20 eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics
Instead of buying endless rolls of plastic wrap, opt for beeswax wraps instead. These eco-friendly food covers are made using organic cotton, which is then coated in coconut or jojoba oil, tree resin and beeswax. These reusable plastic wrap alternatives are waterproof and freezer-safe and, with proper care, can last up to 12 months. They are biodegradable and completely compostable, so they won’t end up at the bottom of the ocean when you’re done with them. You can also find cruelty-free wraps that are coated with soy or other vegan-friendly plant waxes.
Silicone food covers and lids
When it comes to sustainability, silicone is a bit of a grey area. While it is technically created from silica, a product that is derived from sand, it generally sits somewhere between synthetic rubber and a synthetic plastic polymer. But when it's a choice between reusable silicone food covers and single-use plastic wrap, it's a step in the right direction. These stretchy lids come in a range of sizes and are ideal for covering cut fruits or vegetables (solves the dilemma of how to store half an onion) or stretching over bowls of leftover food. You can find these alternatives everywhere from Ikea and Aldi to specialist health stores.
Paper or metal straws
Aussies throw away an estimated 10 million plastic straws a day. Instead of adding to the straw pile, it’s easy to switch to more sustainable alternatives, such as glass, stainless steel or silicon. Having a party and don’t want 30 kids running around with glass tubes? You can find recycled – or recyclable– cardboard straws, too.
While it has become commonplace to wrap loaves of bread in plastic bags, paper packaging is becoming an increasingly popular and easy-to-find option. You can now find bread in paper bags at most supermarkets and they have long been the preferred option for local bakeries – so if your local grocer hasn’t gone green yet, this might be a good opportunity to support small business. If you've got school-aged children, you're probably already stocked up on paper bags, with plastic wrap banned from kids' lunchboxes at some Victorian schools.
Forget folding up your toothpaste tube to try and squeeze out every last bit of toothpaste; toothpaste tablets are the latest eco alternative. These are a plastic free, zero-waste toothpaste solution and are made from simple, certified organic ingredients. As well as being eco-friendly, they’re also a healthier alternative, as they’re free from the chemical nasties often found in regular toothpastes, such as preservatives, fillers, aluminium and harsh chemicals like triclosan and SLS. They’re also a great option to take camping or travelling.
While you’re at it, you may as well ditch the plastic toothbrush and opt for a bamboo brush instead. Aussies dispose of 30 million toothbrushes every year, which ultimately end up in landfill. Bamboo is technically a grass and it is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth so as well as being an eco-friendly plastic alternative, it is also sustainable (it is low maintenance and regenerates itself naturally, requiring little rain) and does not contribute to deforestation. If you're not on board the bamboo train, make a better choice by opting for toothbrushes made from recycled plastic.
Eco-friendly toilet paper
Be kind to the planet and never run out of toilet paper again. Since the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, loo roll subscriptions have skyrocketed with companies including Wipe That, Cheeky, About a Dog and Who Gives A Crap delivering paper-wrapped toilet paper directly to your door. Most offer double-length unbleached dunny rolls made from either 100 per cent recycled or 100 per cent recycled bamboo. And the best bit? They’re packaged in a box, instead of plastic wrap.
Glass soap and detergent bottles
Say goodbye to single-use plastic dishwashing liqud bottles. Many supermarkets, including IGA, now offer refill-and-go glass bottles for dishwashing detergent, handwash and even hand sanitiser. Alternatively, if you keep forgetting to BYO bottle, subscription-based services such as Unpackaged Eco deliver glass bottle starter kits and refill cans straight to your door, or Zero Co, whose cleaning product dispensers and refill pouches are made from recycled ocean-waste plastic. Single Use Ain't Sexy is another eco innovator, delivering reusable glass pump bottles and foaming hand soap tablets to which you just add water.
Boxed washing powder
Out of detergent for your washing machine or dishwasher? Skip the liquid cleaning agents in plastic bottles and load up on boxed washing powders instead. It’s a small change that can send a big message to manufacturers, encouraging them to offer more eco-friendly packaging alternatives. You could also consider an all-natural alternative such as soapberries (or soap nuts).
Cotton tote bags
According to Sustainability Victoria, Australians use around 10 million plastic bags every day. Even though soft plastics can now be recycled (drop them off at your local RedCycle collection point), only 3 per cent of those bags are actually being recycled. Taking reusable shopping bags on your next grocery run is the easiest way to reduce this number. Whether you prefer a stylish cotton tote, a backpack or one that folds up so it can fit in your handbag, using bags you already have in the house is better than buying new ones. Look for supermarket totes that have thick straps so they are strong enough to carry heavier items and, where possible, choose bags made from cotton, canvas, calico or recycled plastic, as these are more sustainable choices.