The Plastic-Free July initiative has given us a great reality check on the amount of plastic we use every day. Saying no to single-use plastic has been a good headstart; if you are beginning a zero-waste lifestyle, then that’s even better. However, when we look carefully in our storage, we might find a lot of single-use plastic items lying around. And it may seem exciting to buy new zero-waste kits for yourself and start from scratch.
However, zero waste or not, we don’t think it is a good idea to toss these (perfectly usable) single-use plastic bags, containers, and water bottles in the trash yet. After all, zero-waste principles do say to reuse as much as you can and recycle as little as you can. Now the question we all end up googling is…
What to do with single-use plastic items you already have?
Whether you’re new to a zero-waste lifestyle or just curbing down on plastic usage, here’s a round-up of all the things you can do to reuse single-use plastic items you already own. These simple hacks will help you give these items a second life before they are tossed in the recycle bin.
Single-use plastic bags
- Collect pet waste
If you are a pet parent, reuse plastic bags you already own as pet waste bags. They get the job done just right by also minimizing your waste. Plus, you save on buying brand new ones.
- Use them as trash bags
This way, you can save a little money. Just reuse plastic bags to line the garbage bins in the kitchen or outdoors. Yes, compostable garbage bags are better for the planet. But you should only get them after you are done using up the ones already lying around.
- Make it a grocery bag
Skipping the grocery bag you get at the grocery store is a great decision. In case you already have a few plastic bags at home, then take them along to the store every time. Make sure to clean the bags after every trip. Just rinse them in water and hang to dry, before reusing them.
- Reuse plastic bags as laundry bags
Plastic bags work great as laundry bags every time you’re traveling or want to put your sweaty clothes away while returning from the gym. You can use them multiple times, to avoid getting other items in your bag dirty.
- Store shoes to keep them dust-free
If you, too, own a lot of footwear, there’s a good chance many pairs just gather dust sitting in the cupboard. So, put your shoes in single-use plastic bags before placing them in the cupboard; now, every time you need them, they will be as good as new!
All types of plastic containers
- Reuse plastic containers to store leftovers
This is the most common way to reuse plastic containers; however, make sure to first check if they are safe for food storage. And this will become even more common if you are starting a zero-waste lifestyle. Use old containers for storing leftovers in the freezer. However, ensure not to reheat the same plastic containers as heating plastics – it is not good for health.
- Use while cooking or baking
We use a lot of cling wrap while proofing the dough, or while cooking/ baking. Skip the cling wrap and reuse plastic containers in its place.
- Keep your fruits and veggies fresh
When you are in a rush, already cleaned and chopped ingredients can make a huge difference. You can prepare your vegetables in advance, put them in a plastic container, and pop them in the refrigerator till you need to use them. This way, you keep them ready for when you have to cook, and it will make your fruits and veggies last longer too.
- Keep your home organized
Be it your jewelry drawer or work desk, reuse plastic containers like yogurt tubs, or fruit and vegetable packaging to be better organized. They work great for storing things separately and keep small things like earrings and paper clips in one place.
- Freeze food scraps for composting
If you compost at home, then you can reuse plastic containers to store food scraps and kitchen waste in the freezer. This will help you avoid any unfortunate leaks and odors. This will also make composting kitchen waste a lot easier and hassle-free.
Single-use water bottles
Did you know the expiry date mentioned on a single-use plastic bottle is for the plastic bottle itself, and not for the water inside it? So, it’s not really a good idea to use the same single-use bottle for carrying drinking water around. Instead, try reusing it in the following ways:
- Store cleaning products
Learning to make your own cleaning products is super fun when starting a zero-waste lifestyle. However, storing them in glass bottles is not always possible. So just reuse old single-use plastic bottles to store your eco-friendly cleaning products.
- Use to water plants
You cannot use old plastic bottles to drink water yourself, but your plants still can. If you’re one of the new plant parents who miss out on watering their plants regularly, a single-use plastic bottle will be a (plant) lifesaver. Just fill some water in the bottle and place it inverted, in the planter. The plant will take as much water as it needs gradually. It is a great hack for watering plants when you are traveling, too.
Other single-use plastic items
- Plastic toothbrush
If you plan to switch your toothbrush to a bamboo one; reuse the plastic toothbrush for cleaning shoes, bike chains, etc. You can also use it to scrub bathroom tiles and the kitchen sink.
- Zip lock bags and cling wraps
You can continue to use them instead of disposing of them as waste where they add to the pile in the landfill. Instead, if you still don’t feel good about using them after deciding to go plastic-free altogether; you can give them away to someone who already uses them. If not much, this will actually be a conversation starter and may inspire them to go zero-waste or plastic-free too.
Even if you try your best not to have any plastic waste when starting a zero-waste lifestyle, there are certain single-use plastic items that you just can’t do anything about, like plastic straws or disposable cups. The most you can do is to recycle plastic that you simply cannot reuse, but some of it will still end up as waste. And that’s ok! After all, it’s not about being perfect but about trying our best.