To be honest, I’m definitely not at zerowaste at the moment and a completely waste free status seems far far away. What I have achieved and continue to improve upon is a seriously reduced waste life. And reducing landfill waste is something everyone can do easily.
First, look at your bins (recycling and regular) and ask, what are the most common items thrown away? Why do you need to look at your recycling? While in Ireland dry clean plastics and paper can be recycled, they can still only be downcycled meaning a plastic bottle cannot be made into another plastic bottle. Eventually downcycled plastics are no longer strong enough to be used as material and end up in landfill. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form in the world in a landfill or littering our water and environment. This is why reducing waste means reducing the amount sent to recycling too.
The majority of items in my bin when I first looked were fast-use consumables:
- plastic bottles
- plastic packaging from food
- kitchen paper
- throwaway cleaning wipes
All of these were items that could be tackled without much effort or lifestyle changes:
- Instead of purchasing plastic bottles I bring my metal water bottle with me in my bag but when I feel bold I chose fizzy drinks in metal aluminium cans which are 100% recyclable (not downcycled).
- Choose package free, metal or glass over plastic when shopping. For example switch to loose vegetables and fruit, glass bottled ketchup, metal lidded glass jars rather than plastic lids. Try to be flexible until you get used to what is available, maybe you will discover something new you love.
- Kitchen paper is not necessary – try these alternatives for kitchen paper
- Switch to real dusters and cloths for cleaning that can be washed in the machine. Disinfectant wipes are oversoaked in cleaner for most situations. Tailor the amount of spray you use with a washable cloth.
- Try machine-washable handkerchiefs instead of tissues, they are gentler on the skin and wash like a dream.
If you want to learn about other ways to reduce your waste beyond this then check out this previous post where I explained that a great place to start is to use up your consumables before purchasing anything new. When you look in your bin there may not look like much in the way of shampoo bottles, cosmetic containers etc but one or two a month and they do add up and most houses have a lot of unused bottles lying about. Once you have done an initial bin audit you can consider the less frequent items you throw away. When you have to replace something then consider what the zero or reduced waste options might be and where possible buy fully recyclable glass or tin. A lot of reduction starts when you are in a shop. It’s a matter of making a more informed decision about packaging materials. Once you become more conscious of what is going into your bins you will find yourself thinking about how you can reduce it. This is a great way to gradually transition out unnecessary rubbish and it has worked really well for me in reducing my waste gradually in a maintainable fashion without stress or hassle.