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?


  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!

  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.

    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!

  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! :)

  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!

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

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

  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 😛

    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. :)