Breaking Up with Plastic

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Dear Mabel:

There is plastic in every part of my bathroom from my tooth brush to my shampoo. What are some ways that I can use less plastic in my bathroom?


A. The production of plastic consumes a high amount of energy when created from raw materials. Plastic is produced from crude oil, cellulose, coal, and natural gas. On average, it takes 62-108MJ of energy to produce 1kg of plastic. That is equivalent to 17.2- 31.9 kilowatt hours (kwh). 1 kg is plastic is required to make approximately 100 single use water bottles.

In Canada, 39% of plastic produced is for packaging purposes. In 2014, we produced 25 million tons of waste, with 38.9% being plastic. Plastic can take more than 400 years to decompose, and 91% of plastic around the globe is not recycled, ending up in the ocean or in landfills. There are heaps of plastic items around us that we use every single day, from computers to cars- everything we encounter in a day is likely made of some form of plastic. In the bathroom, there are several ways to reduce your plastic use, and we have identified some of the easiest ways to do so!

Your shower curtain, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, soaps, body wash, and deodorant can all be replaced with plastic alternatives! It may take some different approaches to find what works best for you, but it will be worth it once you find that magic combination or product.

Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic as it is more sustainable and can be composted! Bamboo toothbrushes and hair brushes are a great example. Once it is time for a new brush, the bristles are recyclable, and the handle is compostable. Some companies also sell make-up which comes in bamboo cases or containers. sells make-up products all in bamboo containers and they offer refills!

If you have a plastic shower curtain, it can be replaced with Hemp or Burlap shower curtains. They can last longer and are mold resistant. Back scrubbers and loofahs also come in hemp, which is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. You can also grow your own loofahs during the summer. They last around six months once harvested and are a great replacement to typical plastic loofahs.

Many stores are offering shampoo, conditioner, soap, and moisturizer in bulk, which can be stored in reusable glass or stainless-steel jars. In Lethbridge you can do this at Purple Carrot! Another option that can reduce plastic in the bathroom is to use shampoo and soap bars. These come with limited packaging and are often made by local producers. If online shopping is your preference, plaineproducts will send you refills, and take the old bottles back to either be re-used or recycled into other bottles. The bottles are also made of stainless steel.

Plastic-free deodorant can be purchased in glass jars, made at home, or purchased in bars. Lush offers deodorant bars without plastic packaging. Locally, Naturistas and Purple Carrot sell deodorant in glass jars, with refills available at Purple Carrot! If you are up for a challenge, you can make your own at home using baking soda, coconut oil (or shea butter or cocoa butter), arrowroot, cornstarch, and an anti-bacterial essential oil (such as tea-tree or lemon) of your choice! There are plenty of DIY recipes online. Deodorant is a tricky item to replace as what might work for one person, might not work for another as we all sweat in different ways. Experiment with different alternatives and at home recipes until you find the best one that works for you!

Stainless steel razors are a great alternative to plastic ones as the base will last for life and the blades can be changed at home. Replacement blades cost around 1$ per blade and are recyclable when finished. There are local stores, such as Silla, that carry stainless steel razors, and online companies like the Dollar Shave Club also have a wide variety.

We have found a few local places that have multiple plastic-free alternatives for body care, including Stilla, Purple Carrot and Naturistas. We encourage you to find others!

If you have to use a body care product with plastic, check out companies which re-use their packaging, use post-consumer product packaging, or create their packaging from alternative materials! Lush and Aveda are two companies which do so. Some companies even have incentives for returning old, used, and empty containers for recycling, and receiving a free product in return. Lush’s 5 pot program offers a free facial mask for returning 5 empty pots for recycling!

Reducing plastic in our everyday lives will make a huge impact on our environment. The bathroom is a great and easy place to start! Each of the identified items above are easy to do and can be a fun activity to do as a family or with friends on the weekend and snowy/rainy days. If budget is a concern, reducing plastic in the bathroom can be achieved mostly by DIY recipes at home. You can store your creations in glass or stainless-steel containers, which can be cleaned out and used again. If this is something you want to tackle, we encourage you to start once the products you already have are finished and recycle or reuse those containers.


More from Mabel:

Dear Mabel with guest Heather Gowland on Curbside Recycling


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