30 Eco-Friendly Plastic Alternatives For Single-Use Plastics: Ultimate Guide

plastic substitutes

Single-use plastics are everywhere. - and they became so popular because of their convenience and affordability. BUT the bitter truth remains that they are also one of the biggest sources of land and water pollution and climate change! Thankfully, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives you can use to swap out single-use plastics from your lives - and we will share them with you today! 

Anything bad for the planet can never be good for us in the long run. So, today we bring you a list of 30 clever inventions to help kick single-use plastics away from our lives, landfills, and waterways, for good!

Table of Contents

30 Alternatives to Plastic

1. Bamboo Cutlery

bamboo Cutlery plastic alternative

The plastic cutlery accompanying your yummy takeout meal happens to be one of the top contributors to the planet’s plastic waste. Here’s what you should do instead- Get yourself a bamboo cutlery set made from organic bamboo and store it in a box or case to keep it handy on the go. Once done with your meal, wash the cutlery, and store it again for your next takeout meal. Buy two sets if you order takeouts every day.

2. Reusable Stainless Steel, Bamboo or Silicone Straws

Out of all the single-use plastic waste, straws are most likely to end up in the waterways. They are thin, flimsy, and easily break into smaller bits, polluting the soil and water along the way. What makes things worse is these non-biodegradable straws are a health hazard with high chances of chemicals from the plastic leaching into your drink. 

Skip these straws and buy reusable silicone, stainless steel or bamboo straws. These reusable straws are sturdy and long-lasting and typically come in a pack with their very own cleaning brush for hassle-free maintenance. 

3. Biodegradable Organic Cotton Bags

cotton tote as plastic alternative
Reusable shopping bags stump plastic ones in every aspect, and we wonder why all of us aren’t using them already! While they come in a wide variety of eco-friendly fabrics, including jute, hemp, and recycled PET, but canvas grocery bags are a crowd favorite. These stylish totes are perfect for a visit to the supermarket and come with multiple compartments to organize your items.

4. Borosilicate Glass Bottles

Many of us are guilty of stocking up on plastic bottled water at our homes and offices. These bottles, while convenient, end up in the trash after use. If you’re used to refilling these bottles, think again! Studies show single-use PET bottles start leaching chemicals and become prone to bacterial growth if reused.

Kick this habit by investing in leak-proof glass bottles made from durable borosilicate glass for your home and office. Just wash, refill, and use them for as long as you want, with a tiny of care. 

5. Reusable Cotton Tea Bags

Love brewing a cup of tea every morning? Then get one of these reusable tea bags for loose tea, pronto! With these, you can save hundreds of tea bags from polluting the waterways. 

The harmless-looking tea bags are made from polyester which is not biodegradable and cannot be recycled. Instead, buy your favorite loose-leaf tea and use it with these lovely cotton tea bags for a fresh cup of tea wherever, whenever. 

6. Reusable Beauty Rounds

reusable makeup rounds

It’s time to make your daily makeup and skincare routine sustainable and greener with reusable beauty rounds. Ditch your disposable face wipes, single-use cotton pads, and Qtips for reusable makeup rounds. These are soft, hypoallergenic, and made from 100% certified organic cotton.

Related Article: How to Live More Sustainably. 50 Easy Tips

7. Washable Diapers

No more piles of stinky disposable diapers! We have a great alternative for all the mommies and daddies who want to lead an eco-conscious life while giving the best of care to their munchkins. 

Reusable diapers are waterproof, washable, and have a comfy inner lining with microfiber inserts. Not only are these gentle diapers great for your baby as well as the planet, but they also save you big bucks from buying hundreds of disposable ones every month. 

8. Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags

cotton sandwich bags ziploc alternative

It’s time to say your goodbyes to plastic meal pouches, cling films, and disposable brown paper bags! Reusable sandwich or lunch bags made from cotton are a great alternative. These canvas lunch bags are very convenient to carry and are perfect for adults as well as kids.

9. Biodegradable Craft Glitter

Traditional craft glitter is chock-full of plastic and aluminum that takes hundreds of years to disintegrate. As a microplastic, it’s one of the scarier plastics that are impossible to recycle because of their small size. 

These tiny tricky specks almost always end up in the seas and oceans, harming aquatic life. But worry not. Your DIY craft projects don’t have to be glitter-free. Simply opt for non-toxic, plant cellulose-based colorful sparkles. It adds as much shine as the more commonly used counterpart, with nearly 90% less plastic content.  

10. Mesh Produce Bags 

plastic bag substitute cotton produce bags

Next time you visit your local grocer’s or farmer’s market, use these cotton mesh produce bags to stock up on your produce. These airy bags of 100% organic cotton let the produce breathe and stay fresh for a long time. Use them to carry anything from apples to peanuts to plants. 

11. Silicone Baking Cups

Calling all home bakers! You can now bake delicious cupcakes without piling up the trash can with single-use paper cups and liners. Colorful and hygienic, reusable baking cups are made from food-grade silicone and are a breeze to clean.

12. Swedish Dishcloth

Here’s an interesting fact- one Swedish cloth can replace 17 rolls of paper towels and absorb up to 20x of its weight! These fantastic little sponge cleaners are made from renewable and natural fibers and are available in a beautiful array of colors and patterns. When dirty, pop them in the dishwasher or washer for thorough cleaning. 

13. Beeswax Food Wrap

We love Beeswax food wraps because they make an excellent alternative to plastic cling films and bags. This ultra-thin wrap is made from organic cotton with a coating of food-grade beeswax, plant oils, and tree resin. Besides wrapping snacks, these versatile wraps can be used for anything from food prepping to storing leftovers and everything in between. 

14. Rechargeable Batteries

Not only are rechargeable batteries great for the planet, but also your pocket. They can be used repeatedly, making them way more sustainable than disposable batteries. That said, invest in only good quality rechargeable batteries made by well-known brands, as cheap ones might drain too quickly.

15. Reusable Coffee Filters & Pods

Brew your morning cuppa in style with a reusable stainless steel drip-style coffee filter. They’re dishwasher-safe and built to last. But remember to check with the seller if the filter compatible with your coffee maker. 

Using a Keurig machine? Don’t worry. You can buy reusable K-pods and combine them with freshly-ground coffee beans for a delicious cup o’ joe that’ll taste better than store-bought single-use pods.

16. Insulated Travel Tumbler

Now that you’ve brewed yourself a fresh batch of coffee with reusable pods and filters how about getting an eco-friendly travel mug to sip it on the go. Durable stainless steel tumblers are spill-proof with double-walled insulation to keep hot drinks steaming hot and cold beverages icy cool. 

17. Silicone Baking Mats

You can save rolls of single-use parchment papers and tin foils from flowing into the rivers and oceans by getting reusable baking mats. These food-grade silicone mats are user-friendly and keep the ingredients from sticking to the surface. Wipe them with a damp cloth or rinse them under the faucet to have them look as good as new. 

18. Menstrual Cups

Disposable sanitary napkins and tampons get dumped in landfills. Luckily, we have a greener alternative in the form of menstrual cups. If the thought of switching over to these sanitary cups is making you nervous, don’t be! There are many brands selling soft, comfy, easy-to-sterilize silicone cups to help you sail through your period breezily.

19. Wool Dryer Balls

eco-friendly woven dryer balls

Fuzzy dryer balls are all you need to speed the drying cycle while softening and fluffing up your batch of clothes along the way. They make a sustainable alternative to single-use dryer sheets, which typically contain a layer of synthetic fabric, mainly non-woven polyester. 

20. Canvas Wine Tote

Wine connoisseurs, you can now travel confidently with your bottles without worrying about clinking or breakage by opting for reusable 6 bottle canvas wine totes. These ultra-portable bags are crafted from dye-free organic cotton canvas. They are sturdy, expertly stitched, and can hold up to six bottles of wine hassle-free. From shopping to a picnic, trust these eco-friendly bags to store your precious cargo safely and effortlessly.

21. Bamboo Drink Stirrers

bamboo stir sticks plastic substitute

If you’re favorite cafe or watering hole is giving you disposable plastic stirrers, ask them to switch to earth-friendly bamboo stir sticks. These stirrers are thick, compostable, renewable, and unlike other wooden stirrers, they don’t splinter easily. 

22. Reusable Piping Bags

Reusable piping bags are another amazing invention to help out our green bakers. These squeezy silicone bags are perfect for piping, icing, and frosting and come with a handy set of tips, couplers, and ties. Clean them with a bar of dish soap and hang them to dry. 

23. Stainless Steel and Bamboo Razor

eco-friendly bamboo razor

Disposable razors will soon belong to the past, especially when we have double-edged reusable razors to replace them with! Tough-as-nails, these razors come with a robust stainless steel blade and a long handle made from eco-friendly bamboo. Get these for a smoother, closer, and planet-friendly shave than ever before. 

24. Linen Bread Bags

On your next visit to the baker’s or a farmers’ market for fresh bread, sourdoughs, and baguettes, avoid plastic or paper wrapping by taking along some linen bread bags. Reusable linen bags aren’t just great for carrying bread but also for keeping them fresh for crusty for longer. These 100% cotton linen bags allow the baked goods to breathe while preventing them from drying out or softening. As artisan bread come in various shapes and sizes, we recommend buying bread bags that are roomy and can be secured with a drawstring.

Related Article: 25 Locally Grown & Organic Things to Buy at Farmer's Market

25. Washable and Reusable Face Masks

washable plastic-free cloth masks

While we’re on the topic of face masks, you might want to replace disposable face protective masks with a reusable alternative. The single-use masks are made of polypropylene, known for breaking up into small bits that are impossible to recycle and take centuries to go back into nature. 

You can easily swap single-use masks with washable plastic-free cloth masks unless you’re in the medical services. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s working together for a healthier, greener, and more sustainable future. 

26. Biodegradable Plates

Disposable Plastic plates are a common feature at parties, celebrations, and picnics. They are too flimsy to be reused; while you can recycle them more often than not, they end up in landfills. Instead, opt for biodegradable plates made from bamboo, wheat straw, and other earth-friendly materials. 

27. Bamboo Toothbrush

The sheer number of ways we can reduce single-use plastic pollution is astounding! And most of these ideas aren’t asking for a lot! Switching from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo one is another easy and effective way to lower our plastic consumption. On average, our harmless-looking plastic toothbrush takes over 400 years to decompose. In comparison, bamboo toothbrushes made from organically-grown bamboo are recyclable, bio-degradable, and boast natural anti-bacterial properties.

28. Reusable Puree Pouches

Reusable food pouches are an excellent way to store your DIY fruit smoothies and purees that you’ve whipped up for yourself or your tiny tot. They’re free of harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, PVC, and lead-free and come with a choke-proof cap making it safe for your baby to eat right out of. The pouch opens up from the bottom, making it easy to wash, clean, and refill.

29. Conditioner Bars

You might have used soap bars, but you now can nourish your hair with haircare bars instead of bottled conditioners and shampoos. Most of these are plant-based and free of chemicals, including synthetic fragrances. One of these can outlast three 8.5-ounce bottles of conditioner, making it a great way to kick out plastic from your lives.

30. Beeswax and Cotton Ear Plugs

Block out the noise and protect your ears with all-natural Quies ear plugs. While just as soft and effective as their disposable foam counterpart, these all-nature ear plugs are biodegradable and can be reused multiple times. Easily available on Amazon and other e-commerce sites. 

Final Thoughts

We understand working your way up to a single-use plastic-free life will take time, patience, and planning. But if there was ever a better time to start leading a sustainable life, it’s now. With so many eco-conscious brands and new inventions every day (we have 30 of them right here!), single-use plastics will soon be a thing of the past. 

Author: Karen Lamar

Karen is the Chief Content Officer at Organic Cotton Mart. She has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from NC State with a special focus in Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Since her High School days, she has been an Environmentalist and was the President of her High School's Environmental Club for 3 years before starting her freshman year at NC State. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of various environment-friendly movements like zero waste, minimalistic living, recycling, and upcycling.

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