The popularity of zero waste lifestyles in the UK has risen dramatically in the last year or so thanks, largely, to the horrendous environmental impact of single-use plastics, highlighted in the BBC Documentary Blue Planet. But, what does the term actually mean? At its heart, zero waste is about reducing the amount of waste you and your family are producing. In reality, though it should be called a low-waste, not zero waste, lifestyle.
It is, essentially, impossible to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Everything we consume, at some point, produces waste. From the packaging used to transport foods which are later sold in bulk to the paper bags your organic veg was delivered in, it all, at some point produces waste. While a zero-waste lifestyle might be unattainable a low-waste lifestyle certainly isn’t.
A low-waste lifestyle is not about eliminating your waste, it’s about reducing it as much as is feasibly possible. Look at the packaging you are recycling or throwing away and ask yourself what alternatives you could buy to reduce that packaging? Ask yourself, ‘do you really, really, need to buy everything that you are purchasing or are there a few things you could do without?’. Once you’ve cut down on those things that you don’t need to look at what is left. Are there alternatives you could buy that come in less packaging? Are there shops near to you that would let you take your own containers? Perhaps, you are lucky enough to have a zero waste shop near to you?
You might have read about zero waste stores opening throughout the UK, perhaps you’ve even been lucky enough to have one open up by you. But what are they and what are they all about?
Zero waste shops have been appearing throughout the UK for years now. The public awareness of the catastrophic damage caused by single-use plastics, awareness boosted by Blue Planet lead to a further increase of zero waste shops in the UK. These shops, essentially, sell produce, food and otherwise, in bulk. Customers bring their own containers, then, typically, fill them with produce and pay by the weight. This greatly reduces the amount of packaging involved in a typical weekly shop.
Think of it this way, rather than your breakfast cereal involving a cardboard outer and plastic film inner, you simply fill up your container and take it home with you. It’s that easy and that’s two fewer pieces of packaging to be disposed of.
Chances are that there is a zero waste shop near you. Don’t worry if there isn’t, later on in this blog we will show you how to live a low-waste lifestyle shopping at your local supermarket.
To discover where your nearest zero waste shop is, have a look at the wonderful map of plastic-free, bulk food shops, and milk refill stations across the UK made by our friends at the amazing Beeswax Wraps UK.
If there is no zero waste or bulk buy store by you, there’s no need to despair, there are plenty of ways that you can live a low-waste lifestyle.
Remember, it’s about low-waste, not zero waste!
Low-waste living is all about attitude, attitude, and preparation. With the right bit of both then you can reduce the amount of waste in your shopping and begin your journey to a low-waste lifestyle.
Before going out shopping ensure that you have your reusable bags and containers with you. Consider where you can go shopping that is likely to enable you to shop in a low-waste manner. If you’re lucky enough to have a local green-grocer, butcher or baker then these are great places to shop as they are more likely to let you buy your produce in your own containers.
Until you get used to it a low-waste lifestyle requires a certain attitude. Whatever it is you’re buying ask yourself, ‘do I really need this?’, ‘am I happy with the packaging it is in?’, ‘could I buy it elsewhere with less packaging or preferable packaging?’. Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you to cut down on the amount of waste generated by your shopping almost immediately.
Despite their less than ethical reputation, supermarkets can be your friend. Morrisons supermarket is encouraging customers to bring their own containers for use at the fish and meat counters. Morrisons is offering this initiative as part of WRAP’S UK Plastics PACT, an industry-wide initiative designed to change how businesses use plastics. Tescos supermarket is also encouraging customers to bring their own containers to use at their fresh fish, meat, cooked deli and cheese counters.
This is a positive sign and, hopefully, just the start of things to come. Imagine a world where supermarkets offered nearly all of their produce packing free? Or better still, one in which independent, green-grocers, butchers and fishmongers returned to the high street?
Remember, it’s not about zero waste, it’s about low waste.