Tips on how you can start your zero waste journey
There’s a popular saying by Anne-Marie Bonneau
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. ”
Unfortunately in today’s society, it’s extremely hard to live zero waste. Plastic is everywhere. It can also be extremely time consuming and expensive to try to live entirely zero waste.
Zero waste is a goal to work towards and it may take years, you might never reach that goal, through no fault of your own, but that’s not to say that you can’t make a little difference to this world.
According to an impact assessment presented to the European Commission in 2018, the top ten plastic polluters in our oceans are:
Drinks bottles, caps and lids
Cotton buds sticks
Crisp packets / sweet wrappers
Cutlery, straws and stirrers
Drinks cups and cup lids
Balloons and balloon sticks
Food containers including fast food packaging
So what small steps can we as individuals take that will help make a difference?
1. Drink bottles, caps and lids
You can pick up a reusable water bottle almost everywhere now. There’s many different designs to suit everyones tastes and if you look after it, it’ll serve you for years.
They’re made to last and that’s the key to living zero waste or Minimal waste. Buying to last.
Reusable water bottles are relatively inexpensive and you can get various sizes including 250ml, 500ml and even 1 litre bottles. They’re great for on the go and if it’s insulated then you’ve got cold water on hand for 24 hours. They can be stainless steel or reinforced Glass Bottles
2. Cigarette Butts
I’m not going to state the obvious here. Every smoker is acutely aware of the health risks of smoking, you don’t need a lecture. But did you know the environmental risks of smoking?
While cigarette butts fall second place in the table of SUP (Single use plastics) pollutants in our oceans, they’re the number one littered item on earth Source.
The butts of the cigarette are made up of a cotton like form of plastic called Cellulose Acetate.
Cellulose Acetate could take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose depending on the conditions the butt is left in.
But that isn’t the worst of it.
“Used cigarette butts are full of toxins, which can leach into waterways, potentially damaging living organisms that come into contact with them. Most filters are discarded with bits of tobacco still attached to them as well, further polluting our environment with nicotine, which is poisonous.” – Source
So what can be done? The simple answer is bring your litter home and make sure your cigarette butts are discarded of properly in your general waste bin.
3. Cotton buds sticks
Cotton buds have so many uses! Let’s not diss the cotton bud, especially when it comes to make-up application.
But unfortunately a lot of people seem to think that they’re perfectly ok to flush down the toilet.
Chances are they’re so small that they don’t get caught in waste water treatment systems so they can end up being discharged to streams and rivers and eventually end up being washed out to sea.
http://www.switchthestick.org/ are running a great campaign to help get companies such as Johnsons and Johnsons to switch to paper stick production. They’re also working with the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencers to phase out the sale of plastic cotton buds and make the switch to paper because of this Marks and Spencers have now developed their own brand paper cotton buds which is a step in the right direction.
Another alternative is bamboo cotton buds. They can be discarded in your home or commercial compost.
But if you have plastic cotton buds at home, by all means, use them. Just be mindful of how you dispose of them. They belong in your general waste. Not your compost or recycling and definitely not your toilet.
4. Crisp packets / sweet wrappers
Pretty much every type of plastic made has the potential to be recycled if the facilities exist.
Unfortunately in Ireland, we don’t have the facilities to recycle soft plastics because according to mywaste.ie soft plastics like cling film etc. make it difficult to separately sort other items and they frequently get tangled in equipment at the recycling centres.
But there is a solution.
Terra Cycle offer recycling solutions for “non recyclable” products.
“Whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste. We partner with individual collectors such as yourself, as well as major consumer product companies, retailers, manufacturers, municipalities, and small businesses across 20 different countries. With your help, we are able to divert millions of pounds of waste from landfills and incinerators each month.”
One of these recycling schemes is the crisp packet recycling scheme.
We’re aiming to implement this and some of the others listed below at our future pop-ups.
So you can continue eating your monster munch and Digestives guilt free. Just be sure to save your empties and bring them to us!
5. Sanitary Applications
Number 5 in the top 10 plastic polluters
As any woman can tell you, sanitary products certainly don’t come cheap.
But did you know that there are alternatives that are not only safer in terms of toxic shock syndrome but better for your pocket and the environment. ⠀
The menstrual cup is a wondrous invention and they’re now readily available from most pharmacies and even some Tesco stores.
Then there are Reusable Sanitary Pads. A great alternative to a Menstrual Cup or even used in conjunction with one for a bit of extra protection.
In fact they’re perfect for using at any time during your cycle and they come in different sizes with different absorbency.
Made from Organic Cotton, they’re extremely comfortable, breathable, they don’t make you sweat and they wash really well. ⠀⠀
We’re stocking the Eco Femme brand mainly because we love the concept behind their Pad for Pad programme. ⠀⠀
When you buy Eco Femme pads you give an adolescent girl in India the opportunity to attend a workshop on menstrual health and the chance to choose washable cloth pads. ⠀
So not only are you helping the environment, you’re helping young women in India overcome the stigma surrounding periods!
It’s a win, win! 🌱💕 #clothpadrevolution
6. Plastic bags
Plastic bags have many uses, but once they reach the end of their lifespan there’s nowhere for them to go except in your general rubbish. Less than ideal, but it beats seeing them floating in the sea, right?
Since the levy for plastic bags came into effect in Ireland back in 2002, people opted instead to buy reusable bags for life. A better alternative, better for the pocket and most of them are made from recyclable materials and are fully recyclable.
Sadly, when your bag for life reaches the end of its lifespan it can’t go in your recycle bin because it’s classed as a soft plastic and is therefore not recyclable in Ireland.
Supermarkets are supposed to have the facilities for you to return your broken or torn bags and they’ll handle the recycling for you, probably by shipping them off to a company similar to Terra Cycle listed above, unfortunately most supermarkets found this too costly a service and the fact that people weren’t using it meant that it was scrapped.
Single use produce bags are also an issue for consumers, they are completely unnecessary.
So what do you do?
Opt to buy the cotton bags in stores. Yes, the carbon footprint for producing a cotton bag is probably higher than producing twice the amount of plastic bags, but they last longer, they can be repaired if torn and at the end of their lifespan they can be thrown into your industrial compost bin.
7. Cutlery, straws and stirrers
The European Parliament has voted to ban the use of items such as straws, swabs, plates and cutlery by 2021.
This is a great step in the right right direction but if you’re someone that can’t live without a straw to drink their smoothie or cutlery to eat your street food then we have everything you need to survive without the single use plastics. Our travel utensil set is the perfect accompaniment when you’re out and about. The pouch is made form organic cotton and cork and is 100% compostable at the end of its lifespan.
8. Drinks cups and cup lids
22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour.
That’s an astronomical amount. So what can we change?
Most cafes have started introducing compostable cups and lids which is great, but our country hasn’t provided the right means of disposing of these cups, so unless you take it home and throw it into your industrial compost bin, opting for a compostable cup isn’t necessarily the better option.
This article from living lightly in Ireland is a great read on why biodegradable and compostable plastics aren’t always the answer.
Like reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups are readily available in a lot of stores. They come in a range of colour, designs and materials including stainless steel, plastic and glass.
The key to living zero waste is investing in something that will last. So if you have a travel mug/reusable cup gathering dust in the press then dust it off.
9. Balloons and balloon sticks
I’m a huge fan of balloons. They can really make a statement and there’s nothing better than seeing your kids face light up when they get their hands on one.
“Latex balloons are not plastic and are comprised of a natural rubber sap, which is biodegradable, minimal amounts of non-toxic coagulants and pigments. Natural Latex comes from Rubber Tree Plantations which are a renewable resource. Latex balloons are broken down by micro organisms in the soil, water and air over a period of approximately 1 year. and Foil balloons are made with Mylar nylon, often coated in a metallic finish, so whilst they aren’t bio-degradable, they can be deflated and reused again.” – Source balloonman.ie
Just don’t go releasing them into the air and the environment.
10. Food containers including fast food packaging
While it’s not possible to completely cut out plastic containers especially with fruit and veg. A few options would be to buy loose and buy local.
Bring your own reusable containers to the butcher shop or fish monger. Stainless steel containers and lunch boxes can be used for a variety of foods, they don’t stain or hold odours like plastic containers and they can be stored in the fridge and freezer.
They can be great for taking your leftovers home if you’re out in a restaurant and they’re also great for saving you money by not having to buy lunches when out and about. We have a variety of shapes and sizes in stock, you can check them out here
So if in doubt, start small.
Start by changing one thing, even if it’s a reusable water bottle, or a coffee cup, that’s one less coffee cup or bottle being manufactured and discarded.
There’s an estimated 7.7 Billion people on this planet and each and every one of us has the power to make some kind of impact, no matter how small.