Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in packaging? I do. We have kerb-side recycling every two weeks for tins, plastics and cardboard – and every week our bin is completely full. The problem isn’t always a lack of recycling facilities, it’s that there’s too much packaging in the first place. The tide of tins, wrappers, cardboard boxes feels endless. Going forward, I’d like to slim our mountain of rubbish and recyclables down to more manageable proportions. Zero waste is probably an impossible dream, but let’s make a start. Here’s how…
Swap washing tablets or capsules for washing powder
A giant box of washing powder works just as well as fancier products like gels or capsules which usually come in plastic bottles or boxes. Buy the biggest box you can, and once you’ve finished it all you’re left with is a cardboard box.
Try soap nuts in your washing machine
If you want to go one step further, try using these soap nuts for your laundry. These completely natural dried nuts contain saponin – a natural surfactant which creates a gentle foam that effectively removes dirt from your clothes. You place a few in a little drawstring bag in the washing machine and away you go. Each nut should last for about 4 washes! They’re also fully compostable.
Use a bar of soap
We’ve talked about this before, and it’s still one of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic waste. Swap liquid hand soap and bottles of shower gel for a simple bar of soap wrapped in cardboard – or even better, nothing! It’s very economical too. A simple bar of olive oil soap in cardboard from Holland and Barratt is just £1.69. I also keep an eye out for lovely French Marseille soap which you can often buy from markets naked, with absolutely no packaging. If you want to go one step further, I’m also a big fan of this solid shampoo bar and Lush bubble bars.
Use a refill service for household supplies like washing up liquid
This is growing movement, and it’s becoming more and more common in cities. Sure, it requires a little more effort, but if you have one of these shops near you give it your support. If you don’t yet have any local shops offering refills near you, consider joining forces with some friends to bulk buy and share the storage between you.
Buy your fruit and veg loose
If you’re lucky enough to be able to shop at a market or farm shop, then this is easy. Simply hand your re-usable bag to your trader and ask them to pack your produce straight in. In the supermarket, it’s a little trickier but not impossible. Things like onions, potatoes, apples, peppers and carrots will all be completely fine in your trolley – just give things a good wash before you use them. Or, pack your produce into thin cotton bags like these to make things easier at the checkout.
Cut down on convenience food
It’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime, but you can make a big difference by cutting down on convenience food. Swap those little packets of porridge with flavourings for a big bag of oats which you can weigh before you go to bed. Stop buying ready cooked pouches of grains and rice, and bulk buy it dry. Replace a ready meal in a plastic tray with a can of baked beans and a slice of toast.
Re-usable coffee cups and water bottles
I know this is very obvious, but it’s still such a simple and effective way to reduce your waste. I’m trying to re-educate myself to take them with me wherever I go, and it’s so heartening to see everyone else doing the same. Now let’s see public drinking fountains in every public space again, please.
Washable beauty supplies
Swap your cotton wool for washable pads made from soft towelling fabric. A bigger investment would be to make the switch to washable sanitary towels – this is something I’d like to look into and the long-term benefits will be huge and offset the initial expense (each towel usually costs about £10).
Re-use your plastic containers
I try not to use tin foil or cling film if I can, preferring to store leftovers and cheese in plastic boxes. Instead of buying new, save plastic ice cream tubs and margarine pots. They’re great for the fridge and freezer.
Post and packaging
I order a lot of things online, which creates a lot of unwanted cardboard packaging. Try and save anything useful like bubble wrap, Jiffy bags and small cardboard boxes to re-use a at a later date for your own parcels. Or donate them to a local school for junk modelling. And maybe curb those late night online shopping habits (I’m talking to myself here).