Getting started to reduce plastic

There are things we can all do to reduce the amount of single use, avoidable plastic we use. Here are some tips on how to have a less plastic lifestyle. Just try one at a time, get used to it and let it settle into your life … then try another. Before you know it you’ll have made a huge difference to your ‘plastic bootprint’.

Use a Refill Bottle

36.5 million single-use bottles are bought every day in the UK. Only half are recycled. The rest are burnt, buried or end up in the environment. This one action alone makes a big impact on resources, litter, and our pockets. You can save up to £400 a year by refilling with tap water.

Use Refill Coffee Cups

Seven million disposable cups are used each day in the UK. 99% end up in landfill, being burnt or polluting the environment. Compostable cups are not a solution so refuse single-use. Most cafes in Penzance and beyond offer a discount for using refill cups. You can save up to 50p a drink.

Refuse Straws

Straws suck. Refuse them. Even paper straws. If one is put in your drink hand it back explaining you are avoiding unnecessary throwaway items. Some people are reliant on straws, we know that. In those cases check out the great range of re-usable straws, now widely available.

Take Your Own Bag

Carrier bags stay in the environment indefinitely. Bio-plastic bags break down quicker, but are still plastic. Marine wildlife mistake carrier bags for jellyfish and eat them. You have to pay for carriers. Pretty good reasons to take your own re-useable bags when shopping.

Plastic Free Shopping

How can you avoid the mountain of plastic that comes with the weekly shop? Try these top tips and again let each one settle into your lifestyle.

Some things cost more, some things are cheaper and some things you just won’t buy anymore. Reducing single-use plastic is an ongoing commitment. The key is to shop local as much as possible, which has the added benefit of keeping our hard earned cash in the local economy.

Fruit & Veg

As a first step why not decide to stop buying fruit and veg in the supermarket, where it’s plastic wrapped. Head to your local high street grocer, farm shop, roadside stall or order a veg box from a local grower. Less plastic and less food miles = wins all round! You can also buy some fruit and veg loose in the supermarket, just pop it straight in the trolley and then into a reusable bag to take home.

Dried Goods

Choose flours, cereals, pasta, rice, sugar and other dried goods in paper bags. Some supermarkets sell more than others … but to be sure head to your local refill shop. In Penzance we have The Weigh Inn and The Granary who offer refill in paper bags and are happy to refill your containers from home. Think herbs, spices, pastas, dried fruit, flours, rices, cake mixes, nuts, seeds.


So this can be tricky … and we are all about being realistic and making the changes we can before tackling the harder stuff. BUT, there is a way around this one. Shop at your local butcher and take your own containers! Lenterns in Penzance paper wrap meat and are more than happy to fill tubs from home. 

Bakery Goods

Head to the local bakery and get your loaf, rolls or treats in paper bags. Places like Baker Toms on Causeway Head are pretty much completely plastic free. Others vary, but all our local bakers are great and have plastic free options. In the supermarket opt for loose bread and take your own washable cotton bag. Even if we just reduce the amount we buy in plastic, it all helps. And it tastes SO much better!


A few ideas to get started: Register with your milkman and go back to glass bottles. Thornes & Archie’s have started doing milk refills in store too. Bulk buy yoghurt in bigger containers and decant into smaller pots (reuse the containers afterwards) or have a go at making your own in glass jars. Treat yourself to some paper wrapped cheese from Newlyn Cheese Shop. Make sure you recycle any plastic you do use.

Cold Drinks

Opt for drinks in cans or glass bottles and make sure you recycle. Even better take the opportunity to make a healthier lifestyle choice and cut down on/stop buying sugar-filled cordials, juices & fizzy drinks. Have go at juicing oranges at home for a fresh, zingy breakfast shot. If you’ve got a juicer, blender or Sodastream, use it. If not – don’t buy another white good for the kitchen. #Reduce.


This is where you can get creative. There are loads of fabulous and simple recipes out there for biscuits, granola bars, cakes, savoury bites, energy balls … endless opportunities! Wrap in paper or use a re-useable tub to store and carry around. Also check out local refill shops for nuts, seeds, dried fruit and other treats, and store them in jars at home ready to decant/raid for elevensies.

Hot Drinks

We are lucky in Penzance to have a refill tea and coffee shop. Didn’t know? Go check out Mr Billy’s in Queens Square. Fresh ground coffee and loose tea galore! In other shops opt for loose tea, cardboard packaging and avoid individually wrapped herbal teas. Get hot chocolate, cocoa and cacao from refill shops like the Weigh Inn or opt for cardboard tubs instead of plastic jars/packets.

Plastic Free Home

Up your game and reduce plastic impact around the home with some easy changes you can make pretty much straightaway. Others will take time to come through as you replace items naturally; things like opting for a natural scrubbers and wooden brushes next time the scourers run out. Replace disposable wipes and cloths with re-useable and washable versions. Here are some first steps to get things going in the right direction.


Refill, Refill, Refill! Washing up liquid and other cleaning fluids are available to refill in Penzance and the fab thing is that the products and the companies behind them are kinder to our world. Reduce the amount of products you buy too – a home made mix of washing up liquid and water in a refill spray bottle and a good scrub really does do most things. Go for polish in a tin and opt for good re-useable cloths and dusters that can be washed time and time again. Did your mum used to save old knickers for cleaning? You could try that too!


Again you can swap to refill here, it’s a fab way to cut plastic and also the eco-impact of what goes down the drains. Laundry liquid and conditioner are available to refill in Penzance as well as cardboard boxes of eco whiteners and stain removers. Other ideas: Swap to washing powder in cardboard boxes, ditch conditioner (do you really need it?) and defo scrap the laundry water. You could even have a go at making your own products, there is no end to the power of bicarb!


You really don’t have to be smelly to be plastic free. There are amazing personal hygiene products on the market which are plastic-free, eco kind … and work. Think deodorant bars in cardboard tubes, bamboo toothbrushes, refill tooth tabs and charcoal floss in a refill jar. Coconut oil in a glass jar is a brilliant all-rounder for moisturising, make-up removal and for deep conditioning hair. Swap to soap bars, shampoo bars and if you really need conditioner, do it on a refill basis – again available in Penzance. Our bodies and hair need time to adjust to not having all those chemicals and ‘buy me’ products on them … but you’ll find it’s worth it and you’ll end up buying less products.


Not all plastic is bad. It’s the way we produce and use plastic that has got out of hand. So don’t go chucking out all your Tupperware. It’s the key to a ‘plastic-free’ lifestyle! Use it for leftovers, packed lunches, storing homemade snacks and treats etc. Start collecting big ‘Kilner’ jars for storing refill goods like cereal, flour, sugar, baking ingredients, pasta, rice etc. Reuse smaller glass jars to store refill seeds, nuts … custard powder (Yes – you can get refill custard powder in town) Don’t buy new plastic for the kitchen unless you have too and invest in great storage tins and boxes. As items need replacing opt for plastic free versions, wooden brushes, scrubbers and pegs all look amazing too.

Plastic Free Events

Set the bar and spread the plastic-free message. By taking small steps to reduce single-use plastic at your events you are not only taking action on your own impact but also inspiring others to do the same. If we see our friends and community are making things happen we are more likely to give it a go too. Here are your starters for ten.

Children’s Parties

Ditch plastic tat and unnecessary crap. Refuse balloons, plastic banners, plastic decorations and individual bags of treats/sweets. Material or cardboard bunting can be used time and time again, a proper tablecloth can be washed, an oilcloth wiped down. Find cardboard or paper decorations. Opt for paper party bags with plastic free gifts or just give a little gift (books are great) and a bit of cake in a paper serviette. That in itself will probably save a fortune! Get a colourful set of re-useable, kid-friendly tableware for your child’s first birthday and use it for parties every year after. Save it for siblings and grandchildren!


Make your day extra special and tasteful by ditching single-use plastic. Go for natural table decorations and hire proper crockery/cutlery. If it’s not possible go for wooden cutlery and home compostable bagasse foodware. Avoid the ‘compostable’ plastic pitfall of products like Vegware and other bio-plastics … unless you are arranging for a collection of it all so it can go to the specialist composting unit it needs. Scrap plastic based confetti and go traditional with flower petals or rice. Use washable or paper serviettes, refill drinks cups and carboard or material favours. More tips here

House Parties

Stocking up on throwaway cups and plates may save time … but it wrecks the planet. Ditch single-use plastic cups and hire glasses for the night or raid the local charity shop for kitsch cups and glassware to keep in a box for parties. Same for plates and cutlery … or opt for home compostable and wooden alternatives. Avoid plastic wrapped party food and make more yourself or encourage people to bring a plate and share the catering load. Get mixers in glass bottles or cans and get organised with the ice. You can make your own in ice trays in advance, just store the cubes in re-useable bags in the freezer for party night.

Community Events

Reduce, Refill and Rethink! Set up a refill cup scheme, ban plastic tat and look for sustainable alternatives. Please don’t use balloons, especially outside, and make sure any decorations that are used are tied down well and taken back in. When advertising make sure cable ties are reusable and all signage is removed after your event. Ask caterers not to use single-use plastic and check stalls and providers won’t be giving out things like carrier bags or plastic bottles. You can check out Penzance’s Plastic Free Events Charter for more information on what’s expected … most of all tell everyone what steps you’ve taken and encourage others!

Plastic Free Guru

Want to get into the finer detail? This is the section for you. Once we’ve written it.