Firstly, Why should you reduce your waste and your plastic use?
Many people have a very basic idea of what happens to all the waste that they throw out. They think the waste truck comes a long every few days and takes all the trash to some magical place where it is all disposed of so nicely. Unfortunately that is hardly the case. Who can blame us for thinking that though? We never really see where it goes or what happens, but it is time we started thinking logically and realizing what actually happens.
The majority of waste ends up sitting in land fills around the world or worse, it ends up in the ocean, especially plastics since they basically live forever and never break down. Our waste is polluting the Earth and affecting all sorts of eco-systems. In the ocean many animals end up thinking plastic pieces are food and eat them eventually causing their death. Marine animals also get caught up in plastic bits and pieces and can get severely harmed or even die from such.
A lot of plastic products contain harmful chemicals in them such as BPA (Bisphenol A), that can affect our health in the long term. A great video documentary to watch for more on BPA and how plastic ends up in the ocean is: Plastic Paradise The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
A great way to start is to recycle where you can, but something to mention is that while recycling is good it still does not use 100% of the materials. So there will always be some waste left over, thus ideally it would be best to start at the source and reduce our waste.
While we don’t have to be perfect, just a small change and reduction in waste goes a long way, and it all adds up if we each do a little something.
What you can do:
- Start a compost at home, where all food stuffs and waste that can decompose can be put, and in turn used in your garden. You will be amazed at how much of your waste will be reduced by just doing this!
- Where you can, still try to recycle things such as: cans, paper, cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, milk cartons, bottles etc.
- Stop buying plastic water bottles that you just use once and throw away. Use glass bottles and keep refilling them depending on your use.
- Where you can, try to keep glass containers that can be refilled straight from the source. For instance some shops have ‘filtered water tanks’ where you can bring your bottles to refill them without having to buy new bottles. If this could be done with a lot more products such as milk or cereals it would really be great, but more on that in the next section below.
- Most of us go to gym and grab a (Kauai) smoothie straight after. The smoothie comes in a plastic cup that we throw away straight after drinking it. If you take one of those shakers to gym, ask the smoothie bar if they can put your smoothie straight into your shaker. Imagine how many plastic cups in the trash you can reduce by doing that.
- Stop using plastic straws. They also contain high levels of BPA, so you will be avoiding that to.
- Get one or two large fabric bags and keep them in your car. Use them to carry your groceries when you go shopping, so you can avoid buying more and more plastic bags.
One of the hardest things to do is to eliminate your waste packets. A lot of people use a plastic bag as their ‘dustbin’ and when full just tie up the bag and dispose of the whole bag in the trash. So what do you do, do you replace the bag or what? One step in the right direction would be to using brown paper bags. But, if you have a compost, pretty much all your waste will be ‘dry’ waste as all the ‘wet’ food stuffs will be eliminated through the compost. So then you could just use a glass container or even a cereal box as your ‘dustbin.’
Tips for businesses and product producers:
- Companies who put out products that are usually replaced every few years should have a recall programme of some sort, where you can hand back your device to be recycled and used as parts. Especially the big phone companies like Apple and Samsung for example.
- Something supplement companies could think of, is to have bulk tubs available at specialist stores like Xtreme Nutrition, where people can bring their old protein tubs and refill them. The cost would be less and would be charged by weight so the customers could scoop up just how much they wanted. Shop Zero currently does this for Wazoogles protein powder.
- The way businesses sell products is through their packaging and marketing. Basically the more shiny and cool the box looks, the more it draws you to the product right? What would be great though, is if some of the companies would become more environmentally friendly and give options for the customers to be as well. For instance, they could still have their usual products with the packing, but they could also provide a way for customers to bring their own containers to refill. The amount of waste that could be reduced in terms of just the packaging would be phenomenal. Most of us buy a food product and once it is finished, the box or bottle is tossed straight into the trash. So imagine if there were companies who had warehouses, or even in-store points, where you could just go with your own glass container and refill it. Obviously this would be a difficult feat to accomplish, but even if it could be done for just a certain amount per day. Food stuffs like milk, almond milk, even toiletries, creams etc. could be refilled.
- It would be great if take away smoothie places such as Kauai encouraged customers to bring their own cups to have the smoothie in.
- Another big waste of paper is receipts, and a huge source of BPA. I bet you didn’t know that. By handling receipt paper you put yourself into direct contact with BPA. Every time you purchase something you get a receipt and majority of those receipts end up where? Yep straight in the bin. A way around this would be to have your receipts emailed straight to you. Then you can decide to keep them or delete them with a click of a button. Some clothing stores already do this such as MRP. For grocery stores like Pick N Pay, an easy way for them would be to link your email address to your Pick N Pay loyalty card, so every time you buy and swipe it, you have the option to receive your receipt via email.
I hope after reading these tips you will now be more equipped to reduce your waste and reduce your use of plastic and we can all enjoy a cleaner and better environment 🙂