In 2018 I was the subject of a lot of realisations about human beings and the catastrophic amount of waste we inflict on the planet.
Firstly, I admit, I am someone who didn’t understand what could and could not be recycled. I used to chuck every single piece of plastic in the recycling. But, actually, when you look at the packaging, the majority of plastic is single use and ‘currently not recyclable’. Brands love that slogan! Like at some point in the near future single use plastic will be recyclable… It won’t.
A lot of people are naïve to contamination, too. When we contaminate recycling with other waste, this contributes further to the problem. It is too much of burden to sort through the contaminated recycling, so all this rubbish is assigned to a landfill instead.
Did you know that the majority of our recycling waste is now exported to other countries as far away as Hong Kong? Cheap labour and cheap land abroad means that the UK exports their recycling overseas to be reprocessed.
However, once the recycling leaves our shores, nobody is checking that the waste is recycled. So in actual fact, the UK is offloading their problems to another country who can’t cope with the recycling demands either, or simply, don’t care.
The majority of our exported recycling gets left in a landfill and eventually seeps into the ocean, contributing to the mass amount of plastics decapitating, strangling and poisoning sea animals and polluting our oceans.
What’s even worse is that the consignments of recycling that are shipped to other countries are registered as ‘recycled’ when really they have no idea whether it was recycled once it left the UK. This means that the UK is also potentially inflating its recycling percentages, which aren’t high to start with!
I’m outraged that we are such despicable human beings. But, myself included, contribute to this awful statistic. Up until late last year I had no idea that this was the situation and I guarantee that so many others are naïve to this, too.
Where am I going with this, you ask.
After looking into recycling in the UK, I have decided that 2019 is the year that I want to make an impactful change by attempting to live a zero-waste lifestyle.
What is zero waste?
Recycling is barely putting a dent in the plastic problem that we face. Recycling helps but only if we enforce it alongside other means of reducing waste and this is where zero-waste living comes in.
Zero-waste is a sustainable way of living that involves little to no packaging waste. If we never have non-recyclable waste packaging to begin with then the chain is broken. Products with a zero waste initiative are usually organic and fully biodegradable. The ultimate goal is for no waste to be sent to landfill, thus cutting out the cyclical role of buy, use, throw and only a small percentage being recycled.
True zero-waste brands do not use single use plastics and this must be the future if we ever want to get a handle on the plastic problem we face.
Simple zero-waste lifestyle hacks
I am only relatively new to this whole concept so, please, if you’ve been living like this for the last 10 years do not immediately grab your pitch fork and make your way round to my house if you don’t agree with what I say! I’m still learning!
Cleaning products – once you have an empty spray bottle, consider these cleaning pods that dissolve in water to transform into a liquid product. Helping reduce the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean.
Ocean Saver pods come in fully recyclable packaging and they even include labels for your bottles, so you don’t get them mixed up.
Bulk buying – there are plenty of zero waste stores nowadays. They allow you to take your own containers/produce bags/tupperware and weigh out the ingredients you want, without the packaging!
Granted, they often aren’t as convenient as going to your local supermarket so this is half the reason people don’t go out of their way to reduce waste. I am now trying to buy the majority of dry foods from bulk stores but I still do most of my shopping online and as of yet I haven’t really seen an option that delivers bulk.
Naked Larder allows you to place your order online, they weigh out your ingredients and then you collect the ingredients in your given slot. Convenient if you live nearby Brixton but it’s not close for me.
If you live in East London, like me, one of closest stores is Bulk Market in Hackney which I regularly go to. They also have a machine that creates fresh nut butters! They run out fairly quickly because they are so popular. I’ve just finished my fresh peanut butter, it was delicious. I really want to try fresh almond or cashew butter next!
Markets – instead of going to supermarkets for your fresh food, go to your local farmers market instead. Bring along your new string produce bags and pack them full of all the fresh fruit, veggies and meat too. You’re supporting local shops and also giving back to the planet by opting not to buy plastic packaged food!
Utensils – buy wooden utensils that you can easily recycle or metal utensils that will last!
Jars – I’ve just begun using jars at home to store my food. Jars are great because you can bulk buy food from zero-waste shops and this cuts down the packaging waste. Not only are jars good for the environment but they are also seriously aesthetically pleasing! My cupboards look so much neater and, actually, it’s a lot easier to see what ingredients your cupboards are actually holding, meaning you can use up your leftovers and this contributes to less food waste!
Food storage – instead of using ziplock food bags to store food/leftovers etc. you can get reusable silicone bags from amazon. Once you’ve used them, just give them a quick rinse and they can be used again and again.
I’ve also bought beeswax wrap to store food in bowls. Just pop the wrap over the top of food bowls and voila, no need for clingfilm! The wraps are fully biodegradable, made from sustainably harvested beeswax and can be reused.
You can get all sorts of patterns but I love watermelon print.
BATHROOM & PERSONAL HYGIENE
Toothbrush/toothpaste – you’re supposed to change your toothbrush every 3 months and that is a lot of plastic wasted over your lifetime!
I’ve just purchased a Georganics bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothbrushes are made from 100% biodegradable bamboo, comes in a recyclable cardboard box, bristles are BPA free and bamboo cultivation requires no fertilisers or pesticides for the making of the toothbrush.
The bristles aren’t recyclable BUT Georganics have a Zero To Landfill scheme, whereby you hold on to your toothbrushes and once you collect 10 you send them back to the warehouse to be recycled!
The toothpaste comes in a glass jar, which you can either recycle or reuse! I’m planning on reusing the jar and making my own candle when it’s finished.. lets see how that goes.
I bought the english peppermint flavour.
I was intrigued by the charcoal flavour but I wasn’t sure I’d like the taste so I decided to ease myself in more traditionally!
Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming a bit of a money making tool nowadays, so do your research and get one from a reputable brand. Not just a company looking to make some quick money – who’s toothbrush is sent in plastic packaging, not using sustainable methods and is soaked in chemicals.
Toilet roll – not only are we cutting down all our newly grown trees but it takes 37 gallons of water to make a single roll of toilet paper! At Who Gives a Crap they don’t use trees for their toilet paper, they use 100% recycled material.
I started off by sampling a trial box which included 2x 3-ply toilet paper, 1x premium bamboo toilet paper, 1x kitchen paper and a box of tissues. All recycled and sustainable materials used.
The amount for a multi-pack box seems expensive BUT not only is the paper recycled, it is double the length of a normal roll, 3-ply (where most toilet rolls are only 2-ply) and and also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those that don’t have access to toilets.
Deodorant – I’ve just bought a natural unscented salt deodorant by Salt of the Earth but upon arrival I was a little disappointed. I’m not sure they ever claimed to be zero-waste but for some reason when they stated natural, vegan, no testing on animals etc. I assumed it came in either paper or glass and was recyclable. However, the bottom part is made of plastic!!
I only bought the travel size because I wasn’t sure I’d like it. For something that is unscented it is good (I don’t smell.. I don’t think!) but I think I would prefer something scented next time. This deodorant doesn’t stop you sweating, it stops the sweat from having any odour. Also, this deodorant should last me about 6-12 months, it’s super long-lasting!
I’ve looked up some alternatives too –
Meow Meow Tweet natural, zero-waste scented deodorants – more expensive but the scents sound gorgeous!
Your Nature – they state that even the delivery packaging is waste free!
Shower gel – there’s a much more sustainable option and that is shower bars. They last much longer and don’t come in excess waste plastic packaging! I like the All Natural Soap Co. You can also buy these bars from Bulk Market.
They are 100% natural and ethical, palm oil free and eco-friendly. They also last a lot longer than shower gel! And don’t worry about ‘hygiene’, the bars are actually more hygienic that shower gel bottles. The bars are constantly cleaned when you wet them. How often do you wash your shower gel bottle when you share it between your household?
Lush are another brand that now offer ‘naked’ shower bars but I don’t like that they use palm oil in their products. There are plenty of other brands that don’t.
Totes – You can get much better tote bags that won’t break as easily and you can get some pretty cool totes. This is my personal fave! A tote is great for keeping in your handbag for all those times that you forget to pack a plastic bag for a trip to the shops.
If you’re like me though, you have a cupboard full of blasted plastic bags and as soon as you open the cupboard they coming spilling out in small tsunami. I can’t throw them in fear of me being the person that strangles a harmless turtle but I certainly don’t need all the plastic bags I have.
Fear not, the Recycle Now website tells you where to recycle any unwanted plastic bags based on your postcode. I have a handful of places within 3-4 miles from me. Do not put your unwanted plastic bags into the recycling because the roadside recycling programme will not recycle them for you, they will not decompose in a landfill but will eventually break down into tiny fragments and litter the sea, killing that innocent turtle!
Coffee cups – one of the biggest contributors to single use waste!! Buy a bamboo Ecoffee cup, a lot of coffee shops now give you a discount if you use your own cup too! Starbucks, Costa, Pret, Leon and even Greggs are involved in this scheme!
Once you’ve implemented a couple of these changes into your life it really isn’t as hard or complicated as it might first sound. On top of that, you can sleep better knowing that you aren’t sending 40kg of plastic straight to the ocean.
(*Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate. This does not change the amount you spend on items but allows me to make a small commission from any sales made because of the links I have advertised)