Swimming Events Guide 2024

Plastic Free July: Five tips for reducing your plastic waste as a swimmer

Plastic Free July is a global movement that encourages millions of people to reduce single-use plastic waste everyday. But how can we, as swimmers, get involved? Outdoor Swimmer have given you five tips for reducing your plastic waste as a swimmer.


Plastic Free July is a global movement that encourages millions of people to reduce single-use plastic waste everyday. So far, it has inspired 100+ million participants in 190 countries. The campaign promotes the idea that changing our everyday actions – even in a small way – can collectively make a massive difference to our communities.

Open water swimmers certainly appreciate the impact of plastics on the environment, as it’s something we come into contact with on a daily or weekly basis. Plus, research now suggests that “50% of marine litter is made from single-use items”, while “around 80% of the plastic in our oceans originally comes from litter in rivers”. (Preventing Plastic Pollution, 2022). What better motivation for reducing our everyday plastic waste, than to protect the beautiful places where we swim?

If you want to reduce single-use plastics and the (often hidden) plastics that support your swims, read on for #PlasticFreeJuly tips…

1. Ditch the post-swim plastic

Make your own picnic food and snacks – often a much tastier option! If you do decide to pick up a sandwich or snack pot en route, then make sure you pack a set of reusable cutlery (just a regular knife and fork from home, wrapped in a cloth) and bring your own container. Every time someone chooses to refuse single-use cutlery and containers, they help set a precedent for sustainable alternatives and show how easy it can be.

2. Warm up without the waste

Along the same lines, bring your own flask of hot drink to warm up after your swim and consider what’s in your post-swim cuppa. You would be surprised at how many tea brands use plastic in their tea bags. Choose leaf tea or do a bit of research to find out which brands produce plastic-free tea bags.

3. Reconsider your kit (and how you look after it)

Most swimwear is made from polyester – a stretchy plastic fibre, which sheds microfibres everytime you wash or wear it. Consider using natural or plastic-free materials for your gear; there are some innovative brands working to combat the issue. Alternatively, hand-wash your kit rather than using the washing machine, which causes more fibre loss. You can also buy special wash bags, for use in your washing machine, which catch the microfibres before they enter the water system.

4. Keep it clean

Whether you’re showering beside a lido or back home after a river or sea swim, consider the products you’re using and how you can reduce or eliminate plastic from your kit bag. More and more people are choosing to make their own beauty and personal care products, and it’s simpler than you might think. Look online for recipes and tutorials for soap, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, scrubs and lotions. Using simple, inexpensive ingredients, these products are better for the planet and reduce your use of plastic too. Alternatively, make the most of refill stations, or choose brands that avoid plastic in their packaging – a combined shampoo and soap bar in a tin is a superb, compact and mess-free alternative to plastic miniatures in your kit bag.

5. Join a beach or river clean

Finding your tribe can keep you motivated, help you share ideas and discuss ways to widen your impact. Why not join a group of like-minded people in your community during Plastic Free July? If there isn’t an event happening near you, consider setting one up. Plastic Free July has plenty of tips to help you organise a local clean-up.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans and beautiful communities. Find out more on the Plastic Free July website, and share your experiences @PlasticFreeJuly on social media, or by using the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.