Alternatives to plastic

Reduce and reuse wherever possible


Our key message for all products - not just those made from single-use plastic - is to reduce and reuse wherever possible. However, alternatives to plastic are becoming more widely available and on this page we've given some suggestions. Let us know about any others.


It's important to think about the impact of what we replace single-use plastic with. How is the new item disposed of? "Compostable" may be compostable in limited circumstances. Paper bags take energy and resources too, as highlighted in this 2018 article from The Guardian. Other alternatives to plastic come with their own problems, as this article by the BBC's Roger Harrabin makes clear. See also the Refill scheme's view on alternatives.

Where there isn't an alternative to a plastic product, purchasing recycled plastic items helps create a market for the products of plastic recycling. We've mentioned some suppliers here for information. Please note that neither Transition Bookham/Plastic Free Bookham nor Surfers Against Sewage endorses products made by individual companies and you should do your own research before purchasing any items.

In the Home

 

Generally

Store cupboard - zero waste style!
  • Take your own containers to shops offering refill options for a wide range of food and household products: this now includes some of the counter services in larger supermarkets. 
  • Greenwise has outlets in Fetcham and Ashtead; Parker's ironmongers in Effingham offers refills for some Ecover products. In Dorking there is Eco B in St Martin's Walk. Ecocentric Us offers refills of liquid products and other eco-friendly  at Cobham Farmers' Market on the 4th Saturday of the month. You can find shops further afield at thezerowastenetwork.com

Kitchen

  • Use beeswax wraps instead of cling film. Many are compostable once they've worn out.
  • Look for household items such as dustpans and brushes that are made from recycled plastic, such as those sold by Greener Cleaner
  • Consider subscribing to a vegbox, which will often contain less plastic
  • Consider having milk delivered in reusable glass bottles
  • Use a loofah scrub and coconut scraper instead of plastic cleaning utensils

 

Bathroom and personal care

 

  • Personal care products such as toothbrushes, interdental sticks, make-up brushes, hairbrushes and razors are becoming readily available with bamboo handles instead of plastic. The bamboo handles are allegedly compostable but we can't speak from experience. Any non-bamboo parts such as bristles would need removing first. Let us know if you've tried it and found that it works! 
  • Refill toiletries and cleaning products at a zero waste store 
  • Swap to shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottles and use soap (in non-plastic wrapping) instead of shower gel
  • Buy products wrapped in paper or tubes and pots made from recycled or biodegradable materials

  • Look for silk dental floss instead of plastic and swap to toothpaste tablets instead of using tubes
  • Consider using eco-friendly feminine hygiene products
  • Check whether medicinal products can be bought in a glass jar rather than in a blister pack or mixed material sachet 


        Study and Office

        • Buy notebooks, pens and pencils made from recycled plastic and other waste. Examples are those sold by Remarkable. Bioplastic alternatives are also becoming available - note that Surfers Against Sewage don't consider this a good alternative option.
        • Buy cardboard folders (ideally from recycled card) rather than plastic
        • Buy biodegradable packing tape  
        • Consider buying refilled printer ink cartridges if they are suitable for your printer

        Hobbies

        • If you need clear bags look for biodegradable alternatives to cellophane 
        • Eco-friendly glitter is a better alternative for crafting. Bear in mind though that cards containing glitter or foil can't be recycled, but you can reuse them to make new cards or gift tags. 

        In the Garden

        We created this list of suggestions for Open Gardens Day 2021. We've also had a suggestion that lateral flow devices make good plant labels! 

        Reducing plastic in the garden 

        Out and About


        Water station
        Water station
                • Take a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and set of cutlery with you. Download the Refill app to find a nearby outlet that will refill water bottles. Please note that not all outlets will be providing this service at present.
           
                • Buy biodegradable wet wipes - available online if you can't find them on the high street. Try and avoid individually wrapped wipes of any sort. 
           
                • Take a reusable bag with you 
           
                • Do you really need that individually-plastic-wrapped towel in a restaurant?