How often do you stop to think of what you are about to throw in the bin? Or how much waste you create in a day, or a week or even the whole year?
Many people all over the world are now seriously considering this and the impact it has on the environment, and over the last few years the ‘zero-waste’ movement has been picking up pace. Many successful blogs, websites, social media accounts have been set up and even books published to encourage people to get on board.
Zero waste is all about reducing and removing the amount of waste and environmental contamination you contribute. (With some amazing people getting their yearly waste down into the space of a single mason jar!).
When we throw something away, we come to terms with the fact that it is the end of its life and we move on. However something like a plastic bag or bottle, which can be used over and over again, can take over 100 years to decompose, so when it’s thrown away, it is not the end of its life. Throughout those many years, it lays decomposing in the ground or landfill site, it could be polluting the soil it lays in, leading to water sources. It’s a scary thought!
It is estimated that in the UK the average household produces more than a tonne of waste every year. If you add that up, this comes to a total of 31 million tonnes of waste per year, which is equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double decker buses – that is an eye-watering amount of rubbish!
So, how can you start to eliminate the amount of waste you produce and how can you start your zero waste journey? We’ve taken a look at a few ways in which you can get on your way to living a zero-waste life.
We are officially living in a disposable society, and our homes are full of items which can be replaced with reusable items. If you think of a number of disposable items in your house you could get rid of you will not only save money on replacing them every time they run out, but you will also be preventing yourself from adding to the rubbish pile. Below are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Replace paper kitchen towels with reusable towels or rags
- Swap tissues for handkerchiefs
- Take your bag to the shops. In the first month of the UK implementing a 5p charge on plastic bags, large retailers reported a drop of almost 80% in the use of plastic bags! That’s an incredible amount of plastic not making its ways to landfill sites. Take organic cotton tote bags with you or leave them in your car so you don’t catch yourself short.
- Take your reusable bags for fresh fruit and veg – say no to plastic bags and packaging.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle such as a bobble or bkr bottle, both of which are BPA-free (an industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles) and ditch the disposable plastic bottles.
- Can your food leftovers be turned into another meal or taken for lunch the next day? Learn to love your leftovers and do not throw it straight in the bin!
Shop Food Smart
In the UK, we throw away an estimated 7 million tonnes of food waste every year – half of which is food that could have been consumed. This food waste is the equivalent of almost £500 a year for a household and even more for a family with children. There are some reasons for this waste including over shopping, not planning meals, impulse buying and cooking too much food that it gets thrown away at the end of the day.
By shopping smart, ensure you are only buying what you need each time you visit the stores. Plan your meals every week, this not only controls what you buy but it also stops you from impulse buying food items which you may eventually throw away. Another good trick would be to only plan 6 out of the seven days of the week, use the last day as your ‘use up’ day, so anything which is left in your fridge which is perishable you can create something from.
While you are getting to grips with shopping smarter for groceries and food, think about setting up a compost pile in your garden or home. If you live somewhere with access to a backyard you can easily start your compost pile where you can decompose left over foods, food cuttings, paper and anything else bio-degradable.
If you do not have access to a garden, do some research into whether your town as a local compost spot or a centre who will take your bio-degradable items off your hands.
Before throwing something into the recycling pile, ask yourself can it be reused or donated?
If you are unable to then your next option is to recycle it. If you do not live in an area where recycling is collected by your local council, then familiarise yourself with your town’s recycling centre and policies.
Recycling doesn’t necessarily mean only sending your waste to recycle centres, also think about buying second hand, so you are a part of the recycling process. Buying second-hand items has never been easier with charity shops on practically every high street. If you need to buy something from new, avoid buying in plastic and opt for glass, metal or cardboard as it can easily be reused, it will last longer, or you can compost it.
What else can I do?
Living a zero waste lifestyle will not happen overnight, but deciding to start on your journey can. Here are a few more tips from the experts on other aspects of your life you can adapt:
- Take your coffee cup to your favourite coffee shop. Millions of coffee cups are thrown away each year, and we are usually under the impression that they can be recycled. However, these cups are lined with plastic which can not be separated again once they reach the recycle centre. Invest in a reusable coffee cup and hand it over when you order your morning coffee.
- Cut out buying plastic packaged beverages that come from the shops. Make your fresh juices to avoid the disposable bottles they come in.
- Ditch the frozen, pre-packaged foods.
- Carry your own containers for taking out food – request the restaurant you are ordering from uses your containers, this may prove a problem for some places, try and explain your plastic-free, zero-waste mission and they may just be persuaded.
- Create at-home cleaning products and ditch the plastic bottles which they come in. Baking soda makes a great scouring powder and 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water makes a great all-purpose spray.
- Refuse junk mail – how many pizzas, taxi, building, estate agents (the list goes on) leaflets do you get through the letterbox a week you will never need? Refuse the delivery of these by displaying a ‘no junk’ sign in your door and take yourself out of the process for supply and demand.
This is just the start! We surround ourselves day in, day out with disposables, plastic, unnecessary packaging and many things we don’t give a second thought to! If you are looking to start your zero waste journey, take it bit by bit and eliminate a few items at a time. You will soon be on your way!