Plastic Free July 2020: The New Rs

Before tackling the next big area where plastic tends to congregate—the kitchen—I thought it would be useful to introduce you to the new Rs in town. The old environmental mantra of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (which should be done in that order!) has been enlarged to include the following: 

Refuse

Don’t consume what you don’t need. Whether it’s food, clothing, or the latest must-have gadget, be honest with yourself: is it actually something that you will use or consume, or will it end up taking up space on a shelf before eventually ending up in a landfill?

Recover

It’s worth a reminder that “waste” is not just about the materials involved in a product or its packaging, but also the energy, water, etc. that goes into its production. Rather than send all of this to the tip, or even to the recycling centre, trying to recover what’s possible through upcycling is a great way to extend the life of many items.

Re-gift

This was a big part of Lindsay Miles’s Less Stuff: if you have products sitting around your house that you are not using, there is someone out there who can benefit from them. You can try Freecycle, a local Buy Nothing group, or asking friends and family if they have any need for it (but perhaps not if they gave it to you in the first place!). You can even try selling through eBay, Facebook marketplace, a car boot sale, or an auction house.

Repair

Instead of throwing something away because it’s not working, why not fix it or find someone who can? You may also be surprised what you can give away or sell for parts. (And consider following the Chippenham Repair Café: it’s something we’re hoping to launch post-pandemic!)

Rethink

This quote from Zero Green in Bristol sums it up perfectly: Be mindful of your consumption, your relationship with “things”, and with the Earth. How many things do we really need to be happy? What happens to those things (and their packaging) once they’re no longer needed? The idea of living lightly on the Earth is not a new one. Unfortunately, neither is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mindset that we seem to have enthusiastically adopted. However, the sheer amount of stuff that is now produced day in and day out, and its associated packaging waste, is overwhelming. Without a rethink, we’re likely to find ourselves drowning in it.

My household has completely rethought how we approach food. Just a few years ago, a normal weekday dinner would have included at least one ready meal in black plastic, which cannot be easily recycled. Today, we buy fresh or from a refill shop where possible, although there are still a few areas we’re working on. This is an overview of our normal food shop in Chippenham; while refill shops, farm shops, greengrocers, and farmers’ markets are all good ways to avoid packaging, more and more supermarkets are also trying to provide plastic-free options (at least they were before the pandemic!). Check in tomorrow to see the swaps and substitutions we’ve made in the kitchen to reduce our wasteline.

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