woman shopping in plastic free shop

Five tips for single-use free shopping

05 Jul 24

Plastic has almost become a dirty word in recent years, but what about all the good uses of plastic – think about medical equipment, cars, reusable coffee cups etc. 

Plastic is lightweight and durable, so does have its place.  But single-use is another matter – whatever it’s made of – plastic, paper – or even plant based ‘compostable’ items.  They are a waste of resources, and often discarded in the wrong place.  

Think about it – do you think Scotland had a major litter problem before single-use items became the norm?  And think about the bin strikes we’ve had – if we didn’t have single-use packaging, would the bin strikes have caused half as much of an issue? 

Five tips for single-use free shopping

  1. Bring your own bags
    Keep them in your car, by the door, or even in your handbag.  Miriam in our team carries an ‘Onya’ bag in her handbag all the time for those unexpected purchases.

  2. Don’t buy bottled soft drinks
    Drink tap water.  If water doesn’t float your boat – try infusing it with some flavours such as apple and mint, rosemary and watermelon, strawberries and basil, ginger and lime, cucumber and mint, raspberry and lemon or satsuma segments.  Just infuse for a minimum of 1 hour, or ideally overnight and drink within a couple of days for a fresh and tasty drink.

  3. Take your own produce bags to buy loose fruit & veg
    It all sounds good that supermarkets often provide paper bags instead of plastic these days, but they’re very much single-use (ever tried to reuse a paper bag after it’s become damp – it doesn’t end well!).  Trees are chopped down to make them and they still have a negative carbon impact.  You can buy produce bags (some contain plastic, but are reusable again and again and washable), or make your own from scrap fabrics or net curtains.

  4. Visit your local refill shop 
    If you haven’t visited one before, check out our colleague Louisa’s great guide. Refill shops are a great way to reduce plastic, but also to reduce food waste – you just buy as much as you need – particularly good when you’re getting those unusual herbs & spices that you might only need for one recipe.  And your purchases look so much nicer in jars than in plastic packets – which is great if you’re short of cupboard space so have to have food out on shelves etc.

  5. Use greengrocers, butchers, bakers, fishmongers, deli counters etc 
    Supporting your local shops is fantastic for your local economy and jobs, but also a great way to reduce packaging as you can often take your own reusable containers or bags.  

We know there are so many more things you can do, but if we all did just these five, we’d be making a huge difference.  If you want to take things a step further, consider making your own deodorant, cleaning solutions, etc and don’t forget things like sponge scourers which often contain huge amounts of plastic.

close up of woman refilling glass bottle in refill store