Cleaning products - both personal and home care varieties - use a lot of plastic. While we can easily recycle the bottles and tubs we get these products in, there are some products we like to use that really are single or short-term use and end up in our oceans for the most part. According to the Marine Conversation Society, the most commonly found items of home-use plastic are earbuds, toothbrushes and straws.
The straws we've got a pretty good handle on. My recent visit to the lovely Linden Market made me smile because there is so much emphasis on preventing people from using disposable plastic cups and straws when attending a large event like this. Whether you carry your own bamboo straw around with you or choose to forgo a straw entirely (as encouraged by Pick 'n Pay, Vida e Caffe and numerous other favourite drinks vendors), as a nation we are certainly more aware of our straw use.
But what about toothbrushes and ear buds? There is also plastic inside the products we like including make-up and wet-wipes (which our family depends on in our home and we aren't even parents). While I don't have all the solutions, and sometimes it might just be worth going without a certain product that we can't unplastic, here are a few really innovative products I've found to reduce our plastic dependence in cleaning products.
Use 100% cotton earbuds, wet wipes and cotton wool
Cherubs is a proudly local company who make 100% cotton ear buds, wet wipes and cotton wool. This means that you can safely flush these disposable products down the loo once you've used them. If you don't get into that habit then at least your earbuds, wet wipes and cotton wool will degrade in landfill safely over time because of the natural cotton fibre that the products are made from. Cherubs products are available at all our favourite home and personal care shopping spaces including Pick n Pay, Dischem, Clicks and Baby City.
Try plastic free feminine care
Tampons, tampon applicators and sanitary pads are among the biggest plastic pollution culprits across the world. Now that's a hard ask because I'm pretty sure that none of us are excited about our menstruation periods, however they need to be managed and there are convenient ways we can do so plastic-free. The first option is the one that most women feel very uncomfortable about, the moon cup. The reason I know about the moon cup is because of hiking and active holidays where you can't leave trash behind and you don't always have very structured facilities to use when you need the loo. Any woman who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro will be able to tell you all about the moon cup. The moon cup is a reusable device made of medical-grade silicon that you can insert during your period and rinse and use again safely. It's plastic yes, but it's reusable and recyclable once it's undergone natural wear and tear. Every time I see a charity reporting how many sanitary products it has given out to underprivileged girls I cringe because I think of how much more effective it could be to teach girls from an early menstruation age to use a moon cup instead. This doesn't only help the environment by reducing plastic consumption but it makes sure those girls can keep using a safe product for months and years rather than every new month having to find the money to buy unending amounts of pads and tampons that they have to dispose of after each use.
As I was writing this I received an order from the tremendous site that is Faithful to Nature. My husband often orders their healthy food treats that don't contain sugar. In this order I received an organic cotton, plastic free sample pad made by Natracare. According to the leaflet enclosed in the sample an average woman will use 11 000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. A single pack of conventional pads is equivalent to four plastic bags. But Natracare pads use certified organic cotton (which is safer and healthier for intimate use) and are compostable as they are 100% plastic free.
Traveling personal care
A few months back I visited Denmark for the first time and stayed in a super trendy hotel called the Axel Guldsmeden (thank you my Danish friend Linette for her recommendation). I was overjoyed to discover some amazing free in-room products including a bamboo toothbrush, a comb made of stone and soy as opposed to plastic and even toothpaste chewing tablets (to avoid using toothpaste in plastic tubes) and crystal deodorant (there is plastic both in your deoderant and its packaging). Take a look at my pics of these products. They are made by a company called I love eco essentials They aren't available in SA as far as I can see but if hotels take the lead then we are making a big dent on the use of personal care plastic already.
If you're keen on buying soap, shampoo and other types of personal care products that don't contain plastic and aren't packaged in plastic then head to Lush where you can get soap, hair dye, body butter and shampoo in bars, bombs, flakes and powders rather than bottles.
Now all I need to work out is how to buy plastic-free make-up without having to use beeswax...which I'm not a fan of because I don't like the idea of killing bees...because I spend hours in the garden trying to attract them with pollinator-friendly plants...because as well as worrying about plastic in the environment I worry about colony collapse...more about THAT here.