Saturday, March 11, 2017

What to do With Plastic Once You've Started Zero Waste

I've seen the question of what to do with the plastic in your home once you've started the zero waste journey several times. There's this assumption that once you commit to going zero waste you must purge all plastic items from your house and immediately purchase the sustainable, non plastic-y counterparts. Well, I'm here to say that is NOT true.



So, what do you do with your plastic stash? Use it! In fact, use it until it wears out - as long as it does not compromise your health, of course. Wouldn't it be just as wasteful to throw out perfectly good items and purchase new things only because it was plastic? Aside from cooking in your plastic containers - please, stop doing that - use up and wear out those containers, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, razors, whatever. Once they are worn out, then replace them with the more eco-friendly options.


I, myself, still use several plastic items around my house - items that I have had for years.

 For instance...

  • I still use plastic containers to store pet supplies, toiletries, and organize nuts and bolts and more.
  • I still use a plastic hairbrush - I've lost a few teeth but that bad boy is still operable.
  • I still use a few freezer bags from before I went zero waste that I just wash out and resuse.
  • I still use a set of plastic measuring cups.  
  •  I still use a plastic mopping bucket.
  • I use reusable plastic plates, cups, and utensils for camping 

I could go on and on. My point is. We all have several plastic items in our households that are perfectly usable. Living "zero waste" doesn't mean throw-all-plastic-away immediately. It means making better, more sustainable choices going forward and utilizing what we already have. It's not about buying more - but buying less. Buying non plastic items once the plastic ones wear out will result in longer product lives and ensure that they can be sustainably recycled/composted once it's no longer usable. If you still feel that a few of your plastic items need to leave your life, then I highly suggest you donate it or recycle it if you can.

The great thing about using what we already have means that you don't have to invest in a small fortune of reusable products to start eliminating waste. Social media continually paints this picture that zero waste is something only rich people can achieve and I hope I have done my part to prove that false.

What plastic items are you still using?

22 comments:

  1. We've repurposed old plastic jars/containers as plant pots and are still working our way through a large pack of toothbrushes we got ages ago. Definitely in no hurry to buy what we don't need!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Megean,

    I love this post. My family has been going (closer to) Zero Waste for a couple years about it, including a series on my own blog, and I'm surprised how often people are shocked when they see any items that are plastic in our home. I even had a friend admit that she wasn't inviting us over because *gasp* her daughter has plastic toys. :) Thank you for your voice of sanity, and the regular inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Myrrh! I'm so happy you enjoyed the post. Isn't it amazing how others react to plastic-free living? When I told my family that our baby was to have no plastic items they all looked at me like I was insane. ha!

      Looking forward to reading your blog!

      Delete
  3. This is wonderful, thanks for posting this! Reminds me how important baby steps are. We have been doing the same thing. Still working through plastic razor heads, have some plants in plastic pots, use plastic containers for hardware storage, storage in our basement, plastic bottles for cleaning supplies, and also the grout toothbrush! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. After reading the KonMari book, I use a lot for organising....i had a big stash that is now used like you for nuts and bolts but also organising the "junk drawer" with birthday cake candles, batteries, elastic bands from veg etc. The bigger ones I used to use for taking lunches to work now organise socks and underwear in my kids drawers and any new stuff I buy (I'm afraid our shopping options for loose fruit/veg here is ridiculously limited) I always consider the packaging. For example if I'm buying mushrooms and am not fussy on type, I'll buy the ones in the most usable shaped box - maybe slightly obscure way to shop by if I can put it to use rather than just recycle I'm happy to do that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm about half way through her first book and am rather enjoying it.

      Great job adapting to your situation and making do. :)

      Delete
  5. What about an electric toothbrush - mine still works perfectly but it needs a new head every once in a while. I feel like it's a dirty little secret I have right now that I keep replacing the heads. I wish there were bamboo heads for it 😛

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some things are tough to call. If it were me, I'd use it until the toothbrush quit working then replace it with a more sustainable option. :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks! That's how I've been playing it so far 😊

      Delete
    3. How much are the replacement heads costing you each time? Is it worth keeping the toothbrush and replacing the head? And what do you do with the head that needs replacing? Amazon has a ridiculous amount of options for biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes in packs of 3 to packs of 10, all at around $12. If you can't beat that, I'd totally ditch the electric brush and opt for one a little more eco friendly.

      Delete
    4. My husband and I both have one. I seems ridiculously wasteful to just throw them out while they still work, and I doubt anyone wants a second hand toothbrush! Since it is a sealed unit, once the battery completely dies and won't charge anymore, I will have to dispose of it and then I will use bamboo. But I am not rough on my toothbrush heads and only replace them every 6-8 months. The little head is still less plastic waste than a plastic manual toothbrush.

      Delete
  6. Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I are wanting to start doing zero waste, but having just moved and being able to see everything we own, I feel like we have so much plastic. I plan to be sustainable from here on out and just use what I have until I can no longer use it. Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you so much !! I feel like alot of zero waste posts and bloggers are flush with cash to burn on products ! I am slowly fazing out my plastic but cant afford to just toss my husbands plastic bento boxes out because glass or stainless steel ones are expensive!!. we have glass jars and stuff for our small bulk but they just dont make large long term storage sized bins out of non plastic either. im waiting for my long term storage such as bottles of shampoo and cleaners to be used up and slowly make the switch to a couple of eco friendly alternatives that happen to be healthier in the long run- soapnuts ,vinegar and baking soda. now one is really zero waste just responsible waste is the way i see it ;)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am so glad to read your article. It confirms what I have already believed. I don't think it is wise to throw away all plastc stuff we have once we decide to zero waste and buy non platic stuff which is often very expensive. It is ironic. We claim to want to reduce plastic waste, but we throw lots of waste right in the beginning.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for this post. I often question zero waste YouTube bloggers who seem to have every glass or stainless steel item. I like to look within my home first and come up with ways to be less wasteful versus donating what I have that is working and buying plastic free items. One thing I recently started doing is bringing a reusable zip lock Velcro bag I had for a few years with a reusable fork and spoon from my silverware set and a plastic straw from my camelbak water bottle I no longer own. This is to replace single use plastic ware when I am eating out. Other I have seen have purchased a bamboo travel set. I say why? I have items I can use already.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kia ora! I have hospitality owners in NZ that have huge amounts of plastic straw and takeaway cutlery stock. They want to go zero waste or transfer to bamboo/biodegradeable cutlery. I believe too that we shouldn't chuck them out, and I'm sure they don't want to lose that stock equity, do you have any suggestions of what they should do? I could try going back to the company and selling them back but I'm not sure that would be successful or productive...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you could try selling them back. If that doesn't work you could donate them to a school or nursing home. Sadly, the items have already been manufactured so there's no making them disappear. The best thing is to ensure they get functionally used. :)

      Delete
  11. Lovely post. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete