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One small step: Can you clean up your bathroom habits?

Little changes to your everyday routine can make a big difference to your environmental footprint. Here are our tips for getting started in the bathroom

One small step: Can you clean up your bathroom habits?

There will be plenty of talk at COP26 – as there is at every climate change summit – about nationally determined contributions, science-based targets, and net zero commitments.

In the face of these global negotiations, it’s easy to think that individuals can’t make much of a difference. In fact, changing our personal behaviour is crucial to cutting both carbon emissions and environmental pollution.

But where to start? Big changes, such as buying an electric car or transforming your house into an eco-home, are out of the question for many of us due to the cost or impracticality, but there are lots of smaller steps we can all take.

Read on to find out how to reduce your carbon footprint in the bathroom – for once, we actually do recommend ‘green washing’.


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Bathroom plastic waste

Daily routines like showering are so, well, routine, that we often don’t stop to think about them. Although the advice to limit showers to five minutes is familiar to most of us, there’s another, lesser-known problem lurking in the bathroom.

According to sustainability charity WRAP, 35% of people don’t always recycle items from the bathroom. And the national recycling campaign Recycle Now found that while we recycle around 90% of kitchen packaging, that drops to just 50% in our bathrooms.

When you consider the quantity of bottles, jars, tubes, and other packaging we get through in the average bathroom, that adds up to a lot of waste. Around 30,000 tonnes of recyclable bathroom items end up in landfill every year.

Just a small tweak to our bathroom routines could change that.

Put a recycling bin in your bathroom

Most bathroom packaging is partially or wholly recyclable – although previous Which? research found that many products failed to provide clear recycling labelling.

Plastic shampoo and shower gel bottles, cardboard toilet roll tubes and toothpaste boxes, and glass cosmetics bottles and jars can generally go into the standard household recycling collection, along with plastic bleach and cleaning product bottles. So why don’t they?

It’s probably because we’re a little bit lazy! Most of us keep our recycling bins in the kitchen, so instead of trekking through the house post-shower, with that empty shampoo bottle, we chuck it in the bathroom bin – which often ends up with the general household rubbish.

One simple solution is to get a second bathroom bin. You’re much more likely to do the right thing if you have a small recycling bin right there next to the shower. If you’re short of space, hang a cloth tote bag on a towel hook instead, and pop your recyclables in there.

On collection day, empty the contents into your main recycling bin, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

If you’re not sure exactly what can and can’t be recycled, check out how to recycle in the UK.

Solid shampoo bars

To cut down on bathroom waste even further, try ‘naked’ packaging-free solid bars, or bars wrapped in easily recyclable paper or cardboard, to replace your liquid toiletries.

You can buy solid hand soap, shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner and, although some of those were initially niche products, they are now easy to find. Big brands including Garnier, Pantene and Dove all have solid bar ranges, and you’ll find them in supermarkets, chemists and zero-waste shops as well as online.

Washing with solid bars, especially shampoo and conditioner, is a little different from the usual liquids and gels, so you may want to test a few out before fully committing. Many brands offer trial packs and free samples, such as EthiqueSolidamie, and Grüum, so you can try them without splashing too much cash. 

Refill bottles where you can

If you don’t fancy switching to solid bars, look for refillable products instead. Which? research found that, compared with single-use products, it’s usually more eco-friendly to buy the original bottle once and then repeatedly top it up from larger refill packs.

What’s more, it’s also cheaper to go green, as we found that refills almost always save you money.

Faith in Nature shampoo refill

Find out more about how to buy refillable products.

High-street brands such as Herbal Essences, Head & Shoulders and L’Occitane all have refillable products, so you needn’t ditch your favourites – just don’t throw out the bottle.

Make it a clean sweep

If you’re keen to rid the bathroom of non-recyclable products and packaging, or go totally zero-waste, read our advice on how to tackle our bathroom plastics recycling problem.

It includes eco swaps for toothbrushes, razors, deodorant, toilet rolls, and more, so you can make your bathroom an entirely plastic-free zone.

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