Reduce, reuse, recycle

Plastic bottle bases on a cloth

Like many people, I have been thinking about our green credentials lately. It is slowly dawning on me that for a long time, we have probably been going about the whole “reduce, reuse, recycle” thing backwards. Recycling came first of course. We have been recycling for years – most of it is second nature, as long as it either goes in the kerbside recycling or the compost bin. More recently, we have started to consider better ways to dispose of things which cannot be recycled by our local council, such as returning bread bags to the supermarket. With three cats, food sachets are high on my list of concerns – we get through a lot of them but switching to tins is a non-starter. No way are the cats going to take kindly to moving to cheaper brands. We do use some tins, as the Calamity Cat has developed a taste for Gourmet as she has aged, but feeding all three on that would be prohibitively expensive and too rich for our youngsters anyway. We have heard that there are Terracycle collection points in the area which take and recycle pet food sachets, but we would need to be committed, as it involves carefully washing, drying and packing the sachets up, then driving several miles to drop them off. I am certainly thinking of giving it a go.

Grey and white cat sitting on a multicoloured stripy crocheted blanket
“Don’t even think of making me eat anything other than Gourmet or Sheba!”

Reusing came second. Once we moved here and became gardeners, reusing and repurposing all sorts of things became our priority. Garden centres are improving, but so much of what we buy from them comes in black, unrecyclable plastic, so we try and make it work as hard as we can before we reluctantly send it to landfill. If there is an option to purchase a plant in clear green plastic, we will choose that every time and we are growing more and more from seed, to avoid buying the plastic in the first place.

Which brings us to where we should all start and so rarely do – reducing what we use in the first place. Again like many others, I watched the recent BBC programmes about single use plastic and it has made me realise just how much we use and how hard it is to find non-plastic options. However, the results from the experiment on the programme, where a single street tried to reduce their use of single use plastic, was encouraging and has inspired me to try and make some positive changes in our home. As we move into the season for soft fruit and ripening tomatoes, we will no longer be buying them from the supermarket, at least for a while and we know that there have been no air miles involved in their journey to our plates from the kitchen garden. There is a lot more we could do though – and some things that we may not be able to change, at least straightaway. We have made a start by buying refillable spray cleaners and items like bamboo toothbrushes will be an easy swap. However, alternatives for things like laundry liquid and fabric softener may be harder to find and, as with so many of more environmentally responsible choices, more expensive too.

We cannot turn back the clock to return to a plastic-free world. Perhaps there are even times when plastic is the correct solution to a problem. Certainly there are many times when it is not and they are the times we will be looking to change over the next few months. If we want to try to make a difference, we need some accountability so I am planning a brief monthly roundup post on this blog to reflect on what we have done well and what we could do differently. It will help us stay focused and hopefully help us stay on track.

So, in June:

Successes:

  • We washed and reused lots of plastic plant pots
  • We reused lots of single use water bottles as irrigation reservoirs for our plants in the greenhouse, ready for our holiday
  • I have kept the cut-off bases of the water bottles as I am sure I have seen ideas online of ways to reuse them – if I can only remember what they were!
  • I bought a reusable water bottle and a cafetiere so that I can make my own coffee and not buy coffee in disposable cups
  • We have started buying eggs from Morrisons that come from a local farm, using an egg box that we return to the store to refill when needed
  • We have started to recycle bread wrappers and other produce bags in Morrisons and are trying to say no to fruit and veg which are packaged in any way (not always easy, or even possible)

Fails:

  • We bought more plastic plant pots in a larger size for potting plants on
  • The downside to reusing the water bottles for irrigation was that we ran out of bottles, so we had to buy more bottled water and the watering spikes we have bought (which will hopefully last us for years) are also plastic
  • The reusable water bottle is also made of plastic, as glass ones were too heavy to carry around

So, a mixed June but at least we have made a start. It would be great to hear your suggestions for reducing, reusing and recycling in the comments, to give us some ideas for things to try in the future

Ocean Saver cleaning products
Refillable cleaning products

3 thoughts on “Reduce, reuse, recycle

  1. Lots of good ideas here. One of the simplest for us was switching to bars of soap and shampoo instead of plastic bottles of handwash, shower gel and shampoo. We’ve also found bin liners made from potato starch which are biodegradable and compostable. The black plastic pots do make me feel guilty though, our shed is full of them! X

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  2. Use the plastic containers that fruit comes in ( the ones with holes at bottom) when you have to buy fruit/veg in the winter as seed trays.( grapes, tomatoes,broccolli etc) unless you always buy loose.

    The flat bits cut off bottles can be used as small drip trays for small indoor plants.Or threaded and hung on a string make bird scares for your fruit patch or mounted on canes ( larger hole needed to be made), as a support for netting

    Starch dustbin bags are a pain, they rip if wet and I have a compost bin full of supposedly compostable bags which don’t rot down, need more heat than my bin is producing – so think about that one.

    I wash and reuse butter/ marge tubs as freezer storage for cooked food or as salad containers for picnics/packed lunches and containers for collecting soft fruit: eg raspberries,blueberries, then often if have a surplus of fruit, use the boxes to freeze the fruit in, they separate better, same with ice cream boxes.

    Any “free” plastic bags that fruit veg is wrapped in, go immediately to use as liners for sink caddy.( only 2 use really but at least they are not immediately put into landfil. Cardboard Eggboxes compost wonderfully and absorb any wetness in the compost bin ( shred first), but I am siure you know that.
    Can’t think of much more offhand, but I am sure I do more jude

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