As I have explored the many subjects relating to eco-friendly alternatives to common household items, including plastic-free, compostable and biodegradable products, I have noticed a return to the amazing philosophy and revolution around living a Zero Waste lifestyle, first made popular as a theory in the early 2000s. Now we see these efforts backed by campaigns, social movements and government incentives, with many large companies coming on board.
The main aim of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is to dramatically reduce the about of trash and household waste that becomes another pile in the landfill, sent to the incinerator or even ending up polluting our beaches or oceans.
Today we see many fantastic efforts to reuse or recycle things, cut down on the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastics in packaging and near-heroic efforts to clear up our environment, beaches and oceans of the mammoth amounts of plastic pollutants assaulting nature in our consumer-driven, grab-and-go wasteful generation.
The Zero Waste revolution seeks to go further than that, to deal with the problem at source. It looks to change the design methodology at production, to ensure products and packaging is considered throughout the product lifecycle; how they can be reduced, reused and recycled.
Zero Waste does not mean recycling.
Recycling can be a component of zero waste, but apart from the well know areas of the plastic bottle, glass and can recycling, some recycling schemes only deal with part of the problem. For example, in the area of computer ‘recycling’, we see that many schemes only offload them to third world countries where most can then end up in a landfill, sometimes after only a few commodity or resaleable parts have been removed.
The Zero Waste approach would be to repair and fix, refurbish or repurpose the computers, therefore removing the need to dispose of them. To prolong their useful life and or perhaps donate them to schools or others in need causes.
Durable and repairable
We live in a consumer-led culture where companies actively seek return custom. Products are rarely easily repairable and many in today’s society will resort to replacing a broken item, rather looking to have it repaired. We need to incentivise companies to produce durable, hardwearing products that don’t need to be replaced so often.
This is especially difficult in the age of rapid technological advancement. We commonly see the desire to have the latest and greatest phone, TV or gadget, even while the current version is perfectly useable.
Thankfully there are many pop-up repair shops, community efforts and training to help people fix common household items, including online blogs, tutorials and youtube videos helping you return your beloved gadget or home essential to a usable state.
So much packaging!
An important part of Zero Waste is to deal with the huge amount of unneeded packaging from the products we buy. The challenge is to encourage companies to remove this packaging at the source, incentivising the use of reusable, recyclable or at worst, compostable packaging.
We see increased pressure on supermarkets, manufacturers and producers to remove the ridiculously unnecessary packaging from items like fruit and veg, or the multi-layered ‘protection’ packaging that is not only a pain to open, but hits the bin within seconds of opening and offers questionable protection to the product in the first place.
The Circular Economy
ZERO waste is a daunting and challenging target, it can be overly restrictive and downright tough. This is why many proponents of Zero Waste are huge supporters of the circular economy, an achievable and complimentary philosophy.
‘Make, use and dispose of’ – Today we live in a linear economy, resources are consumed and discarded, usually never to be used again and dumped as waste or pollution.
The circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. “Reuse, repair, refurbish, remake, redesign, recondition and recycle” maximising the lifecycle of the product’s usefulness within the economy, thus removing some of the challenges of Zero Waste.
How do I start living a Zero Waste lifestyle?
This could be a challenging process for many. You may need to change from a culture of instant gratification and grab-and-go. It will take patience and perseverance but you can do it, or at least make many strides in the right direction and there is plenty of help out there!
The first step is to look at the amount of waste in your daily life, once you start, you will be amazed of the amount of waste in your everyday life and how simple a few changes can be that will make a big difference.
Where can I find more information and help?
Here are some amazing books available about Zero Waste and the Circular Economy: –
Major brands have now signed up to a new plastics ecomony global commitment and are pledging to cut all plastic waste from operations and to eliminate all single-use plastics, investing in new packaging technology by 2025, to ensure it can all be recycled.
These organisations include some of the most well-known household brands, retailers and packaging production companies; Danone, Nestlé, L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Coca-Cola, Gov.UK, Philips, Colgate, Walmart, Burberry, H&M, HP, Target, M&S and many more!
The global commitment initiative has followed on from increasing public pressure on retailers and manufacturers to reduce plastic packaging.
Many anti-pollution efforts we see in today’s news focuses on cleaning up the after-effects of plastic waste, clearing beaches and removing ocean waste; all of which is amazing. This commitment aims to go a step further and curb the production of single-use plastics at the source.
This challenge will see those signing up reach targets, which will be reviewed every 18 months, to attain a new normal for plastic packaging. The ambitious 2025 targets supported by this vision can be placed into three board-ranging categories: –
Eliminate – Remove unneeded plastic packaging that is problematic to recycle or dispose of in an environmentally friendly way, focus instead on reusable packaging
Innovate – Invest in packaging technology to ensure 100% can be safely recycled, composted or reused by 2025.
Circulate – Keep everything we use within the economy and away from our oceans, landfill and our environment. Increase the plastics reused as new packaging or products.
The initiative is the result of a partnership between The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
What does actually mean and how will those signing up be held to account?
The businesses and governments that have committed to these 2025 targets, to ‘Eliminate, Innovate and Circulate’ and tackle plastic waste and pollutions at the root cause, They have been set a clear minimum level of ambition for all signatories, common definitions underpinning all commitments and annual reporting on progress.
The global commitment sets out to build on and reinforce:-
Take action to eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging by 2025
Take action to move from single-use to reuse models where relevant by 2025
100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
Set an ambitious 2025 recycled content target across all plastic packaging used
Invest a meaningful amount by 2025 in businesses, technologies, or other assets that work to realise the vision of a circular economy for plastic
Commit to collaborate towards increasing reuse/recycling/composting rates for plastic
Report annually and publicly on progress towards meeting these commitments
What do government signatories commit to? : –
Endorse the Global Commitment’s common vision
Commit to having ambitious policies and measurable targets in place well ahead of
2025 in order to realise and report tangible progress by 2025, in each of the following five areas:-
Stimulating the elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and/or products
Encouraging reuse models where relevant, to reduce the need for single-use plastic
packaging and/or products
Incentivising the use of reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging
Increasing collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling rates, and facilitating the establishment of
the necessary infrastructure and related funding mechanisms
Stimulating the demand for recycled plastic
Commit to collaborate towards achieving the Global Commitment’s common vision, with the private sector and NGOs (e.g. through Plastics Pacts) (e.g. through Plastics Pacts)
Report annually and publicly on the implementation of these commitments and progress made
What can I do to help?
Even as companies begin to cut plastic waste from their operations, we still need to be aware that plastic that is already recyclable still ends up in our oceans, contributing to landfill and other forms of polluting the planet.
Single-use plastics ban 2021 – European Parliament approves
MEPs of the European Parliament have voted 571-53 in favour of a complete ban of single-use plastics for a range of household items such as plastic cutlery, straws, cotton buds, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. This comes after the growing pressure to act to curb the rapidly growing pollution in our oceans.
Under the proposal, 10 single-use products would be banned by 2021 and EU states would be obliged to recycle 90% of plastic bottled by 2025.
The updated EU Legislation progress briefing for single-use plastics and fishing gear states that on European beaches plastics make up 80-80% of the marine litter!
Marine litter on EU beaches, by count (2016). The sampling numbers of the top ten Single-use Plastic items discovered by the study are as follows:-
24,541 – Drinks bottles, caps and lids
21,854 – Cigarette buts
13,616 – Cotton buds sticks
10,952 – Crisp packets / sweet wrappers
9,943 – Sanitary applications
6,410 – Plastic bags
4,769 – Cutlery, straws and stirrers
3,232 – Drink cups and cup lids
2,706 – Balloons and balloon sticks
2,602 – Food containers including fast food packaging
The proposed banned items include products made of oxo-degradable plastics and polystyrene fast-food containers.
The same study estimates that around three-quarters of the world’s seas marine litter is from single-use plastics. This is from research published in 2015 suggesting that 2% to 5%, or 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste, enter our oceans EACH YEAR!
It is worth mentioning that some EU member states are taking or considering action already.
France has banned plastic cups and plates
Italy and France are banning plastic cotton buds
The United Kingdon wants to ban straws
Other countries, such as Ireland and Portugal are considering similar measures.
The European Parliaments proposal would bring a series of measures regarding the top 10 single-use plastics found on European beaches as well as fishing gear, these proposed measures depend ‘on the existence or absence of alternatives and separate collection and recycling streams’.
The proposal would also require a commision review six years after the transposition deadline. EU member states would need to provide data on consumption reduction.
The proposed measures: –
These include the 10th October 2018 adopted report changes introduced by the ENVI committee to the commission proposal
Banning single-use plastic products by 2021 for which affordable alternatives exist, as follows:-
Requiring the Member States to achieve a ‘significant reduction’ in the consumption of food containers and drinks cups, for instance by setting national targets, making
alternative products available to consumers, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge.
Requiring the Member States to ensure that by 2025, 90 % of single-use plastic drinks bottles are collected, for example through deposit refund schemes
Requiring single-use plastics drinks containers and bottles to have their caps and lids attached.
Extended producer responsibility:
Requiring the Member States to ensure that extended producer responsibility schemes are established for a number of single-use plastic items (food containers,
packets and wrappers, drinks containers and cups, cigarette filters, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags) as well as fishing gear. For single-use plastics items, producers would cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness-raising measures; for fishing gear, producers would cover the costs of waste management of gear delivered to port reception facilities.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes require that producers take over the financial and/or organisational responsibility for collecting or taking back used goods, as well as for sorting and preparing for their recycling. Although extended producer responsibility is in principle an individual obligation, in practice producers often exert this responsibility collectively through ‘producer responsibility organisations’ (PROs).
Requiring certain items (sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons) to bear a label indicating how items should be disposed of, the negative environmental impact of inappropriate disposal, and the presence of plastics in the product.
Requiring the Member States to raise consumers’ awareness of available re-use systems and waste management options as well as about the negative impacts of inappropriate disposal. These measures would apply to:-
Drinks cups and drinks containers
Packets and wrappers
Wet wipes and sanitary towels
Lightweight plastic carrier bags
Overview of proposed measures, by nature and item
The European Parliamentary research service released this image to show an overview of the proposed measures, by nature and item.
Each of the listed single-use plastics shows their individual ranking in the top 10 list from the study, referenced with the proposed measures recommended for each item.
Extended producer responsibility
The impact assessment, costs and benefits
The commission has estimated the costs and benefits of the proposal’s prefered option as follows: –
For single-use plastics, by 2030:
Costs – Decrease in producer turnover (€3.2 billion); information campaign costs (€0.6 billion); business compliance, commercial washing and refill schemes costs (€1.4 billion); waste management costs (€0.5 billion);
Benefits: – Decrease in top 10 single-use plastics marine litter by count (-56 %) and by weight (-35 %); decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (-2.63 million tonnes); reduction in external costs (-€11.1 billion); savings for consumers (€6.5 billion); additional jobs (4 000 full-time equivalents);
For fishing gear: –
Costs: – Set-up costs for extended producer responsibility schemes (€6.3 million); annual administrative and waste management costs for extended responsibility schemes (€11 million)
Benefits:- Decrease by 2 600 tonnes each year in the amount of fishing gear left at sea, which would generate between €2 million and €7 million in economic benefits for fishing, port and tourism industries.
Single-use plastic alternatives
Affordable alternatives for Single-use plastic products do already exist, so this brings hope that the measures listed and subsequent single-use plastics ban will pass the full legislative process. Here are a few recent examples of the available products to combat single-use plastics pollution for common household items: –
BIODEGRADABLE: The organic bamboo cotton buds are 100% biodegradable. The eco cotton buds come in a come in a recycled paper box. This eco-friendly option is a great alternative to polluting plastic cotton swabs.
PACK OF 200: There are 200 wooden cotton buds in the box.
BAMBOO STICK: Bamboo is a sustainable renewable resource the bamboo sticks are durable and stronger than paper sticks that do not cope well with water.
Made with Certified Organic Cotton and biodegradable paper FSC stick.
Does not contain perfumes or super-absorbents.
Purified without Chlorine and Dioxin, Hypoallergenic and Perfume Free,
PRODUCT AND PACKAGING The box is compressed gloss cardboard, the buds are made from certified organic cotton and the stems from compressed paper. We have recently removed all plastics from the wrapping used to combine the three pack, favouring brown paper taper. The only remaining plastic is the lid and the tape used to hold the lid in place.
The ‘crazy’ season is on it’s way and even though it is only September I’m already thinking about that special but stressful time – Christmas and also how best to balance the amount we buy/use/throw away with having a holly jolly Christmas time that the kids will enjoy! I’m sure it’s possible to have both so over the next few weeks I’m going to have a hunt around for some of the best Eco Friendly Christmas gift ideas, Eco Friendly Products for Christmas and Sustainable Gifts for Christmas. Here we go…
Let’s start the proceedings off with wrapping paper – in our household we use tons of the stuff and usually most of it ends up in the recycling bin. Not ideal I know but at least I felt good about recycling what we’d use. However until this year I hadn’t realised that any wrapping paper/cards with foil or glitter on cant be recycled so most of our efforts were in vain 🙁
So I’ve found this wrapping paper which is printed on already recycled uncoated paper and printed using environmentally friendly vegetable inks. It is made with post consumer waste with pulp that has not been bleached. Even the packaging it is in is bio-degradable as it is packed in corn based poly bags. So what’s not to love?
or if this one is not your style then have a look at these robins – just gorgeous :
This card holder set comes with a roll of natural brown jute twine with 50 mini wooden pegs to hold up the cards for a rustic traditional Christmas look. It’s ideal for hanging up gift tags, cards or even to decorate presents, glasses and wine bottles.
It is possible to have a eco friendly, sustainable but stylish tree this Christmas time. Check out this wooden stand and star spruce which comes with 28 wooden branches made of top quality Slovenian steamed beech wood. It has a simple and elegant design and is easy to assemble.
These crackers are made from recycled card and the crackers and tray they come in are recyclable – perfect for a plastic free Christmas celebration! They are also made in Dorset in the UK so are great if you are looking Christmas products that haven’t travelled the globe before getting to you. The gifts inside are also super cute and are of a traditional nature – they are made from wood and glass and include crayons, dice, marbles and golf tees.
and if you fancy something a little more crafty this Christmas then why not try this recycled make your own cracker kit – the kids are sure to love it 🙂
These are just stunning and are made from an original watercolour by Sarah Boddy. They are made from recycled glass in the UK and would make amazing eco friendly gifts or stocking fillers or would look fab on a Christmas dinner table!
These straws come in such cute colours and are made from durable natural paper material which means they are 100% biodegradable and compostable – an ideal natural alternative to plastic straws if you are looking for a plastic free Christmas celebration!
Recently I’ve been considering gifts for eco warriors and whether there are eco-friendly gifts are available on the market that I would actually feel comfortable to give a friend as a gift. I’m thinking : ways to re-use/reduce or recycle existing items or products that are alternatives to traditional disposable/plastic products. With this in mind I’ve been hunting around some of my favourite sites to bring you some really fun, some very pretty, unique and original eco-friendly gift ideas! Check them out below:
I love this and I think it would make a fabulous gift. The pretty and handmade set includes a natural cotton market bag, set of 3 cotton/linen produce bags in 3 different sizes, set of 5 organic hemp cotton pads, linen and cotton zero waste crochet face scrubbies and an organic cotton bath puff. Ideal if you are on the hunt for gifts for eco warriors! There are also plenty of other eco-friendly gift ideas at this lovely etsy shop LaPepaBoutique;
This wallet if fab and is made from cork which is a sustainable alternative to animal leather. It is made from cork harvested from oak trees in Portugal using the shavings meaning the tree is not cut down and therefore a great sustainable resource. Each wallet is beautifully unique.
Check out this little guy – he is just adorable and is made entirely from recycled computer and electrical parts. Perfect for a gift for that man that has everything or ideal as an unusual and unique boyfriend gift idea. If she doesn’t take your fancy then he has plenty of little buddies you can choose from at JoeBotsRobots.
If you are looking for something a little more traditional then this original wildlife painting of an iguana will not fail to impress. It’s a perfect one of a kind gift for a wildlife or nature lover on wood from sustainable sources. If iguanas aren’t your thing then check out some other animals painted by Hayley at WildlifeArtByHayley.
These are gorgeous and would make an ideal gift for any little one and his mum! This lovely etsy shop is so eco-friendly it’s unbelievable – these t-shirts are made from organic fairtrade sustainable cotton and the designs are printed with water-soluble vegan, child safe inks. The studio these are made from is also powered by renewable energy so what’s not to love?! Check out some of the other designs at UmmaStuff.
I love a bit of recycling and how cut is this little guy – hand cut from a 1967 pre-decimal bronze penny coin. This cute etsy shop has an array of beautiful hand made jewellery some of which is made from recycled coins – check them out : JewellerybBySilvana.
Such a cool top with a definition of ‘human being’ on it – ideal as a yoga T-shirt, gym workout top or as festival wear! It is made of 100% organic cotton and printed with water based inks. The packaging is 100% recyclable or biodegradable or both. Check out the full range at YogaGiftsByBlackDogC.
This is truly stunning – a beautiful blue fused glass fruit bowl make from hand cut glass strips. Ideal as a centrepiece at an elegant dinner or perfect as a gift for a hostess who has everything! Britta uses recycled waste glass to make all her beautiful creations at UrbanGlassStudio.
Are you thinking of going plastic free or would like to reduce your plastic use and find alternatives to plastic? I’m personally fed up with single-use plastic products and packaging and have been looking at ways of reducing our household plastic use. As a result, I’m going to show you that going greener doesn’t have to be hard, expensive and can actually work out a little cheaper as a lot of the products are reusable, last longer and don’t cost much more than the single-use plastic alternatives! I’ve picked out 11 plastic free products that I think you will like.
1. Shampoo Bars – a plastic free alternative to shampoo bottles
If you have long hair then the likelihood is that you get through a lot of shampoo and most of the bottles on the market are plastic. For a greener alternative why not try a shampoo bar instead which is extremely easy to use, store and comes with plastic free packaging! One of my favourites on the market is here and I love it because it is organic and contains Argan Oil to keep locks looking luscious and super shiny :
2. Anti Bacterial Soap – a plastic free alternative to liquid soap in plastic bottles
If like me, you like to keep your kitchen spic and span then clean hands are a must. I like to use anti-bacterial soap in the kitchen but I don’t like the fact that they all come in little plastic bottles. Instead of these why not try an anti-bacterial soap instead – it performs the same function as liquid soap but without the packaging. I’ve picked this one out as it is naturally antibacterial and suitable for sensitive skin so won’t aggravate skin problems such as eczema :
3. Straws – Go plastic free and try a bamboo or glass straw!
Aah straws – these are really tricky because kids love them and they are hard to clean. As an alternative why not try these
Bamboo Straws – I love these as an alternative as they are handmade, reusable and biodegradable. They can be used with hot and cold drinks and are dishwasher safe making them easy to reuse and clean. Additionally, a donation will be given to the Plastic Oceans Foundation with each purchase – so what’s not to love?
Glass Straws – This is a great alternative to the plastic menace though may be less suitable for little ones and more suited to an elegant cocktail party instead! These are made from highly resistant glass, non-toxic, taste neutral and easy to wash in the dishwasher or can be cleaned manually with the natural brush included in the product.
Pasta Straws – Or for a fun alternative why not try pasta straws: bucatini (aka perciatelli) pasta is a ‘natural’ straw and is a great alternative to plastic straws. Though it may take you a while to drink your drink as the hole circumference is at times somewhat smaller than on a traditional straw!
4. Water Bottles – glass and metal water bottles make great plastic free alternatives
This was one of the first plastic free changes I made as our old plastic bottle ends were getting very ‘chewed’ by the kids and I started to worry that the plastic was leaching into the water. So I looked for some alternatives and came up with some great choices!
Glass Bottles – We all love our glass bottles and the water tastes lovely and fresh from them rather than stale as it would from a plastic bottle. This one is one of my favourites as it is made of borosilicate glass (which means you can use it for very hot or very cold drinks), is nice and large (1000ml) with a wide mouth making it easy to wash. It also comes with a bamboo lid and is housed in a special neoprene sleeve which keeps the bottle safe.
Metal Bottles – Although we haven’t tried these yet my friend swears by these aluminium bottles and she loves them for her little girl as they are less easy to break and are designed to last! These are BPA free and don’t have a metallic taste to them. They are double insulated which means that you can keep very hot or cold drinks in them and they will keep their temperature for up to 12 hours. They are also leak proof and have a wide mouth (which means you can put ice cubes in them!)
5. Cling Film – Plastic free alternatives for wrapping food!
Bee’s Wrap – Handmade using organic cotton and sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. These are fully biodegradable and compostable and very easy to clean after use.. If they are used several times a week they will last approximately one year. Will help keep food fresh and allow repeated usage.
Etee’s Reusable Beeswax Food Wraps – Say goodbye to plastic with etee wraps – a handmade 100% all natural, organic cotton and beeswax, biodegradable and non-GMO; These are very easy to clean – just rinse in cold water and eco friendly soap; Each wrap should give about 120-150 uses and can be used for wrapping food or as bowl toppers. These come with an amazing 90-day risk-free trial which means if you don’t like them you can get a refund!
Its a widely known fact that cotton buts with plastic ‘sticks’ are horrible for the environment and really there’s absolutely no need for them as alternatives are readily available. Check out these ones which have a wooden stick – a perfect alternative which will help alleviate all the plastic pollution from the standards sticks!
7. Tote Bags – a stylish and plastic free alternative to the supermarket ‘carrier’
Ditch the supermarket carrier bags for an eco-friendly and more elegant look with some quirky and handmade bags from my favourite handmade marketplace – etsy. I particularly love the bumblebee design below :
8. Plant Pots and Planters – no more plastic in the garden!
Create a beautiful and environmentally friendly garden oasis with terracotta and ceramic pots rather than plastic planters! These are an excellent way to avoid using plastic in the garden and make a beautiful addition to a stylish outdoor area. Terracotta pots are made of a type of fired clay and make for an eco-friendly and natural looking addition to your garden!
Why not get rid of the plastic toothbrushes in your bathroom and choose a bamboo brush? These great brushes are eco-friendly and come in vegan paper-based packaging which is made from biodegradable recycled paper. The handles are ergonomically designed and crafted from bamboo – therefore they will not splinter and are water resistant. The bristles are BPA free and antimicrobial.
11. Reusable coffee cups – ditch the single use option to avoid landfill waste!
These Pokito cups are amazing – they are large cups (475 ml) that collapse to 4.5cm and weigh 100g which means they will easily fit in your pocket or handbag! Pokito cups have a clip-down, spill-proof lid which as a result prevents leaks and spills. It is also ultra versatile as it expands into three sizes – grande, medio and espresso and is dishwasher safe!