How to Break Up with Single-Use Plastic


Plastic is everywhere. Take a look around yourself now and I bet you’ll be able to add it up no problem. Look around your local supermarket, café or toy store and you will see it. It’s simply everywhere. Single-use plastic is unfortunately everywhere too.

Plastic pollution is a growing epidemic that unfortunately shows no signs of stopping. In the last ten years, we’ve produced more plastic than in the previous 50.

According to the National Geographic:

“The new study in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances is the first global analysis of all plastics ever made—and their fate. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that have been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.”

break up with single use plastic

For more reasons why reducing our plastic waste is important, check out these links:

If you’re interested in reducing your plastic footprint but have no idea where to start, you’ve come to the right place.
In this blog, I’m going to show you some great alternatives to single-use plastic (and plastic in general) and how to get started.

How to Break Up with Single-Use Plastic

Step 1: Track Your Trash

Often people don’t realise how much waste they produce until they see it all in one place at one time.
My first suggestion would be to collect all of your plastic usages for a week to see how much plastic waste you have generated by end of the week. Even if you’re out. Collect it or write it down.

You’ll probably notice some of the following:

  • plastic water bottles
  • single-use coffee cups (lined with plastic) and lids
  • plastic straw
  • single-use plastic produce bags
  • cling film wrap
  • plastic lining of a box of cereal
  • soda bottles
  • food packaging
  • sanitary products e.g pads/liners
  • and more of course

Collect it all (or write it down if you can’t save it) and take a picture. This will give you an idea of how much plastic you consume and therefore show you what kinds of products you’ll need to avoid or replace.

break up with single use plastic - say no to plastic cups

Step 2: Be OK with Saying No

To eliminate your plastic, you have to learn to say no.
Say no to the plastic disposable coffee cup at the coffee shop. No to the plastic straw at the juice bar. Also no to the bottle of water, someone hands you automatically at a meeting. And a big no to the plastic bag the cashier wants to put your plastic-free veggies into before you can put them into your cloth shopping bag. You get the picture 🙂

Step 3: Learn What Your Alternative Options to Plastic are and Make The Change

You’ll find it easier to move away from so much plastic usage when you equip yourself with some simple alternative and reusable options.
Some alternatives will be easy to adopt, others may take time. This transition won’t happen overnight and that’s ok.

Replacing single-use plastic:

Plastic Straws

Alternative: reusable glass straws, stainless steel straws, no straw.

Plastic Water Bottles

Alternative: Bring your own water with you in a stainless steel reusable bottle, glass bottle or reuse a jar you have at home e.g a large Weck or Ball jar works great

Other Plastic Bottled Beverages

Alternative: Make your own natural drinks and transport them in swing top glass bottles or jars.
Homemade lemonade, kombucha, kefir, ginger beer, fresh homemade juice. You have many so options to choose from!

Plastic Utensils

Alternative: Bamboo or stainless steel utensils

Plastic Coffee Cups

Alternative: bring your own reusable coffee cup/travellers cup made from non-plastic material.

Juice Cups

Alternative: bring your own glass jar or non-plastic material cup. I love Weck jars for this.

Plastic Stirrers for Coffee

Alternative: bring a stainless steel spoon

Plastic Bags at the Supermarket for Fruits and Veggies

Alternative: bring 100% natural cloth bags to put your produce in instead of synthetic (aka plastic), which shed plastic microfibers into the ocean when you wash them.
I’ve used tea towels and sewn them into bags of all sizes to repurpose them for further use 🙂
These work great as bread bags too so you don’t need plastic bags.

Plastic Bags from Shops

Alternative: bring your own natural fibre tote bags/string bags

Fruit and veggies Wrapped in Plastic

Alternative: I know this one can be a hard one but there are some places you can scope out that will be plastic-free.
I would suggest farmers markets or local markets like Green Door market in Dublin. And of course any plastic-free choices you have in the supermarkets, and use your reusable cloth bags to transport.  

bring your own - break up with single use plastic

Ziplock Bags

Alternative: Glass jars (again, Weck/Ball/Le’Parfait Jars work great). Stainless steel metal lunch boxes and bamboo lunch boxes work well for taking food to work or to school (maybe pass on the glass option for kids). 
Metal lunch containers also work well for taking home any leftovers from restaurants.
Wrap up sandwiches/fruit in large beeswax wraps. (see below).
I also came across some silcone ziplock bag alternatives which can be used and washed over many years.

Plastic Wrap

Alternative: Store food and leftovers in glass jars or glass Tupperware containers.
Make yourself some Beeswax wrap here or here. Or buy it here.
Place a plate over a bowl of food to cover it.

Plastic Lined Tea Bags

Many teabags, mostly the ‘fancy’ ones are made of silky synthetics—in other words, plastic, not silk.
Alternative: Look for natural/unbleached, chemical-free teabags, or opt for loose tea leaves/herbs and use a tea infuser.

Coffee Pods

Alternatives: Coffee brewed in a French press, stovetop coffee maker or coffee machine

bamboo toothbrush

Plastic Toothbrush

Alternativea bamboo toothbrush

Plastic Period Materials (tampons or pads)

Alternative: Silicon menstrual cup (we’ve got a whole blog post on them here), reusable cloth pads, natural sea sponges or a combination of these.

Processed food

Of everything on the list, processed food will probably require the most effort to replace and be the most challenging. Processed foods almost always come in shiny plastic packaging, promising convenience and ease. It’s convenient sure, but it’s neither healthy for us nor the planet, so it’s also on the swapsies list.

Alternative: Cook real food with real ingredients. Yes, home-cooked meals take longer to prepare, but they are better for your health, better for your waistline, better on your taste buds and of course, better for the planet.

If you’re in the position to order in bulk (ask in store!) or use bulk bins to stock up on staples like nuts, dried fruit, beans, grains and so on I highly encourage it.

meal plan to help reduce plastic waste

Step 4: Grab a Pen and Paper and Get Meal Planning

Be prepared and know that being plastic-free may require more time and effort on your part. Being prepared and organised are good habits to have regardless and so this plastic challenge is a great way to get you started!

Meal prep is a great way to help you know what foods you need to buy and for what meals you will need it for. It not only saves you the headache of “what shall I eat?”, but it also helps prevent plastic wastage. Plus going plastic-free (to the best of your abilities) is a great way to ensure that you will be eating little to no processed foods- which is better for our bodies, and the planet.

Have the fridge filled with:

  • fresh fruit
  • raw and roasted veggies
  • pre-cooked grains
  • salad ingredients
  • dressings/dips/pestos etc

And a cupboard with your:

  • beans
  • grains
  • pseudo-grains (quinoa etc.)
  • nut butters (or make your own)
  • pasta/noodles

And so on to make everything as easy as possible for you. Naturally, all of these should be stored in reusable no plastic containers, but you’ve got the hang of this now I can tell 😉

If you cook in bulk, you can freeze some meals so that you just need to take them out when needed.

For some tips on how to food prep, check out these blog posts:

pack your food in jars

Step 5: Pack your Bag with Your Necessities – and Don’t Forget Your Lunch!

Ensure your bag is prepped the night before leaving for work/uni/life with your necessities: coffee cup, water bottle, utensils, tote bags and cloth bags in case you go shopping.
Then in the morning add your prepared lunch and any snacks and you’re good to go!


Of course, not everyone wants to be or simply can’t be 100% plastic-free and that’s ok. It’s about reducing where you can and being mindful of your choices. If you get a coffee every day at the local café, do you really need a brand new single-use plastic cup when you could bring your own every day?

Imagine if everyone reading this blog did this. Think of how much plastic waste you’d save. With more and more of us making these changes, the industry’s and companies will also have to adapt.
As the old saying goes, if you want to see the change you have to be the change.

Emily Nöth

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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.

Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication.