How much single use plastic is lurking in your bathroom? - truthpaste
June 16, 2022

How much single use plastic is lurking in your bathroom?

By Lex Lake

It can be argued that the health and beauty industry is up in the top 5 when it comes to plastic pollution. From packaging to single use plastic products, it creates over 120 billion units of plastic packaging each year. 

When you consider that most of the plastic waste generated by the beauty industry takes between 500-800 years to break down, it becomes obvious that current manufacturing and purchasing practices simply aren’t sustainable. 

It is estimated that only about 95% of that plastic packaging is disposed of after one use. More worryingly only 14% of it is recycled with the majority of it ending up in landfill or incinerators. 


Reduce, refill, reuse

We are only now beginning to understand the extent of the issue that this is causing globally. Microplastics are being found in the water, air and now in our lungs and bloodstream. 

It’s a good time to look at your bathroom and see what small swaps you can make to help reduce plastic pollution in your beauty routine. 


Tackling single use plastic in dental care

It’s scary to think that your first ever tube of toothpaste is likely still sitting in a landfill somewhere, not even close to degrading. Whilst conventional toothpaste manufacturers are reluctant to ditch the single use plastic tubes, there are a growing number of plastic-free options available. Truthpaste uses glass as it’s the most sustainable way to package our products but we are always looking for new ways to improve and reduce our carbon footprint. It’s often harder to find sustainable oral care products for children, which, unfortunately, still seem to come predominantly in plastic. 


Single use plastic in period products

Tampons and sanitary towels are some of the worst offenders when it comes to landfill and single use plastics. If not made from natural materials, towels can take up to 800 years to decompose and applicators around 500 years. Luckily, there has been a recent surge in plastic free alternatives including period pants, reusable towels and cups. Not only are these more comfortable to use, but they are also much more sustainable in the long term. 


Are plastic cotton buds banned?

If you want a very small swap with a huge impact then this is a great place to start. Cotton itself takes around a year to decompose while plastic stems are more problematic. Their size means that they often end up in rivers or oceans adding to microplastic issues affecting marine life. Whilst these have effectively been banned for sale in the UK to end-users, they can still be sold to businesses. 

Bamboo and even paper cotton buds are now starting to replace the plastic stems. It’s important to remember that these still can’t be recycled, but they are more sustainable and will cause less damage to the environment. 


Are face wipes biodegradable?

Face wipes block drainage systems, and sewers and pollutes rivers and waterways. Not only that, they aren’t actually very good for your skin! The majority contain synthetic fibres and plastic so they are not biodegradable. There are biodegradable alternatives, although make sure that they do not require special composting like some bioplastics. More sustainable is to get a reusable, organic cloth which is available from most zero-waste or refill stores. Most of the available options only need a little water to work and are easy to clean. 


Make your haircare zero waste

It’s unfortunate that most big brand beauty comes in a plastic bottle. For decades we have been sold the idea that beauty needs to be shiny and glossy and should come in shiny glossy bottles and tubes. It’s encouraging to see that more and more options are available for everyday self-care from refill stores and independent retailers. Shampoo and conditioner bars are a great alternative to plastic bottles and last much longer. Skincare like moisturiser and toner can be bought in glass packaging or you can refill old jars or bottles from a zero-waste store. Most zero-waste products don't contain some of the harmful chemicals that conventional, mass-produced products use either, so it’s better for you and better for the environment. 

 The health and beauty industry has a long-time association with excess and decadence. Indulgence and self-care don’t need to be wrapped in layers of plastic to be enjoyed. Both consumers and manufacturers need to make changes if we hope to reduce the damage being caused by plastic to our ecosystem. 


Give your beauty routine an eco upgrade!

Giving your bathroom a clear-out is always a good idea from time to time. It’s a great time to look at any small swaps you can make to give you a more sustainable self-care routine. It’s exciting trying out new products and experimenting with eco alternatives. 


Ritchie, H. (2018)  FAQ's on plastics. Our World in Data

London Recycles (n.d)  10 easy ways to reduce your waste

Prabhakar, M. (2020), Plastic free beauty: The new normal?.  Beat the microbead

Benson, S. (2019)  How to swap out your single use beauty products and save the planet. Dazed Digital



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