How To Go Plastic-free at the Beach
If plastic pollution isn’t part of your relaxing trip to the beach this year, then read on my friend! We’ve done our best to find plastic-free alternatives for almost everything you’d need at the beach! But remember, less is more! Please do not feel you need to purchase any of our suggestions. We really just want to highlight what’s available for when you do need a plastic-free option for the beach!
Bring Your Own Reusables
Avoid pesky plastic packaging by bringing your own reusables. Afterall, plastic packing is not only rarely recycled but can also leach into our food which is potentially not great for our health. And we’d hate to see it end up floating away in the ocean!
Your Bottlecup is a handy 2-in-1 reusable water bottle AND coffee cup meaning you only need to carry one item instead of two! You could call it a re-two-sable…..mmmmm?
We also like to bring stainless steel tins which double up as plates, reusable cutlery (we use some small stainless steel kiddie cutlery) and cloth napkins. For a picnic on the beach, prepare some food to bring with you or enjoy a reusable BBQ (try a bucket barbecue or one in a handy carry case) if permitted and remember to choose sustainable charcoal in a paper bag from Love Logs - UK's first plastic-free firewood retailer.
If you’re not into cooking, simply ask a local cafe or restaurant to put your takeaway food into your container instead - most will be more than happy to help!
And when it comes to ice cream, opt for your favourite flavour in a cone to avoid disposable tubs. Or enjoy a scoop or two in the cup of your Bottlecup to avoid a disposable tub if cones aren’t your vibe!
Does plastic-free swimwear even exist? Yes, but it can be tricky to track down so we’ve been on a deep dive (pun intended!) to find the best plastic-free swimwear for everyone, made from natural and organic materials.
Check out our separate blog post on Plastic-Free Swimwear for more.
Opt for beach towels made from natural materials. This one by Modi Bodi is made from organic cotton.
Rapanui have a selection of plastic-free organic cotton surf towels that are easy to throw on and even do a sneaky beach change underneath! And these organic surf towels by Dick Pearce are made in Cornwall!
Image: Frescobol Carioca
Alternatively, look for a beach towel made from linen which can absorb a phenomenal amount of water for its weight, and dries your body quickly. They are also less bulky and lighter to carry. Check out Linen and Me or Frescobol Carioca (we have these ones and love them!)
Swimming Caps and Goggles
Where possible, look for swimming caps and goggles second-hand and preferably made from silicone such as these ones which have a rather snazzy selection of prints. If you want something in a solid colour, try any of these silicone swimming caps from Alpine Trek.
For kids’ swimming goggles these ones from Swim The Lakes come in plastic-free packaging.
Image: Petites Pommes
And Petites Pommes have a selection of mostly silicone kids swimming masks (pictured above).
Personally we avoid inflatables at the beach or pool as most are made with PVC and as yet there aren’t any plastic-free inflatables around. If you do want some, choose second-hand as much as possible and repair when needed.
We have found these (almost) plastic-free inflatable swimming wings by Schlori Schwimmkissen made from cotton that are great for kids who are learning to swim. To inflate, simply soak them in water then blow air from your mouth into one of the corners and watch them inflate.Tie them around your child’s chest or waist to allow for a natural swimming position, giving more freedom of movement than arm bands. They are also salt, chlorine and thermal water resistant.
It may be worth joining out the Outdoor Swimming Society NEW TO YOU marketplace on Facebook for any outdoor swimming gear you need.
If you have any old inflatables that have a puncture or can’t be repaired then send them to Inflatable Amnesty who can turn your old pool inflatables or paddling pool into new bags. Make sure they are clean and mould-free before sending them on then buy a postage label based on the weight you want to send. OR, purchase a ReFactory plastic recycling box for inflatables who will turn your broken pool rings, burst arm bands or sagging lilos into new products such as shop signs and furniture. These are expensive so could be a good option to buy with friends or family who also need to recycle old inflatables.
Flip flops are among the top ten items of marine debris found on beaches with over 200 million discarded globally each year. There are reports of tonnes of flip flops being wash up on east Africa beaches. Often they are made from man made petroleum based rubber and plastics that release harmful chemicals into our oceans and beaches.
Waves makes 100% natural rubber flip flops, sourcing all of their natural rubber from Fair Trade Sri Lanken rubber farms and they will also recycle any old flip flops. You’ll even get 10% off a new pair of Waves rubber flip flops! You can even buy a pair of their recycled rubber flip flops which are made using discarded rubber flip flops and off-cuttings from their manufacturing process.Find a selection of plastic-free flip flops for kids at Green Turtle.
Image: Original Cork
If you’re keen to avoid rubber flip flops altogether, then check out Original Cork who make flip flops from 100% cork for adults and kids or Jivanas who make ethically made vegetable-tanned leather flip flops that are 100% biodegradable.
Throw your soaking wet swimwear into drybag like this one before you head home!
It’s made from organic cotton with a water repellent coating inside and out and it holds a surprising amount! We use it for all of our wet towels and swimwear after a swim at the beach most days.
Choose sunscreen that's good for you and for marine life. Check out our separate blog post here on non-toxic & plastic-free sunscreen.
Finding plastic-free sunglasses can be a challenge. Look for frames made from Bird Eyewear is a B Corp Certified eyewear brand in the UK who use a selection of sustainable materials for their frames, including certified woods, renewable cork and recycled aluminium. They also have a recycling program for any brand of sunnies, offering £20 off a new pair of Bird Eyewear.
Image: Bird Eyewear
Another sustainable sunglasses brand to check out is Proof who make handcrafted sunglasses from sustainable materials such as biodegradable cotton-based acetate, wood and recycled aluminium.
Each year, 16,000 plastic body boards end up in the UK’s environment. In 2020, beachgoers left behind more than 200 broken plastic bodyboards on one beach in less than a month. Made from cheap plastic foam, these poor quality body boards break easily after a few uses, releasing thousands of tiny polystyrene balls into the sea.
Instead, opt for a wooden bellyboard from Dick Pearce. Not only do they look beautiful, they’re made in Cornwall from wood and can be easily customised. They even have smaller “Puffling” bellyboards for kids!
Dick Pearce recently launched Surf Wood for Good which offers FREE wooden bellyboard rental as a sustainable alternative at various beaches across the UK. Check out their map of Surf Wood for Good sites and get belly boarding!
If it’s a wooden surfboard you’re after, then check out Hankers in Cornwall who makes bespoke wooden surf boards using Paulowina hardwood. Or make your own wooden surfboard with Otter Surf Boards who run 5-day Surfboard workshops in Cornwall.
And remember, renting equipment such as kayaks, stand up paddle boards and life jackets where possible is always a great, affordable and sustainable options.
Buckets and Spades
Instead of cheap plastic buckets and spades, opt for ones made from metal such as this large bucket and spade or this natural upcycled rubber beach set. And if you enjoy a spot of crabbing, then this plastic-free crabbing line made from natural jute and wood or a larger plastic free fishing net is ideal! Made from hessian with a bamboo handle - it’s great for crabbing or exploring rock pools.
We personally own all of these and have great fun with them at the beach!
Also, get creative with shells, seaweed, pebbles and driftwood to build things on the beach with the kids.
Leave No Trace
Take everything you brought with you, including any food scraps that may biodegrade but could be bad news if an unsuspecting dog or sea creature eats it. We like to use one of our empty stainless steel containers to carry any littler home.
And why not do one better and leave the beach better than when you arrived?! If you see some washed up plastic and it feels safe to do so, pick it up and either recycle or throw it away at home. We often bring this litter picker by Waterhaul which is made from 100% recycled ocean plastic and made in Britain. An extra cloth bag comes in handy for any litter found and we do our best to clean and recycle it or simply throw it in the bin once we get home.
Did you know that litter picking can also improve your mental health and wellbeing? From keeping you active and present in the moment to creating a sense of community and the feel good factor of doing good, there are too many benefits for us to go into here but you can find out more by reading this.
Finally, for more information about plastic pollution in our oceans and how to help, visit Surfers Against Sewage - a UK based charity who are active in protecting the health of our waters.