are having a devastating impact on the environment – blocking up sewers, lining beaches and ending up in the sea.”
There are a variety of reusable face pads available, made from materials like cotton or bamboo fibre. “They are kinder to your skin and won’t contribute to the world’s mounting plastic problem,” says Maclachlan. “Just use, rinse and throw them in the wash. By switching to reusable pads, not only will your skin thank you, but you could save around £50 per year.”
5. Invest in a reusable razor
Once you make this swap, you’ll never look back. “While plastic razors are a much cheaper product to purchase initially, the price does add up and, worse still, they are extremely difficult to recycle, with most ending up in the rubbish,” Lavahun explains. “Swap out the disposable razors for a refillable, metal razor, or consider a change of pace with an electric shaver.”
There are so many plastic-free shaving options out there, which are environmentally-friendly and have the added bonus of giving a better shave and looking much prettier in your bathroom cabinet. For example, take Friction Free Shaving (ffs.co.uk), which is the first shaving subscription service exclusively for women.
6. Opt for greener make-up brushes
It’s quite daunting how many of the products we regularly use are made of plastic. Luckily, a lot of them can be easily swapped for something more sustainable – like make-up brushes.
Lavahun recommends trying products from So Eco (cosmetify.com/so-eco) as a replacement – the brand does “a range of make-up brushes made from renewable bamboo, packaged in tree-free paper”.
7. Buy sustainable products
It’s a good idea to get to know the products you’re buying, so you can make more conscious choices. There are so many great vegan brands out there now – like B. Cosmetics and Milk Makeup, to name just two – that it’s no longer so hard to shop ethically.
Lavahun says: “Not only are vegan products cruelty-free, they are usually packaged from recycled materials, as vegan brands are known to be highly conscious about how they package their products.”
8. Streamline your beauty cupboard
It’s tempting to buy the latest releases and coolest-looking new ‘miracle’ products, but how many of them do you actually use up? Streamlining your beauty cupboard means you’re cutting down on a whole lot of waste (and money).
“Consider switching out the bathing products you use for more environmentally-friendly alternatives,” Lavahun says. “For example, rather than exfoliating with body lotions and scrubs, choose a dry body brush that you can use repeatedly without causing any additional waste.”
“Not all make-up items will be recyclable, but things such as aerosol cans and most plastic and glass containers can be; look out for the triangular recycle symbol, and ensure that they are empty before doing so,” Lavahun says.
She also points to the companies out there which offer incentives if you return empty container to them, like Lush and MAC. For example, if you return six MAC empty containers, you can pick up a brand new lipstick for free – good for the environment, as well as being a bonus for your beauty box.
10. Make everything last as long as possible
Sometimes, simple advice is the best. This definitely rings true for the old adage, “use every beauty product like it’s about to run out”. It’s actually quite shocking how much longer you can make toners and moisturisers last when you apply this mindset, meaning you don’t need to replace them as often.
Lavahun also has some great hacks for getting the most out of your products. “When your mascara begins to dry out, a really useful tip in order to make it last longer is to apply a few eye drops or saline solution into the tube, which helps to prevent it from drying out,” she suggests. “Similarly, if your nail polish starts to become gloopy, you can add some nail varnish remover, which will thin it out so that you can use it again.”
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