Single-use products are items that are used just once before being thrown away. But lots of resources and energy are used to make them, and some take thousands of years to break down. This all comes at a cost to wildlife and our planet.
Find out more about single-use products and the problems they cause.
Swap single-use products for reusable items at home, work or school and save money* and the planet at the same time.
To get you started we’ve got 12 simple swap suggestions for you to use and share with others too.
*Savings may vary depending on the brand, purchase place, size and quantity of the single-use products you used before swapping for a reusable alternative.
Swap buying bottles of water when out and about for using the new Refill app. It’s free to download and free to refill in more than 450 locations across Norfolk.
In total, some 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK each year. Plastic bottles can only be recycled 3-4 times before they become waste as the quality is no longer any good. Each bottle of water, drunk in moments, could pollute the planet for centuries.
A bottle of water costs about £1. By carrying your own and refilling for free, you’ll be saving money, and discovering new places you might not have visited before. Make this swap here.
Click here to find out more about using refillables safely during COVID-19
Swap shop-bought sandwiches for a homemade packed lunch. There’s money to be saved, as well as the planet, by packing your own sandwiches in a reusable container. Are you making this swap? Tell us here.
Here in the UK, we munch our way through 6 million shop-bought sandwiches, wrapped in single-use packaging, a day!
The average shop bought sandwich costs £2. A homemade packed lunch including sandwiches, a biscuit and a piece of fruit costs less than £1.50 a day, plus a bit of time and planning.
Click here to see how homemade lunches can save you money.
Switch to a flannel or washable make-up remover pads instead of wet wipes or cotton wool pads. Save the environment and your pocket.
Discarded single-use products such as wet wipes, cotton buds and plastic bottles make up 50% of the waste contaminating our rivers, seas & oceans. Scientists predict that, if nothing changes in our plastic consumption habits, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight).
A pack of 4 sustainably sourced cotton flannels, that can be washed and reused for years to come, costs less than a pack of wet wipes or cotton wool pads and doesn’t hurt the environment either. Tell us how many swaps you’re making here.
To find out more facts about disposable wipes, plus how much they cost in comparison to a flannel and soap, visit Anglian Water’s Why Keep It Clear project.
Swap your disposable coffee cup for a refillable coffee cup.
Every year 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away in the UK. That’s enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times! Disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic film making them difficult to recycle. Half a million coffee cups are littered every day, polluting our environment.
Lots of cafés offer a discount to people using a refillable coffee cup of up to 25p per hot drink, saving you money each time you buy a takeaway coffee. An initial investment into a refillable coffee cup made from bamboo, metal or durable plastic will see you break even after around 3 months of coffee on your daily commute.
Let us know if you’re swapping disposable coffee cups here.
Click here for information on coffee reusables during the pandemic.
Swap plastic seed trays and plant pots for cardboard toilet roll tubes and egg boxes. Simply fill with earth and sow your seeds (a few folds can turn a toilet roll into a plant pot in seconds). You can add the used cardboard to your compost heap or garden waste bin.
Did you know there are an estimated 500 million plastic plant pots in circulation in the UK every year? The average gardener has 39 plant pots in their shed and most black plastic plant pots can’t be recycled.
Growing plants for your garden from seed is more cost effective than buying ready grown plants. And growing plants or vegetables gives you a great sense of satisfaction too.
Find out how to make plant pots from carboard tubes here.
Swap disposable face masks for a reusable face covering. Disposable facemasks are made from plastic and can’t be recycled.
If you’re making this swap, let us know.
By November 2020, less than 4 months after they became mandatory to wear in shops, disposable plastic facemasks were found on a third of all UK beaches. There are now millions of disposable facemasks polluting our countryside, beaches and waterways.
Reusable, washable face masks cost around £3 – £5 to buy per mask. Many charities have them for sale, so you can support a charity at the same time as saving the planet. You probably need 3, one to wear, one to wash & one to have ready to wear. Disposable masks can only be worn once and cost £5 for a pack for 10 which might last you less than a week, depending how often you go out. Face masks are here with us to stay until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more advice on using reusables during COVID-19 click here.
Swap your lunchtime packet of crisps for home popped corn in a reusable container. You’ll be saving the planet, your pocket and your waistline all at once. And if you’ve ever popped corn, you’ll know how much fun it is!
Popping this on your swap list? Don’t forget to tell us here.
UK consumers eat about 6 billion packets of crisps a year. Crisp packets are made from a metallised plastic and can’t be recycled in your kerbside collection. On litter picks, empty crisp packets have been found with best before dates from 33 years ago still visible.
A 500g packet of popcorn kernel costs £1.25. You can make at least 30 lunchtime snacks of popcorn from this, and flavour it however you like. And 15g of popped corn has around 70 calories, whereas a 35g bag of crisps has around 180 calories.
Swap sanitary products for period pants or a menstrual cup.
Tampons, sanitary towels and panty liners, plus their packaging and individual wrapping, generate more than 200,000 tonnes of single-use waste per year. And they all contain plastic. Sanitary towels are made from 90% plastic, tampons contain 6%. The average user throws away between 125kg to 150kg of tampons, pads and applicators in their lifetime. And for those who are still flushing rather than binning these plastic sanitary products, it’s estimated that 700,000 panty liners, 2.5m tampons and 1.4m sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet every day in the UK, with sanitary items being the 5th most common items found on Europe’s beaches.
Swapping to a menstrual cup or period pants is a bit of an investment up front. With a menstrual cup, you’ll break even in the first year, and over 10 years you’ll save around £250.
Swap disposable nappies for reusable, washable nappies. Many parents find that using a mix of reusable for day to day use and disposable when out and about or away is the most convenient.
A baby will go through a minimum of 4,000 nappies before being successfully potty-trained. And nearly 8 million nappies are thrown away every day in the UK. That’s 3 billion nappies a year! Disposable nappies are made from plastic and other synthetic materials which can take between 200-500 years to break down. Currently nappies are not recyclable in the UK.
Reusable nappies involve set-up costs. Around £80 will cover a pack of 20 of the cheapest reusable nappies and three waterproof wraps. Along with the cost of washing, the first year’s cost can be as low as £132. By contrast, recent research by MoneySavingExpert found that using branded disposable nappies costs an average of £485 over 12 months, while own-brand nappies can cost £375.
How many swaps are you making? We’d love to know, if it’s one or if it’s more.
Swap your plastic disposable razor for a bamboo or stainless-steel version.
Approximately 5.5million people use disposable razors in the UK. Even if each person only uses one disposable razor a week, that’s 286 million disposable, single-use unrecyclable razors being thrown away a year! Disposable razors are too tricky to recycle: they’re made up of too many different component parts, plus the blades are hazardous. And they also often come in unrecyclable plastic packaging.
Investing in a stainless steel or bamboo razor will take a little time to break even, but prices start from around £12. The razor will last you many years, all you need to do is buy new blades. A pack of 10 disposable razors will last you about a month and costs around £2.
Swap balloon and sky lantern releases for alternative ways to celebrate events like tree planting, flag flying, releasing giant bubbles and decorating with bunting.
Balloons are made from latex and metallised plastic which are hard to recycle. Helium gas is relatively rare on earth and is essential for medical use. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Sky lanterns pose a significant fire hazard if they are still alight when they land. Both balloons and sky lanterns become litter the moment they are released, and pollute the environment the second they land. Animals and wildlife can be hurt or killed as result of eating balloon debris or getting caught in parts from sky lanterns.
For a big birthday or celebration, consider planting an environment enhancing tree. Saplings can be bought for under £5 and last a lifetime. Giant bubble making kits are fun and inexpensive and can be re-used numerous times for birthdays and other celebrations. Flags and celebration bunting could become part of your family party tradition. You’ll break even after just a few occasions.
To find out more about our Sky Lantern and Balloon Charter or to make your pledge click here.
Swap clingfilm for reusable covers or reusable containers. Reusable containers with lids store food in a fresh and hygienic way – and they last for years and years.
More than 1.2 billion metres of single-use cling film is used by households across Britain every year. Sadly, cling film cannot be to recycled and adds to the plastic pollution crisis.
If you use 1 box of cling film per month this may cost around £18 a year and creates 300 metres of plastic film waste.
Click here to see a range of alternatives to clingfilm.