Are you ready to take the next step in your plastic-free journey? Because refill and reuse options are evolving! Here are some next-level ways to cut plastic and packaging from your life.
Not only will these tips take your plastic-free journey up a notch, but they're also seriously no-brainer swaps that won’t break the bank either.
1. MAKE SECOND-HAND YOUR DEFAULT
Start here! No matter what you're buying, one of the best ways to cut plastic, packaging, waste and excess is to choose secondhand items.
Ok so I'm not telling you to go and buy secondhand underwear and menstrual cups, but pretty much everything else is there and ready for a new home on the secondhand market!
Think about the last time you bought a brand new piece of furniture or an electrical item. Did it come in a cardboard box, padded at the corners with plastic or dreaded styrofoam to ensure it arrived to you in pristine condition?
By choosing secondhand we are not only choosing to use what already exists, thus reducing our demand on new things and precious resources, but we are also reducing our personal consumption of single-use plastic and packaging.
No, secondhand things don't usually come with a warranty, but they always have charm and usually plenty of life left in them.
I don't think I need to mention fashion here (though I will!) - but by choosing pre-loved clothing and accessories you'll avoid individually-wrapped garments, plastic swing tags and synthetic-fibre cords, plastic coat hangers, plastic stuffing, plastic spare-button bags and protective bits and bobs.
2. CHOOSE NATURAL FABRICS
Step one: always read the label on clothing, whether you're buying it secondhand or new! Flip that baby inside out and upside down and check out what it's made from before making your decision.
We all know polyester is a fabric made using plastic. But so many other fabrics contain plastic-based materials which shed in the wash and run down our drains, don't get caught by our waste water treatment facilities, end up in our oceans and in our food chain then in our bodies - phewf!
Plastic-based fabrics also won't break down at the end of their life so will languish in landfills, leeching gross toxins into the ground for decades - or longer.
After all that, here's a guide to the synthetic materials to keep an eye out for:
Polyester - look out for blends in almost any type of garment. Can also look and feel like silk.
Nylon - common in stockings, underwear, and toothbrush bristles!
Acrylic - soft and resembles wool.
Elastane - often added to underwear, swimwear, socks, activewear.
Spandex - also known as Lycra, a stretchy material.
Rayon - made from cellulose (wood pulp) but usually requires extensive processing.
Acetate - common in curtains and furniture fabrics.
A GUIDE FOR WHEN TO CHOOSE (RECYCLED) SYNTHETIC MATERIALS
If you're buying synthetic materials, support brands using recycled fabrics - they will proudly tell you so, and include it on the care tag.
Synthetic materials are seriously handy in the right context. It's getting easier by the day to find companies using recycled synthetic fabrics like ECONYL® (regenerated nylon) for things like:
RELATED READING: Check out this article by Good On You: Ins and Outs of Recycled Plastic Clothing - a great guide on when to choose synthetic fibres and how to care for them, including investing in ways to catch plastic microfibres in the wash.
3. TAKE YOUR REFILL TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Here are some things I bet you didn't think you could refill.
BEER AND WINE
Go straight to the source! Many breweries will welcome your BYO growler for a refill, and some wineries' cellar doors will pour straight into your own bottles too. Choose bottles with a stopper attached to the top.
I recently invested in a refillable floss jar! It’s a little glass vial with a screw-on metal top that includes a hole for the floss and a snipping tool. Then you can buy the refills loose (mine came in a little compostable cardboard two-pack) and simply screw the top off and replace when needed.
Choose brands that offer refill options, which is usually after you've purchased the initial container or compact. Things like foundation and bronzer are easy.
I purchased power foundation and liquid concealer from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics and they shipped entirely plastic free (using newspaper with post consumer recycled paper tape and box), putting the products into little light-weight aluminium screw-top containers which I can clean and mail back for refill, or reuse for other DIYs!
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics also offer natural mascara in glass bottles with aluminium screw tops which can be returned to them - plus you get money off your next order for every empty you return. Hooray for reuse and companies taking responsibility for their packaging!
Clean beauty store conscious.kin stock Kjaer Weis make up, designed so that you buy your compact and then refill each time you run out. This is not completely package or plastic free, but it sure cuts out a lot! Check out options like their lipstick refills, mascara compact refills and the pressed powder refill.
My beautiful naturopath Tia Miers encourages me to bring back my glass bottles and jars for refills as she compounds my unique supplements then and there, and mixes herbs just for me. It is such a great experience having something tailor-made for me, and straight back into my reusable bottles!
REFILLS TO YOUR DOOR
Don't live near a bulk food or grocery store? No worries! There are zero-waste and refill companies popping up all the time that will deliver straight to your place.
I was dubious at first - were they just sending out light-weight refill pouches made from plastic that were still just used once to pour into your bottle?
But Aussie company Refillery have a great idea: they ship you natural cleaning products in a reusable bottle, in a reusable envelope with a reply paid postage label. Once you've emptied the bottle you just post it back, with the shipping cost on them!
I am also watching new start-up Eco Tribe Food Co, who have just begun delivering zero waste groceries to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales!
4. SUPPORT BRANDS THAT SUPPORT PLASTIC FREE
This is a great tip and another example of one of the best things we can do: vote with our wallets.
More businesses - particularly the small to medium ones like the examples above - are choosing non-plastic packaging, have reduced their packaging, gone package-free or have chosen to ship sans-plastic.
If you're buying something online, have a look on their website and consider getting in touch before placing the order to see how it will arrive to you. I've requested no plastic with minimal packaging (with a pretty please!), and it worked!
Header image and disclaimer: Travelling in my light-weight, wear-anywhere Tasi Travels Wilder Wrap Dress, made in Australia using natural Modal fabric. This was gifted to me as part of Biome's Slow Fashion range, and both are brands I am more than happy to support! If you purchase using the links for Biome I may receive a small commission to help support Shift.