Simple plastic swaps for you & your business

It’s astonishing to think that a family of four in the UK uses an average of 2,764 plastic items every year. But that’s the startling reality according to new study. Change is in the air though, and it’s better late than never because China will no longer accept our rubbish. 

UK consumers are aware now more than ever, of a need to curb their plastic consumption. They’re turning to traditional shopping methods to help them do so. In this blog we look at some basic plastic swaps, and ask how you as a business, you can respond to today’s changing retail environment.

It started with the plastic carrier bag tax. Of course it probably started before then, but placing a levy on single-use plastic in law, certainly put the issue securely in the public consciousness. And it has worked! Supermarkets were giving out an average of 140 plastic bags per person in a year. That’s in spite of the fact that the average Briton had 30 at home already! Today, the 5p tax scheme has a seen nearly 90% reduction of single bag usage in the UK. There’s talk of rolling it out to include the many smaller independent businesses currently exempt from it.

And just recently, plans were leaked of government proposals to charge for plastic bottles, disposable coffee cups and takeaway boxes. Now supermarkets have come together to launch a UK Plastics Pact to remove all single-use plastics by 2025. So the change is happening, but how can your business get involved?

WBC fruit and veg wooden cart display, wicker bread display


  • Display and sell loose fruit and veg, not pre-packed, displayed in wooden crates, wicker baskets or jute sacks
  • Replace plastic bags with reusable ‘bags for life’, or use kraft takeaway bags for smaller items
  • Display your freshly made sandwiches and pastries not in plastic, but on wooden boards & platters, risers and wicker display units which also add character to your display.
  • Cakes can be raised high onto wooden boards and cake stands to really maximise their value
  • Wrap fresh bread in wax paper, or a kraft paper bag – you can even brand your logo on them for maximum exposure.
  • Display salads and stews in metal, copper or wooden bowls
  • Change disposable plastic party cutlery for normal or wooden cutlery and plastic plates and cups for paper ones
  • Swap plastic straws for biodegradable paper straws
  • Stock glass bottles and paper drink cartons, rather than plastic bottles – as glass is easily recyclable
  • Invest in glassware kits, allowing you to swap single-use plastic cups for classy glassware that you can wash after. You can even charge a bit extra for those drinks for added class.
  • Replace water bottles with free water stations or water canisters where people can refill their own bottles
  • Get in touch with your local milk-man and swap your shop bought milk bottles to reusable glass bottles, or alternatively change to paper milk cartons.

Take inspiration from a South London based farm shop, who a good few years ago swapped their plastic fruit & veg display, for a totally eco-friendly option – resulting in a more authentic atmosphere, and increased sales:

“Our new look has definitely increased traffic, and the combination of our veg and the natural product they sit in does a lot more for our reputation than the plastic”


Franklin's Farm Shop, before shop refresh.

Before shop refresh.


Post store refresh.

They also trialled using vintage French apple crates to delivering groceries to clients.

“There is something heart-warming about having fresh vegetables delivered to your door by your local greengrocer, and having them delivered in a vintage box that is used time and time again – it simply adds to the joy of avoiding the supermarkets” says Burgess.



  • Shop at a farmers market, your local independent store and always bring your reusable jute / tote / canvas bag!
  • Change washing capsules in plastic tubs for washing powder in a cardboard box
  • Ditch liquid soap and shower gel for bars of soap
  • Switch disposable nappies and plastic nappy bags for cloth nappies
  • Swap milk and juice containers for glass ones delivered by your milkman
  • Use a flask or water bottle, not single-use bottles of water
  • Buy a bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic ones

Regardless of how small or large your swaps are, every little does help – and if all of us, one by one start swapping things around, we will make a positive change to the environment we currently live in, and especially for future generations.

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