This week’s practical action is to reduce the amount of plastic you put in the landfill bin. Nationally, the amount of plastic that goes to landfill is 8% of the total waste to landfill (MfE, 2007-2008) and for Christchurch this number is 10%. Plastic is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century; it helps keep food fresh so it can reach its destination, it can be flexible and rigid so it can be used for a multiple of products and uses (from plastic bags to guttering) and it has a long life but, there is a lot of it, it takes hundreds of years to break down and it is made from petroleum, which we all know is a finite resource. There are also studies suggesting plastic is harmful to human health as it can leach toxins into our food and drink.
Here are some ideas on how you can reduce plastic waste:
- Take you own cotton, hemp or cloth (so they can decompose when you no longer need them) bags to the supermarket (and to the mall) – this includes little bags for fruit and vege (although if you do end up with stash of those little plastic bags used for fruit and vege most are a number two so if you put them all together in one bag they can go in the recycling bin). Not reusable bags made of plastic though as these may take just as long to degrade in landfill as traditional plastic bags.
- Make or buy reusable cloth lunch bags instead of using plastic sandwich bags or ziplock bags. (Here is a great little tutorial for reusable snack bags and here is a lovely one for lunch bags ). Or these sandwich bags from EcoStore.
- Make your own baking, snacks, sweets, breads, pastry and even pasta (if your keen) and that will reduce the amount of packaging you bring home (takes a bit more planning though!).
- Store home baking in old biscuit tins instead of plastic. These can be painted to go with your home decor or just keep the vintage design (you can find these on TradeMe or through second hand stores).
- Buy vintage glass storage containers for storing food in the fridge.
- Take takeaway containers back to your favourite takeaway restaurant for reuse.
- For all the plastic you do have in your house most can be recycled. Check here for more information from the Christchurch City Council on what can go in your recycle bin. Pretty much anything labelled 1-7 on the bottom can go in the yellow recycling bin.
- As blogged about previously take your old plastic plant pots back to the garden centre for reuse and see if they will give a discount on your next purchase.
- Instead of using plastic bags for your kitchen bin liner use newspaper like this. Or nothing at all as what goes to landfill will be all the dry waste (organics to the garden, recycling to well the recycling bin) and if the bin gets dirty give it a quick clean with hot soapy water once a week.
- Buy fruit and vege from local farmers market where there is usually a lot less packaging than supermarkets.
- Buy clothes and household goods from TradeMe or through freecycle.
- Buy food in bulk.
- Buy meat from your local butcher to avoid unrecyclable styrofoam meat trays (at least 25 million go to landfill each year – just in Christchurch).
- Use pencils instead of plastic pens – more info here. And use refillable pens and highlighters.
- Make your own skincare, haircare and home cleaning products or buy a product like Dr Bronners which is organic and has over 18 different uses.
- Use business cards that don’t have a laminate cover.
- Reuse plastic office stationery as many times as possible before sending it to landfill.
- Use reusable mugs for your favourite coffee and buy an ECOtanka for water.
- Buy second hand furniture for your home or office.
- Work with your business to ensure all plastic is recycled properly by your waste contractor.
- Buy music from iTunes rather than buying CDs.
- Looking for picnic ware for the summer then again try vintage stores, which will sometimes have full picnic sets from the fifties or lots of plastic cups and plastic that with a quick wash are good as new.
- If you want to use packaging and containers made from PLAs (Polylatic Acid) such as corn starch ensure they are certified.
- Consciously consume – before you buy an item made of plastic think about an item you already have that could do the job or look for a similar product made out of materials that are compostable.
Keep an eye on the plastic that you bring into your house and question whether something else could have been used or you could have purchased the item differently to avoid the plastic. In some cases plastic waste will be inevitable as plastics is such a large part of our lives but we can live with less. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for changing to a more sustainable life – the beginning is to recognise what can be changed and do what you can even if it is just one change a week.
Coming up – start thinking about the waste from Christmas – how can this be reduced?
Plus, if you have any other ideas on how to reduce plastic waste we would love to hear from you.