If you're anything like me, the idea of filling a bin bag with rubbish and throwing it in to rubbish bin full of other bin bags, fills you will frustration and is just NOT an option!
I avoid packaging of all kinds as much as I can. Every week, I get on a train and I go to my nearest zero waste shop with my reusable cotton drawstring bags and fill them up with grains, pasta, seeds, beans, flour, sugar and everything else that I need for my weekly shop. Bottles of washing up liquid, surface cleaners, detergents and fabric softeners get refilled at refill stations and my face cream, make up remover and deodorant is made at home on my hob with simple ingredients!
When I go to the supermarket or the green grocers, I pick from the loose fruit and vegetables, placing them in my reusable bags and taking them home in my tote bags.
I am so pleased to have managed to cut down the amount of waste I have by at least 80%- HOWEVER, it is incredibly difficult to be entirely 100% free of all waste. There is always some little sneaky bit of packaging somewhere that is hard to avoid. But don't beat yourself up over this, be mindful of the efforts you are making and the good you have done for the planet!
This is my guide to disposing of any waste you DO have in the most sustainable way possible!
Image by Joke vander Leij
Composting is a great, natural way to dispose of food waste and create compost for your garden! If you have an outdoor space, I highly recommend getting a compost bin. It's particularly great if you are a vegan because, I don't know about you, but I get through a LOT of vegetables! I compost vegetable peelings, banana skins, apple cores, stalks, coffee granules, tea bags, tomato tops, stale bread and other plant based foods. I also put paper packaging and compostable corn starch packaging in my compost bin. It's worth checking a list of compostable food items before throwing everything in there. Be careful not to compost oils and cooked sauces as they can attracts rats, but most other vegan scraps are fine! You can find lists of acceptable composting foods on various websites.
2. Build ECO BRICKS
Eco Bricks are basically plastic bottles filled with little pieces of clean, dry plastic packaging that are used as building bricks for build projects such as garden walls, chairs, tables etc.
I started building eco bricks last year, finding the plastic bottles on beach cleans and littered around town. Every time I buy something that has that hard to avoid plastic packaging, I wash and dry the plastic and put it in an eco brick. For example, the little plastic wrap around a block of tofu, the plastic window in a paper bag, plastic labels, the rubber bands around bunches of spring onions and asparagus and so on. Eco bricks have to be packed so tightly that It took 6 months worth of little bits of plastic packaging for me to build one 500ml brick! Once you have built one, you weigh it to make sure it is heavy enough to be used as a brick and then you can either donate it to a local project collecting eco bricks or use it yourself!
3.TERRACYCLE RECYCLING PROGRAMMES
Image taken from www.terracycle.com
'TerraCycle reuses, upcycles and recycles waste instead of incinerating or landfilling it. This moves waste from a linear system to a circular one, allowing it to keep cycling in our economy.' Terracycle.com
I have a slight crisp and chocolate obsession! Honestly, there are so many amazing vegan chocolate bars and crisps and I was fooled by the foil looking wrapper and packets, thinking they were not plastic. In actual fact, they are! But Terracycle is a recycling programme that takes those 'hard to recycle' items and turns them in to new products! They have various recycling schemes for different types of waste. I have been keeping used crisp packets and confectionary wrappers, asking my family to collect theirs to give to me and I have also been finding them on beach cleans and littered in the streets. Over the last 6 months, I have built up a collection which I am almost ready to pack up and send off to Terracycle to be upcycled in to something new!
4.RE-USE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Before thinking about how to dispose of items, ask yourself if they could have another purpose. Often things like jars, tubs, tins, bottles. bags and other containers can be used as tupperware, containers for zero waste pantry foods, plant pots, stationery holders, lunch bags.. the list goes on. I have dedicated a whole blog post to upcycling ideas for waste! You can find that blog post HERE and get some ideas!
5. Recycle as a last resort
Photo by Anna Auza
If you can't compost it, re-use it, Eco brick or Terracycle it, pop it in your recycling bins. The reason this is a last resort is because less than 50% of the items we put in our recycling bins actually get recycled in the UK. The good news is this: if you have cut right down on packaging and if you use all or some of the above methods, you should find that there isn't much left to recycle! I do have items that go in to my recycling each week- but it's mostly glass and it's not much at all!
So there you have 5 ideas of what to do with whatever waste you have! Another quick tip for any waste you may have that has not been covered by the above ideas, depending on what waste it is, make sure you put it in either a paper, degrade-able or compostable bin bag. It is just that little bit kinder to the environment.
Thank you for reading!