shopping list

056: Take the RWS non-plastic shopping challenge

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ LOW or FREE

The RWS “Shopping Challenge”

For this action we’d like you to take our challenge, just for a single shop, and see what you can do to reduce your use of plastic. Of course, if you went on to do this regularly, so much the better!

This is a great challenge to get a family involved in, or to encourage children in a class to do as a mini-project.

What you have to do to prepare

The first thing to do is to write out the family shopping list as normal. Better still, use a shopping list that has been prepared without someone knowing about the challenge. Here are the rules:

  1. Your shopping list must be for a reasonable size shop; a minimum of 25 things on the list
  2. You must list your normal shopping items; don’t try and list things that are plastic free at this stage

The challenge

Plastic pollution

Yes, you’ve guessed it, you now have to try and complete the shopping list without using any new plastic at all!

Let’s say, for example, that you written “loaf of bread” on your list, and that normally you buy standard sliced bread in a single use plastic bag. This time, you’ll need to pick up a loaf from the bakery and pop it straight into your non-plastic shopping bag, or into a paper bag.

Or, if usually you buy “washing up liquid” in a plastic bottle, you may need to visit a refillery and re-use a container from your kitchen. Re-using plastic you have already got around the house is acceptable under the challenge.

Or perhaps you usually buy hand soap in a plastic dispenser … this time buy a bar of soap in a waxed paper wrapper.

Tip … you might need to go to a butcher instead of a supermarket for your meat!

Oh, and finally, if you can’t buy the item on your list without plastic, then you will have to find an alternative, or go without for that week!


Have a think about how much plastic you have saved, and maybe tell us about your experiences on our social media channels. Was it more expensive? Was it hard or easy to find alternatives? Has the challenge made you think about shopping more carefully in the future?

Why is this important?

Plastic pollution

We have a MASSIVE global plastic pollution problem, caused by single use plastic packaging. The scale of this problem is enormous, and threatens every aspect of our environment – land and sea.

Did you know?

  • plastic is made from oil (fossil fuel), encouraging a massively polluting industry
  • plastics are made, deliberately, to be long lasting, so they do not break down once discarded
  • single use plastics are a massive, unnecessary, and expensive waste of resources
  • all plastics end up in one of these places: landfill, incinerators, the land environment, the marine environment, or recycling
  • recycling helps but is still energy demanding, and not very efficient
  • mitigating this means reducing what plastic we use, reusing plastic when we can, and recycling, where use is unavoidable
  • seabirds are almost certain now to ingest plastic, and seabird nests are increasingly made of plastic
  • all turtle species are known to ingest plastic
  • 47 whale species are known to ingest plastic
  • 350 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, half of which is only ever used once
  • plastic does not biodegrade, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, into microplastics
  • microplastics are found in sea life, including in the fish we eat
  • chemicals from plastics have been linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental problems in children

Anything you can do to reduce the use of plastic will help, so please take the challenge and let’s see how hard or easy it is to make the changes needed in our shopping habits.

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