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How To Go Packaging-Free With Your Food, Beauty and Cleaning Products

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How To Go Packaging-Free With Your Food, Beauty and Cleaning Products

M&S is the first major UK retailer to let its customers bring in their own refillable food containers, offering 25p to those who bring in their own containers as an extra incentive.

The move is a direct response to tackle the staggering amount of plastic waste we produce every year: it's estimated that the world produces 300 million tons of plastic a year, and that 50 per cent of plastic is used once and thrown away.

Shockingly, 91 per cent of plastic isn't recycled, and it's predicted that by the middle of the century, the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish. If this hasn't alarmed you yet, consider this: over 90 per cent of seabirds have plastic pieces in their stomaches, and a third of marine mammals have been found entangled in marine litter.

Credit: Pexels
Credit: Pexels

It's not surprising, given these dire statistics, that more and more of us are considering a plastic-free life. We're carrying shopping bags for life, carrying reusable bottles and travel mugs for drinks and, thanks to M&S and other eco-conscious shops, bringing in our own containers for food rather than bulk-buying plastic we'll throw away.

Here is our guide to how to go packaging-free in all areas of your life.


Most of us have a favourite shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser... the list goes on. But how much time do we really spend assessing the plastic situation in our bathrooms?


Shops such as The Plastic Free Shop, the Refill Larder and Wearth London sell plastic-free and zero waste toiletries including refillable shampoo and conditioner glass bottles, organic cotton tampons that biodegrade as fast as orange peel, plastic-free deodorant and sustainable bamboo toothbrushes.

Another toiletry essential that's usually not great for the environment is period products. Over 45 billion tampons or sanitary pads are used every year across the globe resulting in 3.2 million kilograms of waste. Consider using a moon cup, or consider more eco-friendly alternatives such as OHNE, DAME, Lunapads or Freda.


You can even switch up your toiler paper to eco-conscious brand Who Gives A Crap, which sells 100% recycled toilet paper, doesn't use any virgin trees in its products and donates 50% of its profits to build toilets for those in need.


We all love snapping up the latest mascaras, bronzers or lip glosses, but bringing plastic-free consciousness into the equation makes it trickier.

Luckily, while it may be tough at first, plenty of excellent brands are here to cater for your beauty obsession while still paying heed to our environmental plastic crisis.


Holland and Barrett has launched a new plastic-free, zero-waste beauty range, Ethique, with solid beauty bars, from shampoo and conditioner to body wash, facial cleansers and scrubs, promising zero consumer waste, and which are also palm-oil free, vegan and cruelty-free. To date, the brand has saved over 3.4 million plastic bottles from production (and subsequently, landfill).

You can buy five litre bottles of shampoo and conditioner from the likes of Faith in Nature, which not only saves on plastic waste but also save money per litre, and you can also buy shampoo, soap and conditioner bars from the likes of Lush as an alternative to buying single-use bottles. Another option is to buy aluminium bottles and then send them back for free to be reused. If you highlight or dye your hair, consider Tints of Natures' recyclable hair colour bottles.


If you already have plastic bottles at home, take a look at recycling programmes such as Back to Mac, which gives customers a free lipstick if they bring in six old product casings.

If you're looking for trusted eco-friendly and recyclable brands, check out the selection of excellent products at Ecco Verde and Ethical Superstore, and consider beauty brands with plastic-free products such as Zao Essence of Nature and Lush.


Cleaning products are routinely packaged in plastic, but you can take steps to reduce this.

Search for an Ecover refill station near you so that you can refill washing up liquids, laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners rather than buying new ones each time.

Other brands include Splosh, which provides eco-friendly refills through the post and uses 97.5% less plastic waste, and Re:Store, which lets you refill in person for bargain prices. You can also check out Ethical Superstore, which has a wide range of plastic-free cleaning products, and Ocean Saver, which uses a clever pod system to avoid plastic waste.


M&S is leading the way for major stores, but it's far from the only place to avoid buying unnecessary plastic when it comes to purchasing food.

A quick search on Google will reveal zero-waste food stores near you, with shops all over the country tackling the plastic crisis head-on by offering everything from organic dry goods to milk machines to fill up your bottles.

There's an excellent guide to shops all over the country on Pebble Mag, and we also love Zero Waste Club, which delivers plastic-free goods to your door.

How do you start?

Even anti-plastic warriors understand that you can't go from using all things plastic to cutting it completely out of your life overnight.

"I was motivated to open The Refill Larder by the lack of plastic-free options available for day-to-day cleaning and bathroom items in the local supermarkets," says Refill Larder founder Kate Chesshyre. "The momentum and appetite for change is growing rapidly, and since opening our customer base has grown fast attracting people that are fed up with the limited options available to cut back on plastic.


"Don't be daunted - there is lots of talk of zero waste which can be off putting for people who are trying to reduce their plastic footprint. We recommend aiming to change a couple of habits each month. There are lots of alternatives available for the bathroom - shampoo and conditioner bars, deodorant with no plastic packaging, bamboo toothbrushes, moisturising and face wash bars.

"As you start being aware of avoiding extra packaging, you realise how much single use packaging we are sold and really don't need."

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

Topics: Life News

Deborah Cicurel
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