2019 goals: reduce single use waste – small steps!

That’s all it takes: small steps from each of us, followed by another small step, and another, and yet another.  Before you know, you’re walking then running.

BUT.  I have a real problem with books and articles and websites that seem to suggest we should ‘ditch the plastic’ and go out and buy new stuff made from something else (bamboo, metal….).  Surely not??  If we already have plastic things that still have life in them, and are doing no harm, shouldn’t we carry on using them for just as long as we possibly can?  Not searching plastic out, but at least squeezing every last drop of use out of what we already have.

We have ‘single use’ plastic food bags we have used and washed and reused for years (including the bag that once contained our porridge oats, before we switched to buying them from a shop selling them in paper bags that I then compost).  Until I find an alternative way of freezing bread I shall carry on using them.

And as for buying new stuff, if there’s something we really need, shouldn’t we be looking first to see if we can repurpose something we already have, or buy something secondhand (or get it for free!)?  Those things already exist: the more we buy new, the more we encourage making new.

Fortunately charity shops (maybe called goodwill? thrift? elsewhere??) and Freegle are excellent places to look for things that will help you in your quest to move towards a zero waste home.  Jars galore (beautiful ones too – I often see Kilner jars and Le Parfait in perfect condition), far cheaper than you could buy them new.  Our local Freegle often has offers of free jars for storage and food preservations.  I have even ‘rescued’ some beautiful jars from neighbours’ recycling boxes.

I have a particular love of old Tupperware (I mean actual branded Tupperware, not just any old plastic boxes), which I look out for in charity shops.  They are well designed and well made.  I inherited a few things from my mother-in-law that I use all the time.  The jug I keep my sourdough started in; a container we keep sugar in; my favourite sandwich box.

A few years ago I found three smaller matching versions of the Tupperware jug in a charity shop in Germany.  I use them to make my kefir.

Even longer ago, I rescued a collection of discarded (single use) flip top beer bottles when we were on a cross-channel ferry.  I use them each year when I make elderflower cordial, sloe gin (this year I’m planning to make elderberry cordial).  The larger olive oil bottles I rescued from a recycling bin are perfect for my kombucha (or just cold water) in the fridge.

We keep all our dry goods (seeds, nuts, grains, pulses) in a matching collection of old mayo jars.  Because I am slightly obsessive about matching.  I’ve also given away a set of 6 of these jars on Freegle.  My guess is that most people just recycle them.  We have to change that culture, and nurture our habits of re-using for as long as things are useable.   ‘Zero waste’ mustn’t become another reason for increased demand for new stuff.

All it takes is a shift in mind-set, and a good imagination.

About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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14 Responses to 2019 goals: reduce single use waste – small steps!

  1. Anne Wheaton says:

    I totally agree that we should keep reusing the plastic we already have, not go out and buy new replacements. I freeze my bread in fabric bags – I put three or four loaves in at a time, tie the bag handles and pop them in the freezer. It works perfectly and I now wonder why I felt it so necessary to use plastic bags before (like I also wonder why I used to line the food waste bin with a compostable bag and the waste bin with old carrier bins).

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  2. With you on all of this – plastic plant pots is one of these issues. I have dozens which I have built up over twenty-five years of gardening and I reuse them every year. It would be nonsense to chuck them out and buy new non-plastic ones. The old mantra: Refuse, reuse, repair, recycle stands firm today. Oh and my Mum used to have one of those tupperware jugs just like that – acquired at a tupperware party in the 1960s where jolly housewives spent their time discussing the joys of plastic packaging – in fact she probably still has it 50 years later.

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    • Absolutely. Reuse as often as possible. And yes, I’m pretty sure my tupperware jug is from the same era. I remember it was always on the breakfast table with milk in when I used to visit when I first started seeing Malcolm – back in the mid ’70s.

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  3. Yes, yes, yes… all this. Original Tupperware seems to last decades and decades and use and reuse is always the answer. The Restart Project have posters that say something like ‘The most environmentally friendly phone is the one you already have’… and this can be applied to so many items that are happily carrying on, doing the job they were intended for (or a new job). Trouble is, big corporations want us to buy our way to being green, when the answer is actually to buy less and nurture and value what we already have.

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    • Exactly so. I’m sure I’ve read similar things in your posts too. I worry that the whole zero waste thing, good in itself, is in danger of becoming another marketing opportunity for the very opposite of the original intention.

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      • There seem to be more an more adverts suggesting you can spend your way to being green and I’m very worried that most consumers take them at face value and never do any background research.

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      • Yes indeed. And sometimes when you do the background research you find the evidence is counter-intuitive, or simply not there. I think that’s one way that blogs like ours can be helpful. I read something on your blog that makes me question what I’d thought or done, I do something differently and write about it, and so it goes on. But its so important to be factually accurate, and at least make clear when we’re not sure what the evidence tells us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Marian says:

    Oh, most definitely we should first use what we have! I still use plastic containers (the durable kind that I’ve owned for many years) and I rinse out plastic bags for reuse (but am obsessive about not taking new ones). Some things that we can buy (or make ourselves) are really useful—reusable produce bags, for example—but the fact is there are so many products that we simply don’t need—plastic or otherwise. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to stop ourselves from buying into the marketing that says otherwise.

    I meant to comment on several of your recent posts, but have been feeling rather snowed under with too much stuff going on. (It’s a poor excuse, I know.) Anyway, I did want to remark on your granddaughter—I can’t believe she’s already 13 months old! What a joy she must be 🙂 . And also, a friend recently recommended the same online yoga instructor. What a small world we live in! I haven’t yet begun, but perhaps when September rolls around and my youngest heads back to school I’ll give it a try. I hope you’ve been well, and that no news about your leg issue means good news?

    Take care, Deborah.

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    • Oh how lovely to hear from you Marian. I’ve been dropping by your site regularly to see if you’re around, should have thought to leave you a message! I hope your summer is going ok. Always so much to juggle. Will look forward to hearing about it once you’re back.
      I’ve made several changes that I hope will become firm habits. Only time will tell.
      Granddaughter is a complete delight, and yes, time does indeed fly!! Am well but always busy. Leg doing fine thanks for asking. Take care, xxxx

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  5. Completely agree. I avoid buying new plastic, but I have a cupboard full of plastic containers and bags and I’ll continue using them as long as possible. I am seeing people buy sets of bamboo cutlery to take with them “on the go” when most people probably have an extra set of metal ones in their kitchen drawer.

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    • Exactly, it’s like even the usually responsible media still peddle the line that you to reduce your waste you really need to buy x, y and ideally z, when you probably already have something that would do exactly the same job already in your home (or could find one in a charity shop). I think blogs like ours (and the wonderful ZeroWasteChef especially) are useful in challenging that way of thinking.

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