I’ve always recycled. I figure it’s the least I can do. But lately, our recycling is getting a little out of control. By the end of each fortnight, our bin is full to overflowing, which means having to sneak out in my jammies during the early hours to hide our excess recycling in the neighbours bins.
Having lots of recycling is a good thing, right? Well apparently not, because it seems a lot of what we pop in our recycling bins doesn’t actually get recycled. Especially the plastic. So rather than being the cure, recycling is simply the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
So I’ve decided to back up the rubbish truck and start thinking about the waste I’m creating before I create it. How? By doing something called ‘precycling’.
What the heck is precycling?
Put simply, it’s about reducing the amount of packaging I consume by making some changes to the way I shop. Because making some simple decisions before I hit the checkout can make a big difference over time.
So here’s 9 easy peasy ways I’m using to reduce the amount of single-use plastic I consume:
- Reusable shopping bags. It’s a no-brainer, right? Yet so many people still take their groceries home in plastic. The trick – I’ve learned – is to have three times as many reusable shopping bags as you need – that way you have a 90% chance that there’ll be at least one or two in the car when you need them. Having a couple of those ones that fold up to nothing in my handbag also helps me say no to plastic bags when I’m shopping somewhere other than the supermarket.
- Reusable drink bottles. I fill it with water, juice, fizzy – whatever I need to make sure I’m not buying drinks in single-use plastic bottle when I’m out and about.
- Buy fruit & veggies that aren’t already wrapped in plastic. It’s not always possible, but for most fruit and veggies – think cucumbers, carrots, apples, pears, tomatoes, potatoes and more – there are usually options that are packaged how nature intended them – in their own skins.
- Reusable produce bags. I used to drive the checkout operators crazy by refusing to put my fruit and veggies in a plastic bag. Then I discovered reusable product bags. They’re handy and lightweight so they don’t add much to the cost of my produce. And I often run them under a bit of water and use them to keep the veges fresh in the fridge. Of course, I’ve had to buy heaps of them to make sure there’s always a couple in the car when I need them.
- Keep a Reusable Coffee Cup handy. While a lot of takeaway coffee cups have a recycle symbol on them, they’re not always recyclable. The plastic lids and the paper wrapping around the cup can be recycled, but the actual cup itself? Not so much. While technology is bringing us compostable cups, and some cafes are doing what they can to reduce cups going into landfill, I keep my own Keep Cup in my bag. Not only do most cafes give you a discount for providing your own cup, it’s also handy if I need to grab a drink of water from somewhere that only offers a disposable cup option.
- Reusable food wraps and carriers. I’ve been swapping cling film for Honey Wraps and re-usable sandwich bags and I have to say, I’ve been pretty happy with the results. I recently found half an onion wrapped in a honey wrap that had been left in the fridge way too long. I expected the worst, but it was actually completely usable and what’s more, after a quick wipe, the honey wrap smelled fresh as a daisy!
- Choose glass over plastic. Glass is pretty much 100% recyclable so buying products packaged in glass is a more environmentally friendly choice. I’ve found things like jams, pickles, sauces, marinades, mayonnaise, fruit juice concentrate and the like in glass containers when I’ve taken the time to look.
- Say ‘No’ to multipacks. Yes, I’m ‘that’ Mum who won’t let her kids have cute little packets of stuff in their lunchboxes. Despite the fact most of these products are packed with Palm Oil, they’re also packed inside yet more packaging. Instead, I buy the biggest pack I can and send them off to school in serving sized reusable containers.
- Switch back to Soap. It’s easy to find soap wrapped in cardboard, and even the ones wrapped in plastic still use less packaging than a bottle of body wash. However it is hard to find soap that is Palm Oil Free. So you’ll either need to choose between the lesser of the two evils, or buy your Palm Oil Free soap from an online retailer.
Reducing the amount of single-use plastic I consume has actually been pretty easy. Making a few simple changes to the way I shop hasn’t felt like a big deal, yet I know that when it comes to saving the planet, every little bit helps.
Got any easy tips for using less single-use plastic? Leave a comment below!
Some NZ-based online retailers I’ve been buying re-usable stuff from:
Munch Cupboard: https://www.munchcupboard.com/
Pouch Products: http://www.pouchproducts.co.nz/
Ethique (for Palm Oil Free soaps): https://ethiquebeauty.com/