Common bathroom essentials usually come packaged in plastic. The majority of this packaging is intended to be used once and thrown away when your product is finished. This practice causes harm to our environment for several reasons. The key issues include that plastic:
- is energy intensive to manufacture (see my article on Hidden Energy);
- is often thrown away after one use, and subsequently, more energy is required to manufacture another single-use plastic item;
- does not break down;
- enters our waterways which can injure and kill animals;
- can litter our land, leading to animal injuries and death; and
- can break into smaller parts known as microplastics, which can enter our waterways and be consumed by animals and even people.
With this in mind, take a moment to reflect on the type of bathroom items you use. How many of them are packaged in single-use plastics? How often do you need to replace your items, and thus use another single-use plastic packaging item? I asked myself the same questions and was frankly horrified by the amount of waste I was inadvertently creating! This presents a huge opportunity to begin making small changes that work for your family and budget to reduce your plastic use.
I have actively worked to reduce my family’s reliance on plastic in our bathroom over the past few years. There is an array of plastic-free bathroom essentials available. When I first investigated the options, it was difficult to know what to buy. Some products are quite expensive, and I was unsure whether they would work as well as those I’d been using before. I took the plunge and experimented with different brands to find what would work for my family. To make things easier for you, I have shared my favourite products below (noting I am not being paid by the companies to do reviews, I am simply sharing my research).
We have switched to using Tirtyl tablet-based hand soap. To make, simply drop a tablet into the reusable soap bottle filled with warm water, and once it has dissolved the soap is ready to use. It foams really well and the flavours I have tried smell amazing! My personal favourite is Tangerine and Rose. The tablets are wrapped in a compostable wrapper too, so it is a low waste option. You can buy kits with bottles, or use your own, as long as it is a foaming bottle.
- not continuously purchasing plastic soap bottles;
- packaging is compostable; and
- Tirtyl uses a portion of profits to contribute to removing plastic from the ocean.
Check out this video to see how it works: https://vimeo.com/500373565
For the shower, we use bar soap. This helps us to avoid the multitude of plastic bottles that contain shower gels and other soaps. There are plenty of brands of bar soap that come in a cardboard box or are wrapped with paper. You can even buy bar soap without any packaging at markets and some local stores. We avoid brands that come in plastic wrapping. My favourite brand is Eco Store, which is now available in major supermarkets.
Shampoo and Conditioner
I was hesitant about making the switch to shampoo and conditioner bars. These look just like bars of hand soap, but you rub them into your hair. I had heard mixed feedback about their effectiveness, and I previously bought Organic Care shampoo and conditioner which comes in recycled plastic bottles, so I wasn’t in a huge hurry to switch. However, I found a company called Ethique, who receive great reviews, so I gave it a shot. The result; I love them! The shampoo soaps up really well, they are easy to use, and my hair feels nice and clean afterwards. It is wise to store them outside of the shower when not in use so they last longer. My kids now love washing their hair as it is apparently way more exciting to use a bar than a bottle! I am using the Eucalyptus and Lavender scent. You can buy sample size bars to give it a try!
I really wanted to move away from aerosol cans and the plastic roll on deodorant bottles. I was excited to find that deodorant now comes in cardboard packaging. However, the brands I found were ‘natural’ deodorants and I must admit I was a little worried about the effectiveness of them! I decided to give the Ethique brand a go, admittedly when I had a few days planned at home to avoid the risk of smelling out the workplace! I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The Ethique deodorant is solid and comes in a tube. You push-up the amount that you need and wipe it under your arms. It is easy to apply, works really well, and I love that it is in compostable packaging. The packaging is strong and is easy to use. I like the ‘Rustic’ scent. You can buy mini bars to try before buying the big size.
A note of caution for hairy underarms. My husband also tried the Ethique solid type deodorant, however it did not apply well to hairy underarms, and therefore was not super effective. After a period of time I heavily encouraged him to return to normal deodorant! He now uses a Nivea liquid roll-on in glass packaging. It still uses a small amount of plastic, but less than other roll-ons and avoids the butane propellant in aerosols.
While browsing the Ethique range online, I noticed that they sell lip balm in compostable packaging. I bought the peppermint flavour, and it smells amazing! It works well and the packaging is strong and easy to use.
Toilet paper was a hard one to decide on. There are quite a few companies who make toilet paper without plastic packaging. The downside being that they are manufactured overseas. I was concerned that the energy consumption (see my article on Hidden Energy) from shipping would outweigh the benefits of going plastic free when you can buy Australian made toilet paper. I was pleased to see that Kleenex has released an Eco Toilet Paper option which is made in Australia. This product is packaged in recycled paper, and the toilet paper is made from bamboo. They also offer double length roles. The advantage of this is that they only use one cardboard tube for the equivalent of two toilet rolls. Hence more cardboard is saved! It can be bought in major supermarkets.
We switched to bamboo toothbrushes years ago and haven’t looked back. There are several brands that make them, and the prices are definitely reducing. Once you are finished, you pull out the bristles to recycle (check if possible in your home recycling bin based on your location) and compost the bamboo handle. Bamboo toothbrushes are readily stocked in major supermarkets.
One thing to note is that the bristles on all brands we have tried do seem more firm than regular plastic toothbrushes. I would recommend choosing the ‘soft’ option for this reason or check-in with your dentist if you have any issues.
This is one area I am yet to make the switch! From my research, there are several brands that sell toothpaste tablets in glass jars. Some of them do contain fluoride. I am keen to make the switch, however I also want to do further research to ensure the tablets are equivalent to regular toothpaste to ensure I am not damaging my teeth! Let me know in the comments below if you have any experience with toothpaste tablets – I’d love to hear!
Colgate has recently released a new toothpaste tube that is supposedly more easily recycled. It is still made from plastic, but they claim that the tubes can be put in kerbside recycling bins, dependent on the rules of your local area. Although it is still plastic, it is positive to see companies attempting to move towards reducing waste going to landfill.
We go through a lot of sunscreen! The bottles we use are still unfortunately made from plastic. However, once they are finished, I clean them and recycle them through Priceline or Flora and Fauna. This prevents the bottles entering landfill.
I have a trick to use every last drop of sunscreen too! When you can no longer squeeze sunscreen out of the tube, cut the end off, and cut along one side. There is quite a lot of sunscreen left on the sides of the tube that you can now use. It is enough for another couple of full applications. I store the cut bottle in an airtight container until it is finished.
I hope this list provides you with a starting point to begin to make your own switches away from plastic. Pick and choose what works for you and your family and you will make your own ‘Local Impact’ by reducing your plastic waste.
I would love to know what plastic-free products have worked in your bathroom! Leave me a note in the comments below.
Keep an eye out for my next instalment on reducing plastic in your kitchen and laundry.
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