Have you watched Our Planet yet? I desperately want David Attenborough to be my Grandad. We watched the first couple of episodes at the weekend. It’s equal parts jaw-droppingly beautiful and heart-achingly devastating. But they have achieved something wonderful with how it’s been filmed and narrated, there is a gorgeous sense of hope throughout the whole series that makes it feel uplifting. I couldn’t write a post about plastic free swaps and not mention it. 

We watched it with Ethan and being 5 years old, he naturally had a ton of questions about seals falling off cliffs because of disappearing ice. I love his little inquisitive mind. But I do find it difficult to balance the answers. On one hand, I want him to know that we have a responsibility through our choices to protect the environment but on the other hand, I worry that it might be too heavy a burden or make him judge others based on their efforts (including the multitude of things that Gavin and I get wrong on a daily basis). He already gets so annoyed when he sees litter. He’s a sensitive wee soul. 

But I suppose all we can do is try our best at home and teach him that other people are trying their best too. Plastic is such a pervasive material and it’s just kind of snuck up on us all. Weeding it out of buying habits is a mammoth task especially considering we all have access to different resources, be that time, money or geographical location.  For instance, our nearest bulk food store for buying things like rice, oats, dried fruit etc. plastic free is a 35 minute drive away. I only make that trip once every 2-3 weeks to stock up. Because of this, I’ve spotted some easy swaps in the supermarket for typically plastic packaged products. Making these swaps is also a way to vote with your cash, alerting the corporate powers-that-be that… No, we don’t need bananas bagged in plastic thankyouverymuch. That’s what banana skins are for.
For all the other things home and toiletry wise, Gavin and I set up our own online shop, in the hope we could plug a gap in the market for plastic free products in central Scotland. But it turns out, most of our customers so far have been from England! Maybe one day, I’ll own a Tesco sized shop full of all things natural and plastic free and you all can visit me and we’ll drink (plastic free) tea together.  But until then, here’s the best we can do with what we’ve got…
22 Plastic Free Swaps at the Supermarket
  1. Dishwasher Powder & Salt – Most supermarkets have been selling their own brand of these in card boxes alongside the plastic bagged ones. Same product, different packaging. Oh and Lidl and Aldi finished 2nd and 3rd place in the Which? test for dishwasher tablets. They also come it at 1/4 price of the leading brands. 
  2. Laundry Detergent – Buy the bulk boxes of powder rather than the bottles or pouches of liquid and you’ll save both money and plastic waste. 
  3. Hand soap – Swap liquid hand soap for a good old fashioned bar of soap. You’ll usually find a few brands packaged in card at the shops. 
  4. Fabric Softener – We’ve just ditched it all together as we found it was making Gavin’s psoriasis dramatically worse. It’s made zero difference to our washes. 
  5. Dishcloths – Buy washable cloths you can throw in the machine rather than disposable. Preferably made from natural fabric that will decompose once done. 
  6. Toilet Roll – Some large Tesco’s stock Renova which is a recycled loo roll wrapped in paper. Alternatively, use Who Gives a Crap (my favourite) to get your TP delivered. We use their bamboo paper and with double length rolls it works out the same cost per roll as the supermarkets.
  7. Tea – Most tea bags are actually sealed with plastic adhesive, plastic tea… Yum… Teapigs teas are made of biodegradable and compostable natureflex and come in a compostable cardboard box. 
  8. Coffee – Percol sells ground coffee in home compostable packaging. Coffee pods are unfortunately an area that needs a lot of work. But Lakeland sells these Eden Project biodegradable pods that work with Nespresso machines. 
  9. Oats – Quite a lot of brands still sell oats in paper bags so opt for those. My favourite though is Flahavans Organic oats. The creamiest porridge ever! 
  10. Wheat biscuits and shredded wheat – Aldi’s basic brand are in card and paper. Most other supermarkets also will have a couple of brands in card with wax paper. 
  11. Pasta – The best of a bad bunch is Barilla pasta in a card box with a small plastic window. 
  12. Rice – Uncle Bens rice comes in a cardboard box – Although we tend to buy the large bags from the world food aisle rather than lots of smaller packages. We eat a lot of rice!
  13. Herbs & Spices – M&S and Sainsburys own brand come in glass bottles with metal lids.
  14. Salt – Most supermarkets sell rock salt and sea salt in card boxes.
  15. Loose Nuts – Lidl sells these and some Holland and Barretts.
  16. Fizzy Drinks & Tonic Water– Opt for cardboards box multipacks of recyclable cans rather than plastic bottles. Fizzy drinks always taste better from a can too. 
  17. Condiments – Opt for glass bottles of mayo, ketchup, salad dressings, mustard, honey, jam etc. 
  18. Oils and vinegar – These can also be very easily bought in glass bottles. Aldi does a great range of affordable oils in glass bottles. 
  19. Fruit & Veg – Bring tote bags or produce bags for loose fruit and veg, or just chuck them loose into your trolley if you forget your bags. 
  20. Bread, rolls, buns etc. Take your own containers or tote bags to the bakery section and fill up!
  21. Frozen food – All Linda McCarney products come in cardboard packaging. Most Birds Eye products like chicken dippers, nuggets, potato waffles and fish fingers can also be bought in cardboard only. If you give the box a shake you can usually hear if there’s plastic inside – Bonus points for looking like a loon in the frozen food aisle. 
  22. Ice Cream – Blocks of ice cream in card are available at most supermarkets now. Yum!

After all that, it’s worth adding that although reducing plastic is no doubt a good thing, some materials like glass are actually quite heavy on resources to recycle so it’s best to keep any jars you gather for reuse. We use ours for tealights outside in summer, storing leftovers in the fridge, storing small things like screws in the garage etc. But of course, recycle what you can’t reuse. Also, paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic ones so it’s best to bring durable, reusable bags with you to the shop.

So there are a few of the tips I’ve gleaned from trying to reduce our waste.  Do you know of any other plastic swaps we can add to the list? Or is there anything here you think you’ll make the switch to in future?