3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

When it comes to plastic we often come back to the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; with recycling really being a last resort for when plastic is unavoidable. Here are some ways in which you can tackle the 3Rs.


Buying less is best but there will always be items we still require so here are some possible alternatives;

In the bathroom:

Cotton buds – Most supermarkets and pharmacies now only stock the ones with a paper core, replacing those plastic ones made famous by the National Geographic photograph. Though these often still come in plastic containers so if you want to go the whole hog try Hydrophil’s but others are available.

Deodorant – finding deodorant that isn’t contained in plastic can be a challenge, FitPit is an option – which is also stocked at our lovely Refill Pantry.

Floss – This can now be found in glass jars instead of plastic containers, try dental lace from Anything but Plastic

Makeup remover pads – as an alternative to single use cotton pads you could try out reusable bamboo ones

Razors – Biodegradable bamboo options are now in the likes of Boots from Bull Dog, though electric rechargeable razors are another alternative for eliminating the single use items.

Sanitary Wear – So much plastic is contained within pads and packaging of tampons, some alternatives are Mooncup , St Albans based Wuka knickers or Natracare.

Skin care – from hand creams to face creams there are a number of alternatives not packaged in plastic. Here are some ideas; Blushberry, AS Apothecary, and local to St Albans Evolve Beauty.

Soap, shampoos, conditioners and shower gels – all now come in bar versions. There are a number of retailers doing this with Lush leading the way on the high street but many other alternatives do exist which also encapsulate vegan and organic properties.

Sun Protection – some alternatives to reduce plastic waste which are also great for the marine environment; Shade and Amazinc

Toilet paper – Obviously toilet paper is biodegradable though often they are wrapped in heaps of plastic and ones made recycled paper is obviously better than those from ‘virgin’ materials. Here are some that are not wrapped or have greener qualities, Who Gives a Crap or Greencane toilet paper.

Tooth brushes – Try a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush or at least swap out the full plastic brush for the smaller electric toothbrush heads.

Tooth paste – Natural toothpaste or powder can be found from suppliers such as Georganics.

Wet wipes – For use on your skin try, muslin face cloths or if you still need something disposable (but please don’t flush!) there are alternatives that don’t contain plastic.

If you would like more in depth information about bathroom plastics do check out the excellent article written by Friends of the Earth

In the Kitchen:

Cleaning products – buying in bulk (i.e. larger containers) does help to reduce plastic but there are also alternatives available such as OceanSaver where they have cut out plastic packaging all together and you are able to reuse bottles you no doubt already have around the house.

Cling film – Try muslin cloth soaked in the beeswax or soya from Beegreen or Boobalou, silicone stretch lids and silicone bowl covers also protect food from spoiling or keeping left overs. Though if you don’t want to spend any money you can of course just cover food in the fridge with a plate over a bowl, or reuse the plastic containers from your last take away!

Coffee – Still need that perk in the morning from the single touch coffee machine? A lot of research has gone into finding alternatives to those little plastic pods, here are some to try: Eden projectWaycupBrew your own coffee, HALO

Dish washing – replace your sponges and scrubbers for natural alternatives, some stockists of these are: NatBrands & Boobalou

Fruit and veg – When shopping for fruit and veg, try and avoid items excessively wrapped in plastics. Turtle bags provide a great lightweight cotton alternative to bag your loose items, if you want a wider selection try AndKeep. Alternatively try a local Veg box which generally comes with a lot less packaging, in our experience only the loose lettuce is bagged.

Milk – Home delivery is back on the rise and just as you remember it in the retro glass pint bottles – Milk and More has good coverage across the UK, and the Milk Company is a good local option.

Paper Towels/Serviettes – like toilet paper Greencane is a great alternative and their packaging is 100% compostable. Linen napkins could also replace single use serviettes.

Sparkling water – why don’t you try Soda Stream (yep they still make them and now they come with glass bottles).

Wet wipes – For use cleaning, change these for cotton cleaning clothes which can be washed after use rather than being thrown away.

Entertaining & birthdays:

Balloons – These are full of non-degradable nasties, there are lovely alternatives to brighten a birthday party or occasion such bunting; paper or homemade!

Cards – There are many alternatives to buying cards wrapped in plastic, Paperchase has a small selection, otherwise OXFAM also stocks plastic free cards.

Glitter – Ready made micro plastic! Unless that is you are going for the more eco friendly ones such as Ecostardust

Party ware – If you are having a party and don’t want to do the washing up why not try environmentally friendly and biodegradable plates, bowls and cutlery from St Albans based Blue Speck ?

Wrapping paper – choose ones that aren’t shiny as these generally contain plastic.


Clothing – A vast amount of clothing has plastic in it which leaks micro fibres into our water sources when it is washed, there are many natural and sustainable alternatives such as Linen, cotton, viscose and wool. Try and think about your buying habits, some items might seem cheap though when only used for a few wears the impact to the wider environment is costly. Good on You is a fabulous resource for investigating the retailers you are using and their App is very handy too!

Dry cleaning – While both Swift on London Rd and Laundry Express on Hatfield Rd are still using plastic covers, you can return intact and uncrumpled ones along with your hangers for reuse.

Guppy Bag this is a large bag used in the washing machine to prevent micro plastics leaking from clothing into the waste water.

In St Albans we are also lucky to have The Refill Pantry on London Rd as well as Eat Wholefoods on the market twice weekly or their store on Hatfield Rd, where you can buy many whole foods, bathroom alternatives and cleaning products free from plastic packaging, bring your own containers or purchase some (non-plastic ones) in store.

We would love to hear about your alternatives and single use plastic swaps, let us know so we can share it with the community!

DISCLAIMER: Plastic Free St Albans doesn’t endorse any of these products, please try them and make up your own minds.


Where possible reuse as many items as possible to avoid plastic waste.

Out and about and the obvious ones:

Coffee cups – Again there are endless options, many of the larger environmental campaigning organisations also sell these to raise funds and most high street coffee shops offer a discount when using one. Check out our map covering the lovely coffee shops and restaurants of St Albans offering a discount.

Jiffy bags – wash them out and just reuse them again and again.

Shopping bags – There are so many types of reusable bags available today, everything from the plastic supermarket ‘bag for life’ to organic and ethical ones. Often, they are given away free at events and there is little need to buy them.

Soap dispensers – many of our hand liquids come in plastic bottles with pumps, these can be refilled and reused for dishwashing soap, making it easy to use at the sink.

Straws – there are now stainless steel, bamboo, glass and even pasta alternatives.

Take away containers – make excellent ‘leftovers’ containers or lunch boxes.

Toothbrushes – The plastic ones can be reused for cleaning and the bamboo ones can be used to mark plants in the garden once the bristles have been removed.

Travel Cutlery – a number of options are available for when its necessary to carry your own cutlery if you often eat on the go. Here’s an option from Surfers Against Sewage

Water bottles – There are literally hundreds of options around, and again many alternative materials than plastic, try and think about end of life for the items you buy.

Due to their durability and light weight there are hundreds of ways plastic containers can be reused and we would love to hear/see your clever ideas to avoid throwing them away or recycling items.

Recycle (the awkward ones)

Plastics too small, squeezy or crinkly for the council to take? Mixed materials? No recycling symbols? Fear not! There are lots of schemes out there that will take all those awkward bits and pieces and save them from the dreaded landfill bin. Here’s the ones we are aware of in and around St Albans – what others are there? Let us know, and we will add them.

Asthma inhalers – the big Boots in town will take these, over the pharmacy counter.

Batteries – lots of shops take these – we drop ours into Robert Dyas.

Beauty products – beauty product container recycling for ALL brands available at L’Occitane. They take all those awkward bits like lip balms, pumps, pouches, squeezy tubes which don’t go into local recycling. There’s a store at Watford and another at London St Pancras if you are passing through.

Bras – Anna at Atlas Translations runs a charity bin for your used bras at 8 Spicer Street, in aid of Against Breast Cancer.

Bread bags, bubble wrap, frozen pea bags – does your plastic stretch? If so, it can be recycled together with supermarket carrier bags. Most big supermarkets such as Sainsburys have a box for these, just pop your other plastics in there.

Brita Filters – Again Robert Dyas take water filters.

Buggies – not a small thing, but we saw this scheme online and wondered if anyone has tried it? http://www.webuyyourbuggy.com

Cartons – there are recycling bins for these at Morrison’s and Waitrose.

Contact lenses – Accuvue have a recycling scheme which covers all brands – both the lenses themselves and the blister packs they come in. You can drop them off at the big Boots on St Peters Street, or Leightons.

Crisp packets – the Inn on the Park and Lush St Albans will take any brand of crisp packet, also check at your child’s schools as many are now signing up to this too.

Dental packaging – High Oaks dental practice will take all your toothpaste tubes, caps, toothbrushes, and all packaging.

Glasses – Vision Aid Overseas will take your old specs and make good use of them for folks in the developing world. Drop them off at local opticians including Specsavers, Paul Adler and 20/20 eyecare.

Lids – if it’s a plastic lid for a plastic bottle, screw it back on once you have washed it, and the council will accept it in your recycling. Metal lids (even with a bit of plastic on the inside) should go into your recycling too. If it’s a plastic lid from a non-plastic bottle, Lush in the Maltings will accept it.

Pens & Print Toners – Ryman’s collect these for recycling – also batteries.