A growing number of people are giving up plastic, for health or environmental reasons. So how easy is it to become a plasticarian? And what would you struggle to give up?

Last weekend, while visiting her aunt, Juliette Scarfe conducted an impromptu "purity audit", sweeping through the house and discarding plastic products. She's done the same for others over the past two years, since deciding to purge all plastic from her own life. Scarfe, 34, founder of organic cosmetics company Bare Skin Beauty, began her quest after reading about the health concerns associated with compounds commonly found in plastics, including Bisphenol A and phthalates, which have been linked to fertility and other problems. She replaced plastic kitchen products with ceramic and stainless steel, swapped disposable water bottles for Aquapax – durable paper cartons – and threw away her plastic pet bowls. Her health has noticeably improved, she says.

The number of people giving up plastic, either for health or environmental reasons, has grown to the extent that they now have a name: plasticarians. Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free, decided to stop buying new plastic in 2007, after seeing a photo of a dead sea bird, its skeletal remains revealing a belly full of plastic. On her website, Terry offers a range of tips, which include using washable sanitary towels and avoiding disposable plastic pens.

Total freedom from plastic is apparently almost impossible. Scarfe says toothbrushes are a sticking point, for example – she hasn't yet found a truly effective natural alternative. She makes her own soap, and decants bathroom products from their plastic packaging directly into glass bottles, to minimise any risks. On seeing a stash of old cosmetics in her aunt's house, Scarfe properly disposed of those that hadn't been used in years.

For those who just want to use less plastic, Dr Michael Warhurst of Friends of the Earth, has a couple of tips. One is to avoid disposables as far as possible – bottled mineral water, for example, and throwaway plastic cups and plates. The second is to find out exactly what kind of plastics you can recycle locally, and limit yourself entirely to those. The goal should be to eliminate all black bin bag waste, he says, to aim for a time when we recycle or reuse every item we buy.

(The Guardian, Kira Cochrane, 10/06/2013)