At the end of just 5 days of Zero Waste Week I have 2 bags of rubbish. One is a plastic bag full of wet newspaper from the cats litter trays. The other is a smaller bag of stuff I cannot recycle. The main problem I have is the thinner type of plastic, cellophane and the packaging that spinach comes in. I’m not happy with my results this week. I was expecting to shine at this challenge and I feel like I have failed. This is what I found out:
Plastic can be expensive to avoid
If you are shopping on a budget it is often cheaper to buy things packaged. A plastic string bag of onions in Tescos is cheaper to buy than the same weight unwrapped. The farmers market in Bristol is amazing – I may be biased because I used to work on a veg stall and a fish stall. It is not cheap though. There are a growing number of zero waste shops where you can take your own packaging. They are still usually more expensive than buying packaged goods.
It takes time to be zero waste
I can buy all my shopping in one go at Tescos but it will contain lots of plastic. I can split my shopping between butcher, baker, veg stall and a supermarket for the bits I can’t get and it will have less plastic. I’ve got around this by shopping once a month for the supermarket stuff, weekly for fruit and veg and occasionally for meat and fish. I buy one loaf of really nice bakers bread a week which lasts for 3 days of packed lunches and toast for breakfast.
Budget ways to be zero waste
- Lidl comes to the rescue with paper wrapped oats and you can bring your own bag for the fresh bread.
- Local, normal fruit and veg markets are usually very cheap. You sometimes get fruit and veg stalls at car boot sales too.
- Buying in bulk saves money long term and often means less packaging. One big bag of pasta or rice uses up less plastic to wrap than 10 smaller packets.
- If you eat meat ask your local butcher what they can give you for a tenner. I was amazed that it is much better value than the supermarket 3 for £10 deals, and you can take your own tuppaware to the butcher to avoid plastic bags.
- Cook basic biscuits instead of buying them. You will never beat the price of a 49p packet of Jammy Dodgers but you will have biscuits that are not made of chemicals designed to make you binge. I’m not a great baker but even I can rustle up some shortbread and because it is made of good things a couple of slices feels like enough.
- Cook in bulk an freeze in portion sizes.
- Eat in season, grow your own and buy locally – fruit flown in from miles away will be packaged, strawberries grown in a pot at home will taste better too.
Choose your battles
Going into something like Zero Waste Week and thinking I could nail it in one go was foolish. I am going to choose just one thing to work on from now on. I really enjoyed upcycling so I know I can make the best use of any fabric I have now. I can structure my shopping to avoid waste without too much hassle but I know I don’t have the time to go to a zero waste shop and weigh my own dried goods. This week has been tough but well worth doing and I’ll be back again next year to add another small change to my lifestyle.