Image Credit: Scott Webb
Zero waste living has become a bit of a buzzword in the last couple of years. Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the effecient use of materials so that all products that are manufactured can be reused, so that no waste is sent to landfill or is incinerated.
You may be striving to live a zero waste lifestyle or maybe you simply want to reduce your impact on the environment. If so, here are 10 single use items that you can stop using today, with a zero waste solution for replacing each one of them. Here's what Zero Waste really means.
Dentists usually recommend that you change your toothbrush every three months, but if your bristles are worn and splayed out it's definately time for a new toothbrush. The toothbrushes sold in your pharmacy or supermarket are made from plastic, however there are alternatives.
A bamboo toothbrush is the alternative because when it is worn out the handle can be composted. Yes, bamboo toothbrushes will be more expensive than the packs of plastic handled ones which you can buy at the supermarket; however they can usually be bought in multipacks which will make them a little more economical.
Try these ones from Biomboo, which is the brainchild of two university graduates, one engineer and one biologist, on a mission to tackle the plastic problem. They contain zero plastic and come in 100% recyclable packaging.
This one goes without saying; single use plastic drinks bottles are a shocking waste of resources and you should avoid them.
Should you reuse a plastic bottle that you already have? There is a huge amount of conflicting information about this around from a variety of sources. Cancer Research UK have some calm and measured advice about plastic food containers. The article states that research shows that transfer of chemicals from plastic into food is minimal but also that there is no evidence that the chemicals transfer can cause cancer.
The other possible danger of reusing a plastic bottle that is intended for single use is that the bottle could harbour bacteria. This can be avoided by washing your bottle in warm soapy water every time that you use it, however you should always check your bottle every time that you use it to ensure that there are no cracks in it, as these can also harbour bacteria.
Avoid having to purchase a single use bottle in the first place by taking your own water bottle with you. The best of these which are resistant to temperature and cracking and so can be washed and used over and over again are made form stainless steel or polypropylene.
No matter what type of bottle that you use for your water, it will still need to be carefully washed each time that it are used.
This stainless steel one from Rockay costs around £23 and is double steel walled so keeps drinks hot or cold for hours.
You don't need to to use endless cotton wool balls or pads to remove make up or soothe your tired eyes. These ones are also made from bamboo, so not only can they be washed and reused, when they get to the end of their make-up removing life they are also biodegradable.
Try these organic bamboo make-up remover pads which come with their own laundry bag to keep them safein the wash too.
Cling film is an environmental nightmare. It's ability to cling to itself makes it well nigh impossible to use more than once.
The sustainable and ecofriendly solution to the problem of cling film is beeswax wraps. They are basically a cloth which is soaked with beeswax. You can make your own quite easily, this video shows you how you can easily make beeswax wraps at home.
If you are not the creative type you can buy beeswax wraps such as these ones made by Bee's Trend.
Avoiding single use coffee cups is a no-brainer for anyone striving to live a zero waste lifestyle. Bring your own mug to work (there are millions languishing unloved on the shelves of the UK's charity shops and can be bought cheaply if they tend to 'disappear' or get broken) and carry a reusable coffee cup or an insulated stainless steel mug to your favourite coffee shop for a take-out.
They come in every type of cute design imaginable and are available all over the place, online, at supermarkets and from department stores.
There are a million different designs available; I love this funky reusable cup from Circular and Co which is one of the many available. What makes it special is that it is made out of recycled coffee cups.
Maybe you already prefer to avoid the plastic packaging associated with buying your lunchtime sandwich, perhaps you have a special diet or are just trying to cut back on unhealthy junk food. If you like to bring your own lunch to work, school or just when you go out for the day, there are plenty of alternatives to the dreaded plastic sandwich bag or cling film.
The beeswax wraps that we've already talked about are a good solution for wrapping your sandwich, but an old-fashioned lunchbox in the sustainable way. made in plastic or metal look after it and it will last you for years, without adding more and more single use plastic items to landfill.
A steel Bento box-style lunchbox is an investment but you can use it to keep all the different elements of your lunch separate and it will last for years.
The tide is, thankfully, turning against single use plastic straws, but it is even better to avoid the single use paper ones, even if they are recyclable. Carrying your own stainless steel straw which can be washed is the perfect zero waste solution.
This set made by Ouway can be cleaned using the brushes provided or put in the dishwasher.
You don't need to use plastic bags when you buy fruit and vegetables in a shop or at the market. You can just put them into your trolley or shopping basket loose you know!
If you really want to wrap your fruit and veg you can put them in any type of bag, such as those reusable cotton shopping bags that you probably already lots of, or you can easily make your own drawstring bags. This video below shows you one simple method.
You can also buy your own reusable fruit and vegetable bags including see-through mesh bags which are really good for using in the supermarket when you select your own loose fruit. They are lightweight and the checkout operater can easily see what you are buying without having to open the bag.
Many of these bags are made from polyester, which does make them light and strong but not totally zero waste - they may still made from a petrochemical based material, so we love these 100% organic cotton mesh bags which are also biodegrable.
Another single use plastic item which can easily be avoided are cotton buds. Choose ones with paper stalks such as these Simply Gentle Organic Cotton. These ones also come in non-plastic packaging too.
If you have kids or pets you might be finding that you get through a lot of paper towels, clearing up the constant spills and mess. The zero waste solution is to choose to clean up with a washable, reusable cloth every time. I use cut up old towels, ragged T-shirts and worn sheets, as I find these all make excellent cloths for cleaning and mopping up mess as well as being a wonderful way of getting the most use out of materials.
For a 100% zero waste option you can buy Unpaper Towels made from sustainable, washable and biodegradable bamboo fibres. Initially, this will be an up front investment, but when you consider how much you may be spending on paper towels you could start to save money after a few months too.
There are lots available, these ones from Ecoegg can be washed up to 85 times each.