Single-use products are convenient: you don’t need to remember to bring your coffee cup with you and when you’re done you can just throw it away and forget about it. The sad news is that what’s a small convenience for you has a huge cost on the environment. Most single-use products can’t be recycled so end up in landfill, taking years (sometimes thousands of years) to break down.
It’s not all doom and gloom though: there are lots of clever reusable alternatives to single-use products that will help you reduce your waste and save money. Even if you live in the city in a 40 square metre apartment, you can still take small steps to cut down on how much you're sending to landfill.
1. Stop throwing away coffee cups
Only buy two takeaway coffees a week? That’s 104 disposable coffee cups going into landfill each year. Multiply that by every coffee-drinking adult in the world and...that’s a lot of cups. There are more than enough reusable coffee cups out there, so there’s really no excuse for us to still be getting (and throwing out) single use takeaway cups every time. Try a KeepCup or Frank Green Smart Cup, or for something handmade and unique check out Sydney’s own Claycup.
2. Stop throwing away produce bags
By now you’re surely taking your canvas bags to the supermarket, but what about the little plastic bags you put your produce in? You don’t actually need them – you can just put your fruit and veg loose in your trolley. But if you prefer to keep things more contained, invest in a reusable produce bag. You can get some from Onya, Ever Eco or ChicoBag.
3. Stop throwing away water bottles
Here’s a crazy figure for you: Australians spend an estimated $385 million each year on bottled water. That’s from a country with some of the best quality and cheapest tap water in the world. Apart from the fact that the majority of plastic water bottles are not recycled, there’s also a large amount of CO2 involved in the manufacturing process. Stop buying plastic bottles on the go and finally get yourself a nice reusable water bottle you’ll want to carry everywhere. Frank Green, S'well and Memobottle all make beautiful bottles, but any reusable water bottle will do!
4. Stop throwing away cling wrap
Whether it’s to wrap a sandwich or cover a bowl of leftovers, there’s no denying that cling wrap is a very handy product. Unfortunately it’s also a huge contributor to landfill where it takes years to break down. Aluminium foil is a more eco-friendly option, but it’s still disposable. Beeswax food wraps do everything cling wrap does, but they can be washed and reused, and when they do reach the end of their life they can be cut up and put in the compost. The wraps are made from cotton and beeswax, and can be used to cover bowls or wrap sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese...basically anything you would use cling wrap for. You can buy them in various sizes and designs from Bee Wrappy, Wrappa or Honeybee Wrap. Just be aware they can't be microwaved!
5. Stop throwing away plates and cutlery
Unless you’re catering for a huge number of people and have no dishwashing volunteers, you really don’t need to use disposable plates and cutlery. It’s an easy way out, but next time you’re planning a big party have a think about if you could use real crockery and cutlery instead, even if it means roping in a few friends to help clean up afterwards. When you really do want to use disposable stuff, go for a compostable option instead of plastic. Green Pack and Ecoplates both make compostable plates, bowls and cutlery (and they’re more stylish than plastic ones too).
6. Stop throwing away ziplock bags
If you need a little pocket for your snacks, don’t just reach for single-use ziplock bags. There are plenty of reusable options that are just as easy to keep your sandwich, carrot sticks, fruit or nuts fresh. Made from food-grade silicone, Stasher pouches come in a range of sizes and colours and are microwave, oven and freezer safe. Sinchies and Full Circle Ziptuck bags also function just like a disposable ziplock bag, but they’re easy to wash and use again.
7. Stop throwing away food
The average Australian household throws out up to 20% of the food they purchase, or about $1,036 worth of food each year! You can reduce your food waste by storing your fresh food properly so it will last longer. The Swag is a reusable produce storage bag that allows fresh food to breath and stay hydrated while it’s in your fridge. The result? Your produce will last longer so you’ll save money and reduce your food waste.