How To Reduce Plastic Waste In Your Bathroom
Plastic packaging and products are an all-too-familiar part of our bathroom routines. With some simple eco-friendly swaps, we can cut down on plastic waste in the bathroom and reduce the amount of plastic polluting our environment.
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From disposable razors to shower gel containers to plastic toothbrushes, our bathrooms are overflowing with plastic. While it may seem hard to part with your favorite personal care products, there are sustainable options on the market that are just as good, if not better than what you’re already using. You really can reduce your plastic footprint in the bathroom by making eco-friendly purchases.
It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade (1). The less plastic we use and throw away now, the less plastic will crowd our landfills and pollute our environment in the future.
No matter how conscientious we are at recycling, only 9% of the world’s plastic gets recycled (2). That’s a pretty depressing statistic. And 90% of the debris floating on the ocean’s surface is plastic (3). All those cute seals and dolphins and penguins can get entangled in or ingest the plastic that we throw away.
With a wide range of buying options now available, we can choose to be more conscientious consumers and reduce our plastic waste. It’s up to us to stop using and throwing away so much plastic.
Below are all the essentials you’ll need for transitioning to an eco-friendly bathroom, minimizing plastic waste and working towards a more sustainable personal care routine.
How many plastic toothbrushes, plastic floss containers and plastic toothpaste tubes have you thrown away in your lifetime? Probably a lot! It’s estimated that 1 billion toothbrushes are used and dumped in landfills every year just in the United States (4). Plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose, so that’s a lot of plastic toothbrushes sitting in landfills.
There are some great eco-friendly dental products on the market today. I’ve recently switched out my brand of floss, and I’m loving my new sustainable brand (my dad was a dentist, so I can get a little over-enthusiastic about dental care). You can read my natural floss reviews here. By changing up your dental routine with more eco-friendly alternatives, like using a bamboo toothbrush and mouthwash tablets, you can make a world of difference in the amount of plastic waste dumped in landfills.
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Tubes of mascara, lip gloss containers, eyeshadow palettes—the plastic in your beauty routine can add up quickly. Cosmetic brands are starting to offer sustainable packaging, recycling and refillable compacts. I have products from most of the brands below and am totally impressed with the quality. The companies I’ve listed also offer products that are free from endocrine-disrupting phthalates and parabens.
- Elate Cosmetics: Magnetic sustainably sourced bamboo palettes can be reused and refilled with metal tins again and again. Refills and Pressed Eyecolours come in seed paper envelopes that can then be planted in your garden to sprout wildflowers. The products ship in recycled content and contain recyclable shipping materials.
- Antonym Cosmetics: The makeup compacts are made of sustainable bamboo. The paper they use is either recycled or FSC (sustainable forest) paper. The products are Ecocert certified (the products and packaging are third-party verified to be up to certain environmental standards).
- Alima Pure Cosmetics: The refillable compacts hold magnetic pans for easy on-the-go application, and can easily be swapped out for a new pan when the product runs out. Alima Pure is a carbon neutral company with the mission “less mess, minimal waste”.
- Kjaer Weis Cosmetics: Refillable system of compacts with the intention of reducing waste. Refills are available for compacts, lipstick, and mascara.
- Ilia Cosmetics: This is one of my favorite makeup brands! U.S. customers can mail in up to 5 empty beauty products per month—Ilia brands and/or another brand—and TerraCycle will break it down responsibly, so it doesn’t end up in a landfill.
- Vapour Beauty Cosmetics: Vapour takes responsibility for their packaging by rewarding customers for sending Vapour Empties for responsible recycling through Terracycle®. Send back four or more Vapour Empties and ship them back together with a completed Empties Recycling Form to earn 300 Loyalty Points ($15 Reward in our store). The empty bottles are shipped to TerraCycle® , a global leader in recycling, committed to sorting waste by material and ensuring it is recycled.
- RMS Beauty Cosmetics: I love RMS Living Luminizer and their glass eyeshadow tubs. The packaging for RMS Beauty products is minimal, recyclable or reusable.
- Aether Beauty Cosmetics: The eyeshadow palette is completely paper and the packaging is almost entirely recyclable.
- Fat and The Moon Cosmetics: The company priority is to use reusable, recyclable containers, and to minimize superfluous packaging.
- Dirty Hippie Cosmetics: Eco-friendly packaging and refill options. Zero Waste geared: Labels printed in-house using vegetable based ink and recycled paper, green energy powered lab.
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Personal care in the bathroom is a broad category, encompassing everything from the products in your shower to the products you use to shave to all the items involved with grooming.
- Shower: Plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash are big culprits when it comes to plastic waste. The best way to reduce plastic waste is by switching to bars. I’ve always been a fan of bar soap, but shampoo and conditioner in plastic containers are hard ones to give up. If using bar shampoo and conditioner just isn’t your thing, Plaine Products offers refillable stainless steel containers of shampoo and conditioner and other personal care products that you ship back through a subscription service. Another non-bar option for shampoo and conditioner is the Hair Story brand. You keep an aluminum canister for shampoo and conditioner, and refill from a 20-oz. recyclable pouch.
- Shave: Stop buying plastic disposable razors and switch to a safety razor. You can get a lot of shaves from one blade, and you don’t ever have to dispose of the stainless steel handle. Aerosol shaving cream may be hard to recycle, so replace this type of can with either a bar that suds into a moisturizing lather, or use Fat and The Moon Shaving Cream that comes in a glass container.
- Grooming: Plastic hairbrushes, plastic tubes of deodorant, plastic hair products and lip balm tubes—all of these grooming items pile up in landfills. I love the Meow Meow Tweet brand for sustainable personal care products. The deodorant and lip balm come in cardboard containers, and the grapefruit deodorant was one of the top picks from my natural deodorant post. Phase out plastic hairbrushes and combs with sandalwood and choose hair care products like dry shampoo and styling cream in glass or cardboard containers.
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Bottles of bathroom cleaner are another source of plastic waste in the bathroom. I like to make my own simple cleaner with a spray bottle of half white vinegar and half water. It works great for both mirrors and general cleaning. For a gentle scrub, combine a half cup of baking soda with a few squirts of liquid soap and water. If you dislike the smell of vinegar, add up to 24 drops of your favorite essential oil to the spray bottle. Baking soda and a toilet brush are all you really need to clean the toilet.
If you don’t want to make your own cleaner, Branch Basics makes a concentrate that is combined with water in a spray bottle, and the concentrate lasts much longer than a bottle of conventional cleaner. Meliora has non-toxic concentrated cleaning pellets that combine with water in a spray bottle for a natural cleaner. The spray bottle can be refilled when empty.
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Conventional period pads contain up to 5 plastic bags worth of plastic (5). In a 2019 study on sanitary pads, researchers found two types of pthalate chemicals in all of the 11 brands of sanitary pads tested. Phthalates are used to soften plastics in products such as cosmetics, toys, medical devices (pads and tampons are considered medical devices) and other plastics.The measured pthalate levels in the products tested were significantly higher than what is commonly found in plastic goods (6).
The best way to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and to completely cut out plastic waste in sanitary products is to purchase a brand that doesn’t contain any plastic. I’ve reviewed brands that use 100% organic cotton in their period pads, and you can read more about the brands here. Read my review of 100% organic cotton tampon brands here.
A no-waste option is a medical-grade silicone menstrual cup. I personally haven’t taken this approach, but I’ve heard about many women that use and love their menstrual cups.
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MORE NATURAL LIVING INSPIRATION
- Chan Jin Park, A. et al. Sanitary pads and diapers contain higher phthalate contents than those in common commercial plastic products. Reprod Toxicol. 2019 Mar; 84: 114–121.
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