So what can we swap in the kitchen to reduce our plastic or our rubbish? There are so many tubs, plastic containers, so much wasted (and we aren’t even talking about any of the food wastage here!)
Some of these swaps are a mix of plastic free/zero waste swaps but can all be done easily without impeding on its function!
Our first kitchen swap was to switch out our regular kitchen roll which we binned after using.
We went for Ecoegg bamboo reusable kitchen towels to start with. These can be washed, tumbled and reused up to 80 times each (or so they claim). They live under our sink and everyone knows where there are to go and get them when the time calls.
Added to that are our redundant cheeky wipes from when the kiddos were smaller, as well as muslins we no longer need to use. Any old tea towels or regular towels would also work well. You are just wanting something that is absorbent enough to soak up any spills, pop into the wash afterwards and then wait for the next spill.
The next step was to look at the use of tin foil and cling film in our kitchen, again, two useful items but both binned after their intended use – I had seen the use of beeswax wraps as an alternative so decided to try those, and hey presto, they are just fab.
They are very versatile, compact and effective. They are easy to make and saves wasting kitchen packaging. We use them for so many things – covering cakes, loaves of bread, taking biscuits to work, covering bowls in the fridge. Ours are still going strong, but when they do eventually die, they can be popped into a compost bin as they will break down really easily.
After these, we decided to look at our laundry. Before making these changes, we would have just used conventional washing liquid for the clothes, but as part of this journey, we looked at alternatives and decided to try the Ecoeggs and now we just love them.
They are little shells filled with mineral pellets which work with the water to clean our clothes. They aren’t great with lots of stains, so you either need to use regular liquid, pre-treat or soak before trying to wash. But for regular refreshing of clothes (or basically any non-tomato covered pasta dinner kiddy clothes!), they work really well.
You can buy replacement pellets when they are worn out, but a 210 wash one should last approximately a year, and we are well on our way to achieving that. Another alternative is to use soap nuts – a handful of these little guys work for say up to 5 washes at a time but never having used it before, I cannot say how good or bad they are.
We added in the Ecoegg dryer balls, primarily as a means to save wasting dryer sheets, and they also increase efficiency and reduce drying times. We like these. They are simple and work with our clothes when they are dried within the dryer.
So, having made the above changes, we decided to go and check out Top Banana armed with our empty bottles, and what a little treasure it is! The shop has several different brands of laundry liquid, fabric conditioners, washing up liquids, cleaners, shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, hand soaps and so much more!
They have large drums of all of these products and they sell by whatever quantity you want, just pump into your bottle (or one of their reused water bottles) and pay per ml! We left that first day with some Bio D laundry liquid, 5l fabric conditioner which we decant into our ex-Comfort bottle (along with whichever essential oils we fancy at the time), 5l Bio D washing up liquid which we also decant into our ex-Fairy liquid bottles, hand wash which will go into our plastic hand gel pumps when we have finished and some toilet cleaner.
Although we are still buying some of these in larger plastic containers, we are saving buying them in more, smaller containers, so I think this is a much better idea. I must check what they would generally do with the empty 5l cartons when one is finished. This also forms part of the #refillrevolution, a drive to get people to consider refilling and reusing their own cartons as a way of reducing additional plastic waste.
The sink was probably the next series of changes which saw the regular sponge being replaced with an e-cloth, a bamboo brush and a recycled sponge. I need to keep working on this one but for now, it seems to work (the Ecoegg one sponge is probably high up on that list especially since the amount of dishes that need to be done has significantly increase). See dishwasher death below.
Household cleaning is one of the next steps. There is a big focus on fewer chemicals as part of the plastic free / zero waste lifestyle, and many following it will use good old-fashioned vinegar and water for all their cleaning needs. I have always used it for glass, but having used it recently on our steel towel rails, it clearly works. They have never looked so sparkly as they do right now! Add in some orange or lemon peel to help dilute the smell of vinegar. We still have some Mr Muscle to use up, but once that is all gone, it will be replaced with much better alternatives both in terms of environmental qualities but also fewer chemicals.
Not sure whether to say that thankfully the dishwasher packed in before I had to make that change, but I had started researching our options for better substitutes that the tablets we were using that all came either wrapped in plastic or were in plastic containers. From what I can gather, the Waitrose own brand dish washer tablets are in cardboard boxes and are not individually wrapped in plastic whereas many others are. There was this option, or a refill for dishwasher liquid from Top banana or an adventure with making my own. I will file these options for future reference if we decide to replace the dishwasher!
Crockery and utensils
We have also been lucky enough to receive a beautiful set of bamboo kitchen utensils which, so far, are really lovely to use. I got rid of our older wooden spoons in favour of silicone utensils a long time ago, but I think that cycle is coming back around again. As our utensils need replacing, I will make better choices this time around.
Crockery is another set of changes that can be made. Before kids, there was never a reason to have a plastic plate in our house. However, having lost many proper and melamine plates to little hands, they were a sound investment for a while.
Having looked again at their use, and being somewhat scared of them leaching into their food, I decided we would no longer use our rainbow Ikea plastic plates. Looking for alternatives was tricky – opinions were divided about melamine and bamboo with many comments that they will both break as soon as they hit the floor, and this made it harder to choose given that we have a tiled kitchen floor.
In the end, I went for a new set of stainless steel thali dishes and some handmade sycamore bowls. All have arrived, plastic plates are waiting to be rehomed, and dinner was devoured from the new bowls this week, with a big thumbs up which is always a success with kids!!
There are lots of other kitchen swaps that can be made, mainly with food, but that will be covered in another article. We can talk about larders and larder swaps and how to try and get your food, plastic free.