Reduce Plastic Shampoo Bottles

How many plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles do you send to the landfill each year? I did the math. And for our small household of two (with two bathrooms/each with our own shampoo/no conditioner), it was about 12 to 14 bottles a year. It doesn’t sound like a ton, but it all adds up.

By some estimates, the number of shampoo bottles thrown out in the United States every year could fill 1,164 football fields. And that’s just shampoo!

About six months ago, I decided to take action to reduce the number of plastic bottles of shampoo we were buying and tossing each year. I’ve taken a baby step in the right direction (I’ll share which one below), but I want to do more. How about you…are you with me on this?

Here are three options to consider to reduce plastic bottles in the bathroom:

1. Use a Refill Station.

You may have heard about refill stations? It’s a place where you can refill your own containers with a variety of everyday household items — like shampoo, dish soap and laundry detergent, etc. A lot of them also have a selection of zero waste products. This is a great way to cut way back on plastic in all areas of your home!

One drawback to this idea is that you have to be willing to use the generic products offered at your refill station. So if you’re really loyal to a brand, this might not work for you. I will say the haircare and other products offered at refill stations are usually free from a lot of harsh or questionable chemicals, so that’s a plus. But be sure to check their ingredient lists on their website or in-store, if you go this route.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate a refill station near us, so this isn’t an option for me right now. Our area seems very health-conscious and earth-friendly, so I feel like there should be one nearby — but if there is…it’s a well-kept secret!

2. Set-up Your Own Mini Refill Station at Home.

If you can’t get to a refill station or you don’t want to give up your brand-name products — you can set up a modified refill station at home. This is the option I switched to about six months ago. Here’s what I do:

I buy a 40 oz. super-sized bottle of shampoo at our local warehouse store and then I refill our smaller bottles as needed. Doing it this way, I estimate we’ll greatly reduce our plastic shampoo bottles — down to about 3 or 4 bottles a year, compared with the 12-14 we were adding to the landfill. This also saves us money since the big-size bottle costs less per ounce.

3. Switch to A Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bar.

You can use solid shampoo and conditioner bars and eliminate plastic bottles altogether. This is convenient for travel and camping, too.

On the plus side, solid shampoo bars are typically more natural than a lot of liquid shampoos. They don’t require any type of preservative or sudsing agent since they’re made from plant oils and butters, for the most part. If you’re shopping for one, do check that it doesn’t have artificial color or fragrance, though.

On the negative side, some people find their hair doesn’t adapt well to solid shampoo bars — they either leave their hair greasy or dry it out. This seems to be more of a problem for those with color-treated hair or hard water, but it can happen to anyone.

Anyway, there’s a whole lot of discussion about this on the internet, with some folks saying you have to allow for a “transition” period for your hair to adapt.

You can address some issues with shampoo bars by adding an apple cider vinegar rinse to your hair washing routine since this helps to balance the pH. Here’s a helpful article on the pros and cons of shampoo bars. (You’ll need to scroll way down for the cons.)

If you’re game to try a solid shampoo bar, here are a couple of brands that seem to have decent online reviews: J.R. Liggett (made right here in New Hampshire) and Love Beauty and Planet. Lush also makes popular shampoo bars, but some appear to have artificial color and fragrance, so be sure to check if that’s a deal-breaker for you. [Note: These are suggestions only, not affiliate links…since I haven’t tried any of them.]

I’m going to keep it real here. I love the idea of shampoo bars — and since I make my own natural soaps already, I could make my own pretty easily. But honestly, I’m not sure I want to. Call me lazy or call me vain — but I’m not ready to deal with greasy or dry hair or to have to use a vinegar rinse in the shower.

For now, I’m still on the hunt for a local refill station! How about you?

As a side note: In an effort to reduce plastic waste, several major hotel chains have eliminated those tiny plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles in guest rooms. Some are being replaced by wall-mounted dispensers and other chains are using larger free-standing bottles. I’m wondering, are they passed down from guest-to-guest or are people taking them home? I haven’t stayed at a hotel in the last 15 months — so let me know if you have a clue about this.

That wraps up how to reduce plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles in the bathroom. Let me know in the comments…have you already tried one of these options? Do you have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear from you!

I am not a licensed nutritionist, medical professional or cosmetics expert. The information provided on Honest + Simple is for general informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food + Drug Administration and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease. Before making decisions about your health or other concerns, please consult a qualified professional and do not rely on this website for medical advice.

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  1. I purchase liter sizes of my favorite shampoo & conditioner. They come with a pump. This minimizes the number of plastic containers. My hair stylist will probably soon have bar products of what I like and I’ll give them a try.

    1. Sounds like we’re on the same plan at the moment. My 40-oz. bottle comes with a pump, too. Makes it easy to refill. Thanks for taking time to share, Lise!

  2. The idea of the very large “can” of liquid shampoo is only worth it if the material used for its size is less than the smaller bottles combined. Weigh them and let us know, please.
    Also, a further way to use less shampoo, is not to wash your hair daily. It is not good for the hairs and the skin anyway, and it pollutes the environment. Let your hair (and your body) breathe, this does not mean you need to stink, but the key here is balance.
    I know women (who work in office jobs) who shower twice daily, all year long. Why? One’s own boyfriend once told me it didn’t mean anything to him her smelling like shampoo all the time, actually it pissed him off her occuping the shower for so long.

    1. Hi Elektra,
      So sorry for the delay in responding; I was having a glitch with my comment software. I’m not able to weigh the large bottle vs. the smaller ones right now — but it’s a good point. I agree that often people “over-shower” and wash their hair too frequently, though we’re all different. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Be well!

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