The UK’s battle against single-use plastic is in full swing. Since the 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced in October 2015, we have used 83% fewer as a country. Now, the spotlight is on other single-use plastic items.

In this year’s budget, it was announced that DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is considering the efficacy of a tax on plastic items. This would aim to reduce how much plastic we get through in the UK and tackle the large-scale problem of plastic pollution.

We’ve taken a look at some common plastic items and found some simple, eco-friendly alternatives.

Simple swaps


  • The problem: Based on advice from dentists, you should change your toothbrush every three months – meaning we get through an average of 324 each over our lives.
  • The solution: Bamboo fibre toothbrushes are biodegradable and will still leave you with clean pearly whites.


  • The problem:Between the UK and USA, 550 million plastic straws are thrown away every day. These never biodegrade; every straw that was ever created still exists somewhere on the planet.
  • The solution: If you use straws at home or at work, try investing in a stainless steel one instead. These can be washed and used time and time again.

Beeswax wraps

  • The problem: Cling film can’t be recycled – and we all know that reusing it takes a lot of skill in unravelling it!
  • The solution: Try wrapping your sandwiches up in beeswax wraps – these are pretty, reusable and easy to make from scratch if you are feeling crafty!

Ear buds

  • The problem: The plastic sticks in ear buds are some of the worst items that end up in oceans far away from where they were used.
  • The solution: Many UK retailers sell ear buds made with paper, rather than plastic, which is a fabulous biodegradable alternative.


  • The problem: Plastic bags have an average lifespan of 20 minutes. After that, they are thrown away. If they are not disposed of properly, they sometimes end in the ocean where they can be mistaken for jellyfish and eaten.
  • The solution: Canvas bags are a long-lasting and inexpensive alternative.

Coffee cups

  • The problem: Every year, 70 disposable cups are made for every person on the planet. Under 1% get recycled.
  • The solution: Bamboo fibre coffee cups are durable, retain the heat from your drink, and will biodegrade at the end of their life. Plus, many shops give you a discount on your drink for taking your own cup.

Water bottles

  • The problem: The UK uses 38.5m plastic bottles every day, yet only half get recycled.
  • The solution: Stainless steel water bottles will last you a lifetime. If every UK household bought stainless steel drinks bottles, this could prevent 13 billion plastic bottles from being thrown away every year.

These small changes are simple and easy. Whether or not the tax on single-use plastics is introduced, we all have something to gain from reducing the plastic in our lives.