When I first started doing research into zero waste and plastic free living, I used to think that a plastic free lifestyle means getting rid of all the plastic in you home and purchasing a lot of pretty things made from wood and/or stainless steel. I love all of those pretty things and part of the intention of this blog is to tell you about them and give you my personal review on them. However, I think a plastic free lifestyle is not just about not owning any plastic, but even more about not being wasteful and ultimately saving money as well. I don’t think the point is to throw away a good plastic tooth brush to simply buy a wooden one? That seems quite the opposite of creating less waste or saving money. The question is how to create less waste by reusing more? Reuse and Repurposing are important steps when it comes to waste management and are part of the famous 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle!
What can I do with all the plastic food storage containers, tooth brushes and Ziploc bags that I still have in my house? I think the best answer is to get as much use out of them as possible and then find ways to responsibly dispose them. I hope to give you some insight on that and ideas on how to create less waste by reusing the things you have.
Five Ways To Reuse Plastic Containers
I bet you have one cabinet or drawer full of plastic food storage containers, maybe a bin full of old yogurt cups or juice/milk jugs. I would like to give you give ideas on what to do with them before you put them in the trash and they end up in our landfills.
1. Freezer Food
Late summer and early fall is my husband’s favorite season as he loves to use the produce from our garden or the local farmer’s market to make homemade sauces and soups, especially hot sauces and also pickle cucumbers and other vegetables. In order to avoid using plastic freezer bags, we have used mason jars in the past to freeze a lot, but found that they often break during the thawing process. Sometimes glass just truly doesn’t work as well as plastic, but again in order to avoid all the bags, use old yogurt containers or any other plastic containers. They work great for freezing all kinds of food and are easily stacked, easy to label and will help keep things more organized. They rarely break during the thawing and can be used over and over again.
If you are a gardener and you live in a climate with very cold winters (for example, Minnesota like us), but would plant you own seeds, old yogurt cups are great for starting seedlings. They can be reused year after year.
3. Bulk Food
I am still on the lookout for a great bulk food store and fortunately several grocery stores in our area sell a huge selection of bulk food already. However, bringing glass jars, even if it’s ideal for food storage, seems to be quite inconvenient to bring to the store. They are heavy and there is always the fear of breakage. This is another occasion where re purposed plastic containers can serve very well. They are much lighter and easier to handle and carry home.
4. Spice Storage
Did you know that spices are great to buy in bulk and much cheaper? I didn’t either until recently. Think about how much less waste you would create if you could buy spices in bulk using old plastic containers. You can keep bigger containers of spices in you pantry, cabinet or basement and then refill smaller glass spice jars displayed in you kitchen as needed.
I don’t like the look of plastic, but in drawers and cabinets, plastic containers can serve well to keep cluttered areas organized, be it in the office, bathroom, kitchen or garage. Imagine finding the right size of nails right away because everything is well organized with the use of re purposed plastic containers. It’s a win-win situation.
I hope this gives you a few ideas and some inspiration on how to reuse and re purpose plastic containers before throwing them in the trash.
What To Do With All The Ziploc Bags?
Raise you hand if you have thrown them in you trash bin before? I try to wash them and reuse them as many times as possible, but after a while, that’s it, I need to dispose them. Since Ziploc bags cannot be put into our normal recycle bin, I have to admit that every time I throw one of those bags in the trash (yes, I raised my hand), I feel guilty knowing that those bags will end up in the landfills and stay there for years and years to come or swim around in our oceans.
Are Ziploc Bags Recycable?
I finally did some research and here is the good news. Ziploc brand bags and other sandwich bags can be recycled with other type of film plastic like shopping bags or produce bags. Check out you local grocery store for recycling centers specifically for these types of bags. Many stores offer bins right inside the door. If you don’t know where you can recycle plastic bags in you area, here is a link you can use PlasticFilmRecycling.org where you can simply enter you zip code and you will find a place that is nearest to you. Make sure that you Ziploc bags, just like any other plastic bags are clean and dry when you dispose them.
What Are Some Alternatives To Ziploc Bags?
The average American family uses 500 Ziploc bags a year. Multiply that by the number of families that live in the US and the number is shocking. If you are interested in using less than that or are committed to never buying them again (that is what I am attempting!), check out the MightyNest! It’s a company offering fantastic plastic alternatives including a selection of reusable storage bags. The bags are made of pure platinum food-grade silicone and come in a variety of sizes and sets. They work just as well a ZipLoc bags, but last and are easy to keep clean since they are dishwasher safe. They lock, are leak resistant, air-tight, are perfect for storing and freezing and microwave safe. I love that I found a great alternative to Ziploc bags and I will keep you updated on more options.
Waste management takes creativity and rethinking and sometimes keeping rather than disposing. I admit that this is a harder step for me as I love to get rid of things and in the past I have not always done a good job at finding responsible ways to do so. But writing this blog helps me to keep myself on track and researching ideas continues to inspire me. I am hoping it will be the same for you!
As I continue to introduce you to ideas or educate you on specific products, I hope you know that I will only share products and companies with you that I truly believe in and I sincerely hope that it will help you towards finding more sustainable ways of living your life.