Zero Waste Plastic Free

Is Zero Waste and Plastic Free the same thing?

So, is Zero Waste and Plastic Free the same thing?  The answer is No.  However, that’s only because Plastic Free is just part of being Zero Waste.

It’s amazing how Zero Waste and Plastic Free is really gaining traction in 2018 and hitting the headlines more and more and raising awareness.

However, there is still a lot of confusion over what Zero Waste and Plastic Free really are. I’ve heard people say that they want to be Plastic Free so they’re going to start by throwing away all of their plastic containers etc. No!

That may be “Plastic Free” but it’s certainly not part of the Zero Waste ethos, which is about being more sustainable; and that includes using things for longer and then disposing of them correctly when they’ve reached the end of their life.

So, hang onto those plastic containers and make sure you get as much use out of them as possible and when you can’t use them anymore make sure they are recycled correctly.

And, when it comes to being Plastic Free the real issue is around single use plastics, the things that you might use once and then throw away. That’s where you should really start making swaps to non plastic alternatives.

Although don’t get me wrong, as part of a Zero Waste Journey you should still aim to Refuse and Reduce as much as possible to reduce waste, including anything made of plastic. It’s about being a more conscious consumer.

This is a huge topic and I wouldn’t possibly be able to cover it all in one Blog but below is my take on what Zero Waste is all about and if you want to find out more you can read some of my other posts or read a book on the subject. A couple of good books are Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson and Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (William McDonough)

So What Does Zero Waste Means?

The simple answer: The aim is to send nothing to a landfill. Refuse what you don’t want, reduce what you need, reuse as much as you can, send as little as possible to be recycled, and compost whatever you can’t. 

The less simple answer: It’s really about redefining the system. We currently live in a linear economy where we take resources from the earth and then dump them in a giant hole in the ground. The goal of zero waste is to move to a circular economy where we write rubbish out of existence. The circular economy mimics nature in that there is no rubbish in nature.

Instead of discarding resources, we should be aiming to create a system where all resources can be resumed fully back into the system.

Zero Waste sounds like something that’s unachievable and in it’s truest sense it probably is; but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all try.  

The goal should be Zero Waste and every little thing we do to help achieve that is a step in the right direction.  You can do as much or as little towards the Zero Waste Goal that works for you.  It doesn’t have to be a radical change in your lifestyle, but obviously the more you change the more it will help to make a difference.

zero waste
The amount of non-recyclable trash Kathryn Kellogg says she produced in a year. Photograph: Andrew Burton for the Guardian

Where Does All Our waste Go?

According to official Government statistics, the UK produces 200 million tonnes of waste every year. This is total waste for households and Business with around half generated by households, the amount that is sent to landfill is just over 26%.

The UK has, in recent years, exported a lot of non-recyclable waste to Europe – more than 3m tonnes in 2016 – where it is used as fuel to generate heat and electricity in specialist Energy-from-Waste (EfW) power plants.

England now has 7 years left of non-hazardous landfill life, based on 2016 inputs, according to the Environment Agency.

England landfilled a total of 44.7 million tonnes in 2016 and managed a total of 203 million tonnes of waste. That’s a lot of waste.

Can’t We Just Recycle More?​

Unfortunately, no. 

There’s simply too much to process, and we’re just consuming way too much. Recycling isn’t a perfect solution and did you know only 9% of plastic is actually recycled?

There’s a reason recycle is at the bottom of the list. “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot”  

Can I Make A Difference?

YES! Even small changes can add up.  Every day you are making decisions that have an impact.  How do you get to work? How do you buy your groceries? What are you eating? What are you buying? Everything is interconnected. 

With just one small step at a time, you can help make a difference. But, going zero waste isn’t just great for the environment, you’ll notice an improvement in your quality of life. Side effects include eating better, feeling better, saving money, and not having to take out the rubbish!

Zero Waste The 5 Rs

Refuse – Learn to say no! Say no to food wrapped in plastic, say no to that plastic straw.

Reduce – Think before you buy.  If you switch to homemade natural cleaning products you only need some White Distilled Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda to cover most jobs, check out my Natural Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Reuse – If things break, repair them or have them repaired. Upcycle items you would otherwise throw away, paint that old chair and give it a new lease of life. Buy second hand.

Recycle – If you’ve managed to Refuse, Reduce and Reuse then you shouldn’t have a lot left but make sure you separate out your remaining rubbish and put the recycleable rubbish in the recycling bin.

Rot – Compost your food waste and use it to fertilise your plants and many grow a few veggies or salad leaves of your own.

You can read my Blogs on10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste and Zero Waste Starting in the Kitchen for some ideas on how to get started.

Click here for Zero Waste week

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12 thoughts on “Is Zero Waste and Plastic Free the same thing?”

  1. Here in Sweden we have so many different classifications to our rubbish system and almost everything is separated out and sorted. When we moved here it took a lot of thought but now we are in the swing of it it’s fine. Our kitchen alone has 6 different bins, before you add in another three in the cellar, all for different things!

    1. One of the really annoying things in the UK is that every area has different rules and different systems which is really confusing. We live in the Vale of the White Horse and ours is quite simple. We have 3 bins; 1 bin for food waste (although we compost as well), green bin for recycling everything and a black bin for landfill (which we don’t have to empty very often). But when we go on holiday to Devon it’s completely different and we have 5 bins, 3 to sort out different recycling, 1 for food and 1 for landfill !

  2. This whole plastic problem is such an issue. I am glad that certain supermarkets have started to take innitiative and stop have plastic packaging for fruit and veg. If we all start doing more to help with zero waste it will gradually make such a difference.

  3. This post is so informative and helpful. I thought I was being good with everything I don’t throw but send to recycling but it seems not. I really need to stop buying things wrapped in plastic, I didn’t realise all of this so thank you! I will be really changing our habits.

    1. I’m certainly not Zero Waste yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever be. I’ve drastically reduced the amount of waste we generate and I’m a much more conscious consumer. But for me it’s a journey and I think we’ll keep finding more and more ways to cut down our waste. And, every little helps especially if we work together.

    1. Once you start trying to reduce waste you really start seeing how much packaging there is on everything. And it is really hard to find things without too much packaging, the supermarkets don’t make it easy!

    1. It’s taking time for people to get involved in the UK but it’s slowly happening. We all just need to carry on doing what we can.

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