Reducing Plastic Use – what can I do?

For the past two week’s the group at Collinstown Parent Toddler and Baby Group have been discussing ways that households can reduce plastic use.  This conversation was inspired by some of our members watching the BBC series War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita and by the ongoing Collinstown’s One Small Change Campaign.

We had some very interesting conversations on simple ways we can all reduce plastic use over the past two weeks.  It is really encouraging to see that everyone has different, but great ideas to bring to the table.  There was a general agreement that awareness about reducing plastic use as well as sustainability and climate change issues is generally increasing.

this is so true

There was a very interesting comment along the lines of “you’re walking around the shops, looking at all the bits of homewares, kids clothes etc etc and wondering what you need and what to buy, when what you probably really need is to just go home and have a cup of tea.”  I thought this was very interesting – if it wasn’t on your list before you went in, or you didn’t realise you wanted it until you saw it and suddenly needed it – then you probably don’t need it, are unlikely to use it, so don’t buy it.

our suggestions

We would like to share the ideas we came up with to reduce plastic use, and consumption in general, in the hope that some other people will be inspired by our conversations.  I will break this information up into sections to try to organise it.


Use washing powder in a box – the cardboard box can be recycled.

Get an Eco Egg or similar product that can be reused multiple times to wash clothes.  Recommended by one of our members, works well, so much cheaper that laundry detergents and no packaging to dump.


Wooden dish brushes and coconut scrubbers were recommended – both available in eco shops and online.

Refilling cleaning products.  Some products can be bought in bulk and others come in refill containers which, although plastic, are less plastic.


Buy unwrapped fruit and vegetables, there is a great selection in the vegetable shop in Castlepollard.  Do not use the little plastic bags for the fruit and veg, put them all together in your reusable shopping bag or bring small reusable produce bags with you.

Collinstown Farmers Market – a lot of the traders take back packaging to reuse, jam jars, milk bottles, egg boxes…

Growing Food – we talked about growing fruit and veg.  Some of our members are growing some tomatoes in a green house and some potatoes and others are planning on growing next year.  We figured now is a good time to pick some apples from some of the lovely apple trees on the Nellie Nancy walk in Fore or some blackberries from the bushes – no plastic packaging there!

Buy in bulk where possible – a lot of ingredients can be purchased in bulk.  By buying in larger quantities and then putting the produce in jars or tubs you are reducing packaging – sometimes splitting an order with a friend or family member can work well for this. is one shop that one of our members uses.

Buy food in jars instead of in squeezy bottles.

personal hygiene

Use a deodorant that is not in plastic packaging.  Pitt Putty, which comes in a tin was passed around and the general consensus was that it smelled lovely and it works.  There was also suggestions for the natural deodorant bar from the palm free Irish soap company and for Himalayan Salt deodorant sticks.  Nuts and Grains in Mullingar has a selection of these.

Ditch the shower gel – a lot of the group use bars of soap instead of shower gel.  There are some great, packaging free, handmade options available in Nuts and Grains, Tullynally Castle Tearooms and a lot of different shops.

One of the group members is going to switch from shampoo in a bottle to a bar of shampoo and will let us know how she gets on.  There are lots of different options for washing hair that cut down on plastic packaging.  Bars of shampoo and conditioner is one method.  The no shampoo method is another where you use a brush instead – although none of our members have direct experience with this.

There are compostable toothbrushes that are fairly widely available in Mullingar – bamboo toothbrushes can be purchased in Nuts and Grains and cellulose brushes are available in Haven Pharmacy beside Buckleys.  These come in sizes suitable for both adults and children.

If using handwash in the bathroom or kitchen buy in bulk, this may need to be ordered in for you.  Just refill your reusable handwash containers from the large container. Consider reducing the amount of handwash used each time by wrapping an elastic band around the top of the dispenser to shorten the length of the pump and therefore reduce the amount used. This was a tip from one of our new members that everyone was interested in.

menstrural products

There was a general concensus that knowledge of alternatives to the disposable, highly marketed, single use products was limited in general among most groups of women.  A suggestion that reusable, environmentally friendly alternatives to these products be introduced to girls in school as opposed to single use products.

Menstrual cups – one of our members recommends the Moon Cup which was purchased in Boots, but there are lots of different brands available in different shops.

Reusable menstrual pads – one of our members has some IsmeVims reusable pads and would highly recommend them. Rinse them in cold water when when finished using them and wash in the machine as normal.  These pads can be purchased from and other online shops – we are not aware of them being sold in and around the local area.

babies and small children

Baby wipes are what inspired us to have this conversation in the first place.  Most of our members use disposable baby wipes.  One of our members mainly uses cotton wool and keeps a tub of water at the changing table to wet the cotton wool – this works perfectly when at home.  Another member uses Kinder by Nature biodegradeable wipes.  We looked at options for reusable wipes, where we have washable wipes in a plastic tub that we carry around instead and a wet bag for used ones.  We need to do more research on this but a lot of the group members are looking into ideas.

Reusable nappies.  Some of our members have tried these – we will be discussing this again in the coming weeks.  There is a Cloth Nappy Library where there is a lot of information if you are interested and a Cloth Nappy Facebook group.    One of the group members used compostable nappies, but in the absence of a brown bin service this experiment was very short lived.  Throwing them in a compost pile did not end well.


Passing down school uniforms – one of our members suggested this and we will bring this idea to the parents association in Collinstown.

We discussed the kids expectations to get a new school bag, new pencil case etc every year.  A lot of us have not gone down this road and are washing and reusing last year’s instead.  Good quality schoolbags such as Under Armour, JanSport are still looking perfect after a year’s use – are are expected to do so for years to come.  The Upcycle Movement are a company who make products from discarded wetsuits – a pencil case from a wetsuit would likely last a long time and is on the list – although none of us have one yet.

Metal water bottles, metal lunchboxes, bees wax wrap instead of cling film are all ways to make the lunchbox more sustainable.  Using what you already have is obviously more sustainable than buying new, but when new is needed try to buy something that will last.

toys and gifts for kids

This is a tricky one as often times these items are received and we don’t have a lot of control over them.

There are a good selection of wooden toys available, there are some at the Collinstown Farmers Market as well as being in Lidl and in toy shops.  We are encouraging group members to swap toys and pass them on.  Often times pre loved toys and books are in perfect condition and have loads of life left in them.  There was suggestions for experiences to be given as gifts where the budget allows or for small cash gifts to be given for school birthday parties – Fiver Parties are common practice in a lot of schools in Dublin and work perfectly.  “Sets” can regularly be normal toys with additional plastic packaging.


There was very mixed views on this.  Some people always use tap water and never buy bottles water or bother with filters.  Other people rely solely on bottled water as they don’t trust or like their tap water.  One of our members has recently switched from bottled water to using a Britta filter and is happy with the water from it – she has also noticed a huge difference in how full her recycling bin is.  Some members are looking into installing water filters in their houses and this is something they are currently researching.

on the move

There are some obvious easy wins to reduce waste on the move including a reusable coffee cup and a reusable water bottle.

local reduce and reuse initiatives

Used coffee beans are available in Carmel’s shop for anyone who will reuse them in compost or n their garden.

Michael Leonard in Delvin gladly accepts preused bags – both plastic and paper.

Collinstown Action Group have reusable plastic cups that are available to all groups or anyone in the community that needs to borrow them.

what will we do

Collinstown Parent Toddler and baby Group will now source toys secondhand or if we are buying new toys we will not buy plastic.  We will bring home scraps from the kids snack for someones dog or hens and will be conscious of plastic packaging when buying the supplies for the snacks for everyone.  We will also encourage our members to bring in clothes or toys that are in good condition to pass on to each other or to lend to each other.


This is by no means an exhaustive list and is not created by experts.  These were just some ideas that we shared with eachother and thought we would share with you.  The Zero Waste Ireland facebook page is a great place to find ideas on ways to reduce waste.



Reducing Plastic Use – what can I do?

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