I have recently become more aware of the plastic consumption in our house. It’s huge. I really do try to cut down on plastic use, and to recycle more in general. But unfortunately, the alternatives are not always budget-friendly, are they? Well here are some tips on how to make sustainable and eco-friendly choices on a budget.

I’m A Recycling Newbie

I am ashamed to say that recycling is fairly new to me. Not that I didn’t want to do it. I did. But where we lived in South Africa there was and is no specific council or government led scheme that enforces recycling of household waste. In fact, recycling of plastic specifically was quite difficult. Everything gets thrown in the landfill. Everything.

The main plastic recycling that is done in South Africa is by unemployed people who then scour the dumps to collect recyclable materials such as plastic and cardboard. They then sell it to private recycling collection points for money to survive on. You can find out more about it in this piece by Chanene from Tonic and Tiaras.

recycling in africa mpact

My Shame …

Since moving back to the UK things have changed. There is an enforced recycling scheme in place run by our local council. I have become more and more aware, and horrified, by how much plastic we as a family go through.

This is mainly in the form of milk bottles, drinks bottles (2 litre version), yoghurt tubs, and of course the innumerate amount of unnecessary plastic packaging that the food bought from the supermarket comes in. I mean, do we really need to individually pack sausage rolls? The answer is no.

I’m Getting Better!

I have become neurotic about throwing away plastic, to the point that I dig in the bin to make sure my kids haven’t ‘accidentally’ [read: lazily] discarded plastic into the general waste bin instead of recycling it. The result is that my curbside recycling that is collected every second week is three times as large as the one tub provided by the council. Clearly I am buying too many plastic packaged products. I need to cut this down.

I also want to teach our kids about the importance of recycling and living a more sustainable life. Read more about introducing your children to an ethical lifestyle here.

I WANT to cut down our plastic consumption.

The problem is that so many of the really amazing sustainable living products and alternatives are more expensive than those that aren’t. I abide strictly to my weekly household budget. It’s important to me that I do. So I have found a buying pattern that fits that budget and I don’t go over it. I just don’t. This is something that I am quite proud of actually because budgeting is necessary for overall financial wellbeing. So I need help and advice on how to recycle on a budget.

Making Smart Choices

I recently bought a bottle of fabric softener from a supermarket that was 30p more than the one I normally buy. Why? Well because it clearly stated on the label in BIG BOLD lettering that the plastic bottle it was in was ” made from recycled plastic “. I was fully prepared to pay a little bit more than usual to buy a product that was packaged in recycled plastic.

Why? Because not only am I happy to support a company that is actually investing in using recycled plastic, but also because I feel like my efforts of recycling are actually starting to pay off too.

Shocking Statistics

When you hear that there is a plastic island floating in the ocean named “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” which is three times the size of France, it makes me wonder if the plastic we send for recycling is actually recycled! I am sure it is, and I’m not an investigative journalist.

How to make sustainable and eco-friendly choices on a budget.

But I want to know more. I want more advice and tips on how to recycle on a budget, because I want to do better, and I want to be educated. I asked for some advice and tips from other parents who also make smart choices for their families when it comes to recycling and doing what we can to make a positive contribution to the reduction of waste and the promotion of recycling. So, here are some tips and advice on how to cut down on plastics, and how to recycle on a budget:

Reusing & Upcycling

Kelly from The Rebel Tribe: I reuse glass and plastic pots for all our craft stuff, it works really well. We also decoupage glass bottles to use as vases or give as gifts!

Victoria from The Growing Mum: I reuse torn/unwearable clothes as much as possible. I can’t use a sewing machine so it’s limited to cutting them up for cleaning cloths and making costumes for the kids. I also find that buying in bulk helps. Also buying second hand is a great way to keep the cost down. Especially expensive toys. Second-hand durable plastic items are a great option.

Jennifer from Mighty Mama Bear: If you keep screw on bottle tops they can be used for a variety of activities. We have a collection of different colours and it can help with maths, counting, colours etc. They can also be used for crafts and a variety of creative inventions. 

Hannah from Chaus Adventure: We have reduced our use of wet wipes in the house by a lot. We now use clothes for the dining table. It saves us money and saves the environment!

Check out these bamboo wet wipes as an eco-friendly alternative.


Karen from The Mini Malpi: I second buying secondhand where possible. Good for your family’s budget and you’re usually helping out another family or supporting a charity when you do. Also because it’s not just thinking about what to do with an item at the end of its life but also what is used up in the creation of it in the first place. For example, production in the fashion industry has been shown to create air pollution and adds to plastic damage in the ocean and paper bags can use four times as much energy to make than plastic ones. If we reuse what has already been created where possible then there is no extra generation cost to the planet.

List from That British Betty Blog: We use shampoo bars from a local ethical manufacturer. No plastic, palm oils or parabens and are cruelty free/vegan. Cost £3 each and last for months. We also use cider vinegar instead of conditioner, saving so many plastic bottles. Tupperware for packed lunches instead of foil or cling film and we buy most of our clothes from the charity shop. I also ditched Zoflora and such for a homemade white vinegar spray. 

Alternative Products

Jaymee from The Mum Diaries: We used cloth nappies with my younger 2. We saved hundreds and it meant we saved money weekly from having to buy nappies and wipes. It also meant we saved thousands of nappies/wipes from landfill too, reducing our single use plastics! 

Emma from Happy Family Hub: We use aluminium drinking straws, they are shiny and easily cleaned (and have a little bag to carry them around in). Perfect for taking out to picnics, drinks in the house and also when we go to cafes and pubs. A one-off small price (they were only about five pounds), but it’s meant we don’t go through bags and bags of disposable plastic straws anymore! 

In The Kitchen

Catherine from Passports and Adventures says I bought reusable string bags for loose fruit and veg. Sometimes the produce is slightly more expensive than the ones coming in plastic bags but it means I don’t have to throw yet another single use plastic bag in the bin. Plus they’re washable and make great clothes peg bags too. And they can be used for a range of other things. 

Erin from Yorkshire Tots To Teens says We switched to getting our milk delivered. It is a bit more expensive but I feel like we’re more careful with it so it’s not working out to be so much more. The kids love helping bring it in on a morning too!

I am a recent convert of these so I love this idea from Clare of Wild Mama Wild Tribe: we use beeswax wraps to wrap packed lunches rather than clingfilm. We have bought a set but they are really easy to make your own.

And here’s how you can make your own Beeswax Wraps with all the instructions from Sarah of The Craft Invaders

Jess from Tantrums To Smiles: We have switched to buying loose fruit and veg instead of pre-packaged! The price difference is marginal and actually sometimes cheaper to buy fruit/veg loose than in packaging and it means less plastic packaging in the home! 

In The Bathroom

There are a number of eco-friendly bathroom products from natural dental care products to moisturisers, all from Big Green Smile.

Victoria from Lylia Rose: Instead of buying throwaway cotton pads to remove make up with cleanser, invest in washable bamboo pads that last for ages and don’t come wrapped in single use plastic. They might cost a bit more upfront, but you’ll save money in the long run and be more eco-friendly.

Karen from Travel Mad Mum: Swapping shampoo and conditioner for the shampoo body bars with metal reusable tin.

Emma from Fuelled By Latte: I’ve found that buying period underwear and a menstrual cup is an initial outlay but it means you don’t have to buy sanitary wear again so is cheaper in the long run and definitely reduces plastic waste. Emma has a whole post of specific ways to reduce plastic use in the bathroom – click on the picture below to check it out.

reduce plastic waste in bathrooms

Jo from A Rose Tinted World is also a fan of this. She says that using a moon cup and reusable sanitary pads can save thousands over the cost of a lifetime. Yes, they cost more initially, but you can make your own. 
There are lots of ways of upcycling old clothes.

Ben from Wood Create: We started buying recyclable toothbrush heads from LiveCoCo. They fit into a normal Oral-B electric brush and are 100% recyclable. Simply send them back to LiveCoCo when you’ve finished with them.

This seems a popular choice too, and one adapted by Charlotte and her family from Team Stein: We switched to bamboo toothbrushes after hearing more than 3.6 billion plastic brushes end up in landfill or the Ocean. That’s a terrifying statistic.

Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming a more popular choice every day. If you’re interested in trying them out, check out the bamboo toothbrushes by The Other Straw. They have some fab ones to try out.

bamboo toothbrush sustainable and eco-friendly choices

A Joint Effort

Thanks so much to everyone for all those brilliant, simple and budget friendly tips on how to reduce plastic use and how make sustainable and eco-friendly choices on a budget.

If you have any tips not already covered here, please let me know in the comments. I will keep updating this post regularly to keep the information up to date and useful. There are always more smart choices to be made on how to recycle on a budget.

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