Whenever I go shopping now I have a mental checklist that I go through to determine whether or not I actually need what i’m buying. Mostly it goes like this: How much of this will I be throwing away? How much is recyclable? How much is biodegradable? Is there a low waste alternative? And if it turn out that I will be throwing away over 50% of it into the regular bin then I have to think, do I really need this?
Whilst there had been an increase in the number of people who recycle on a regular basis it can still be confusing when it comes to what is recyclable, what is biodegradable and what is wasteful. I personally split my waste into 4 main categories: No-waste, biodegradable, recyclable and wasteful.
To me, no-waste doesn’t just mean buying something that doesn’t involve any packaging and that you’re going to use all of. It also involves things like buying a book that you’re going to give to someone else once you’ve finished it, or donating old clothes and toys to charity. It also includes repurposing objects that you would other-whys throw away, for example using a takeaway container as tupperware. When shopping I try and buy things that fall into this category as much as possible, such as buying loose fruit and veg instead of ones that are wrapped in plastic.
Something that is biodegradable will naturally break down over time (for it to be truly biodegradable it has to be able to breakdown without causing harm to the environment). Food waste falls into this category as well as paper, wood, wool and natural-oil soaps. As someone with a garden, I put my biodegradable waste into a compost bin and use the broken down fertiliser on my plants. Obviously this isn’t possible for everyone, however many county councils will provide food caddies to allow you to compost on a small scale, this allows them to further reduce what they send to landfill. If your local council doesn’t provide this they can be bought from places like Wilko’s for a few pounds.
Once again most councils now provide a separate bin for recyclable waste and will also provide a brief guide to what can go in these bins. Most products also come with a label that tells you how much of it can be recycled and on what scale.
As a general rule of thumb paper, cardboard, glass, metal cans and thick plastics (bottles, containers etc.). I also make sure to give these a quick wash before putting them in the recycling bin. If you want further explanation please check out the link below.
This is the category that I try to use the least, however there are many things that you don’t think about that are actually quite wasteful, such as bits of extra packaging that you can’t recycle. They’re only small things but over time they can build up and be very harmful to the environment.
For example; thin plastics like cling-film are both non-recyclable and non-biodegradable so I tend to use tupperware instead when making myself lunch. As I said earlier I try to buy loose fruits and vegetables that already have protective skins instead of buying ones in bags or vacuum sealed packaging. When buying something in bulk like carrots or apples I use reusable mesh bags instead of the plastic bags provided by the shops.
There are certain items that I no longer buy because of how wasteful they are, as I said before I try to only buy things that are at under 50% wasteful, that means if I can’t reuse or recycle the majority of the product then I don’t buy it. One of the items I no longer buy is Pringles for this very reason. On the surface the packaging may not seem all that bad, the plastic cap, cardboard tube and metal bottom should all be recyclable right? The only wasteful bit should be the thin tear-off lid, but the way the cardboard is fused to the bottom and the fact that its coated in foil makes it non-recyclable so in the end the only bit you can recycle is the lid.
Reducing my waste and my impact on the environment is not always easy and there are times when i’ve slipped up and bought something that is super wasteful but with the 4-5 questions I listed at the beginning of this post I’ve definitely made a step in the right direction and you can too.