8 July, 2022

BCUK’s top plastic alternatives  

Our society has become increasingly dependent on plastic products, but around  50% of plastics consumed are single-use. So, making the shift to live with less plastic can be a challenge. While convenient, single-use plastic is discarded after just one use, which is why we’ve pulled together these great plastic alternatives you can use in your daily life. 

Plastic is economical, versatile, and easy to mould, so it’s no wonder its use is so rampant. From polluting oceans to filling up landfills without decomposing, plastic and, therefore, microplastics are having devastating long-term effects on our planet and now on our health! But until companies and governments act on plastic pollution and waste, it falls to us to make a difference. 

Read our additional blog on microplastics and how our health is being impacted in our news section. 

1. Got a birthday coming up?  

Although wrapping paper contains ‘paper’ in the name, very little is made with recyclable materials, and it is often a mix of plant fibres and laminated plastic. Tape, glitter, and stickers also contain plastic. A big roll of brown packing paper is a great plastic-free alternative. You can even jazz the gift wrap up with raffia paper ribbons and jute string – add extra décor to compensate for the lack of glitter or colour. 

2. Glass instead of plastic  

Some plastic storage tubs or bottles can release harmful chemicals into your food or drink, especially when heated. A safer plastic-free alternative would be using glass for storage. And, since many food items come packaged in glass, upcycling glass jars come at a very low cost and give some new life to existing cupboard items. Think jam, honey and pickle jars! Following our previous point, you can even repurpose glass jars’ as homemade gifts.

3. Tackling the kitchen

When thinking about kitchen items, wood or metal can replace plastic in many household items like cleaning brushes, kitchen utensils, and cutting boards. We encourage, if you can, to ensure the wood is from sustainably managed forests for that extra eco benefit! 

4. Ditch the plastic bags

Did you know that around 5 trillion plastic bags are used globally every year? To avoid adding to this staggering number, we recommend bringing your own bag when out shopping and also, instead of using supermarkets’ own produce bags, bring your own netted bag. Additionally, consider replacing plastic kitchen bin bags. Reusing paper bags or lining with newspaper is a good swap instead of plastic sacks. If you do use plastic bin liners, consider using those made from biodegradable plastic. Here are some simple ways to not add plastic to your weekly routine.

5. Bring your own 

Say no to disposable cups, single-use cutlery, disposable straws, and takeaway boxes. Why not bring your own reusable cutlery, cup, and straws? Nowadays, you can easily buy inexpensive glass, silicone, stainless steel, or bamboo reusable items. Additionally, this goes for your own water bottle. We encourage you to swap a stainless-steel bottle. They are now found easily online or in shops. The EU has banned disposable tableware such as plastic straws, plastic spoons, and plates. Some places still provide plastic cutlery and crockery, so we always encourage you to bring your own plastic-free alternative just in case! Single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups are set to be banned in England from April 2023. Scotland has already implemented a ban. 

6. Swap out the kid’s plastic 

We know this could be a hard one, but swapping out plastic from a young age will reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and microplastics from the start. Read our microplastics blog to find out more about these. This includes children’s dinnerware and utensils – which can be substituted for bamboo or stainless steel – and children’s toys, including outdoor equipment. Wooden toys are a great direct swap; if you find the price differs, we suggest having a glance around your local secondhand shops or marketplace websites.

7. Address the bathroom

Lots of household plastic comes from the bathroom, for example, toothbrushes, plastic applicators for feminine products, shower curtains and lotions in plastic containers. Simple alternatives are available: bamboo toothbrushes, a reusable rubber menstrual cup or reusable sanitary underwear, hemp shower curtains and, instead of lotion, use coconut oil in a glass bottle. Cotton pads with synthetic lining and wet wipes also may contain plastic. Breast Cancer UK suggests a muslin cloth as a great swap or else using 100% organic cotton pads. There are plenty of other great plastic-free alternatives you can make, such as fluid ear washes, bamboo cotton buds or even a reusable silicon swab!

8. Old party habits have to go

Parties are a time for celebration! So don’t let plastic ruin the fun. When thinking of décors such as plastic balloons, bunting or other non-recyclable decorations, why not swap them out for paper alternatives? For example, paper lanterns or fans, paper bunting or garlands and paper party bags. Even your food waste could be minimised! Instead of plastic bottled drinks, try making a drink you know everyone will love in a glass drinks dispenser (one for adults such as a mocktail and one for the kids, like squash or smoothie). Additionally, instead of plastic tumblers, cutlery and plates, swap out for compostable versions or glass.  

Starting to swap can create big habits  

Plastics are useful materials that have become essential to modern life. They are lightweight, flexible and durable and have helped improve our lives in many ways, from their uses in medicine to food packaging. But it’s becoming a huge threat to human and animal health. The simplest way to help reduce our plastic pollution problem is to buy fewer products containing plastic and choose plastic alternatives. 

With plastic production set to double by 2040, we deserve to know what plastics are doing to our bodies. We urge the UK government to allocate research on the human health impacts of plastic.   

If you want to read more on Plastic Free July, visit our socials: Instagram @breastcanceruk, Facebook: @breastcanceruk, LinkedIn: @Breast Cancer UK and Twitter: @BreastCancer_UK 

Now more than ever, we need your help. Together we can help lower people’s risk of developing breast cancer. If you’ve found the information on our blog helpful, then please consider making a donation today. Thank you.



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