Declan committed himself to going a whole week without plastic to reduce his general waste footprint (read his introduction here). Here’s how he got on.
A week of no waste
Tuesday 31st July 2018 marked the first day of my zero-waste challenge. It was also the day I was moving to a new house. This brought with it its own challenges, but helped me refrain from going on that new home splurge; buying unnecessary things you think you might need that end up gathering dust inside the cupboards you stow them in. In this post, I am going to discuss my experiences of trying to waste less.
I decided I was going to this challenge about a week before doing it. This left little room for planning per se, but it meant I was able to do a little research. Primarily, I did this research through the mediums of podcasts and YouTube. Podcasts I would recommend are: A Sustainable Mind; The Zero Waste Countdown, and The Zero Waste Conversation. YouTube Channels I recommend are Blue Ollis; Sustainably Vegan, and Eco Boost. Through this research, I was able to get ideas of how I was going to go about the challenge.
Probably the most important thing for survival was food. In supermarkets, I found it quite difficult to find many food items which were not packaged in one form or another. However, some fruit and vegetables such as satsumas, bananas, tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes you can buy loose as opposed to buying those pre-packaged. When in supermarkets, I would take a tote bag to avoid the use of plastic carrier bags. Further to the tote bag, I invested in Carrinet Veggio bags, which are a great alternative to the plastic bags that supermarkets provide to put fruit and veg in.
Whilst shopping for food I found the best place to go for the least packaging was to go to the market. Specifically, I went to the indoor market hall in Cardiff City Centre and Splott Market. In these places, the stallholders were more accommodating to zero waste, and were more than happy to put food items in my reusable bags. As I was trying to be zero waste, there was little room for me to be eating junk food as these foods oftentimes come in non-recyclable packaging. Meaning I ate healthier during the challenge! In addition to this, I had to resist the newly moved temptation to get a takeaway, in favour of cooking and preparing food at home.
In our bathrooms there a lot of things which can come in plastic packaging. Whether that be shampoo, shower gel, or toothpaste. Luckily, when talking about this conundrum with a friend, they mentioned that Lush has a naked range. Essentially, they have a range of products that do not come in any form of packaging. For example, you can get a shampoo which comes as a dry bar and, when you wet it, the bar lathers like shampoo ordinarily does and you can apply it to your hair as you usually would. Another thing I got from there was a tooth powder which, though it was in a plastic tub, all the packaging was recyclable, or reusable.
Something I thought I was going to struggle with was toilet roll. Never have I ever come across toilet roll that hasn’t come wrapped in plastic. However, after reading up on it, I found that it is possible to get toilet roll wrapped in paper, not plastic. I went to several supermarkets in search of it, but to no avail. Online I found a brand called Who Gives a Crap? whose business is premised on this idea and they offer more sustainable toilet roll in bulk. Luckily, I did not end up forking out for it as one of my new housemates had bought a bulk load, which seemed enough to last the next year, of toilet roll.
When going out, either for work or meeting with friends, I had to prepare more than I usually would so that I would not stumble and find the need to waste. By this, I had to ensure I had everything needed to stay satiated. I carried with me some essentials. Firstly, my rucksack: to carry the other essentials in. Secondly, a water bottle: I had found a glass bottle, capacity one litre, which meant I had plenty to avoid getting thirsty. Thirdly, some fruit: this meant I always had something to snack on if I felt peckish. Lastly, if I was going out long enough, Tupperware and a spork to carry and eat a meal with if needed.
My greatest find, I thought, was a reusable washing up pad. With this washing up pad, there was no need to buy more than one sponge for washing, and therefore less plastic packaging that comes with buying more, and I can continue to reuse it after the challenge: once the washing up pad becomes too dirty, it can be put in the washing machine with the washing and be used again as if it were new!
Did I waste?
Mea culpa. My mother came over and we went out for dinner. While at the restaurant I ordered a glass of water, and the waiter brought out the glass of water with a plastic straw in it. I had assumed that it would not come with a straw but, alas, I was wrong. However, besides that, the only waste I knowingly created was the food waste (peelings and skins of fruit and vegetables) which went into the food waste kerbside caddy provided by Cardiff City Council, which is apparently recycled.
Embarking on this challenge has made me more conscious of my decisions as a consumer and the ethical implications of those decisions. At times, it infuriated me to find products with unnecessary packaging. For example, my housemate bought bananas in plastic packaging. Why does a bunch of bananas need extra packaging? The banana has its own packaging!
Inevitably, if the challenge had been longer, I would have encountered more difficulties. I think I will continue to minimise my waste where possible moving forwards and see what other hacks and tricks I find.
I look forward to the increased accessibility of zero waste in Cardiff, especially with Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero waste store opening in autumn.
Ripple, Cardiff’s first not-for-profit zero waste store opened in 2018 and is a huge success. You can find it on Albany Road.
This article was originally posted by Declan on August 9, 2018.
TheSprout’s environment info page can be found here.